In the aftermath of a cataclysmic natural disaster, oneÂs essential character is revealed. In the case of the Mario Puzo-scripted Earthquake, human nature itself is laid bare, revealing the assorted stresses and fault lines that push mankind to the brink of ruin. Take George KennedyÂs rogue cop, the kind of sass-first, questions-later sort who, against the odds, believes that a man who runs over a child should be chased, subdued, beaten, and set aflame, even if Zsa Zsa GaborÂs precious hedge is bent in the process. Or Lorne GreeneÂs wealthy businessman, who casts aside profit and comfort Â and the entirety of his dress shirt Â all so he can lower his underpaid secretaries from atop a burning building using little more than grit, panty hose, and the decadeÂs most knee-weakening moustache. And hell, what about Chuck Heston, there as always, fighting off a boozing Ava Gardner and her umpteenth suicide attempt for a chin-first assault through the cityÂs fallen concrete in search of the weak and wounded. Or, sadly, we could be Marjoe Gortner, the child evangelist turned actor, who believes an obliterated city is a breeding ground not for compassion, heroism, or the better angels of our nature, but rather the rape and murder of mushroom cloud-coiffed hippies and their mean-spirited, gay-baiting minions.
When we first meet Jody Â just Jody Â he is humorlessly running a grocery store in the middle of a flower child uprising. Moonies, Hare Krishnas, and deadbeats alike swarm his den of overpriced iniquity; the sort of place where a sign stating ÂCredit is Dead Â DonÂt Ask for ItÂ threatens to overtake the displays. But when a cute little number sporting a white womanÂs version of the Angela Davis canÂt afford her groceries (Victoria Principal!), he steps in Â Colonel Sanders tie and all Â and gives her a pass. Generosity in the midst of a tough recession? Hardly. He knows, as we all do, that this being Los Angeles, itÂs only a matter of time before the Big One hits and he is given the opportunity to exploit mass chaos and bust a long overdue nut. He has a thing for faces, and heÂll remember this young lady through flood and fire alike. In an instant, though, he hears radio chatter about the need for National Guardsmen in the wake of a tremor. Thank the stars he has just such an outfit at home Â the very home where women in bikinis plaster the same wall as hundreds of naked, muscle-bound men. Within seconds of his arrival Â and his parting the sea of bigots who call him ÂfaggotÂ and hit him with trash Â he has shaved both his head and moustache and is ready to hit the streets as a keeper of the peace.
Then, the massive quake hits and Jody disappears for a good hour of screen time. When heÂs seen again, heÂs walking on patrol, eyes and ears on alert for no-good sons-a-bitches. At last, one appears. ItÂs that broke-ass hippie girl again, daring to use a broken city as an excuse to steal a donut. Chocolate glazed! SheÂs damn near shot right then and there, but Jody insists he take care of her. ÂSheÂs a friend,Â he pleads, and proceeds to push her towards some dark, out-of-the-way rubble where he can paw at her hair and talk about opening a karate school (ÂThereÂs a lot of money in karate, you knowÂ, he insists). Suddenly, those same bigots from earlier that day appear, and theyÂve been discovered with jewelry in their pockets. This being a catastrophe where a good 400,000 are dead or dying right at this moment, Jody declares that they must be shot. He threatens, pulls back, then jokes, all so he can shoot the men at point blank range. Another guardsman seems slightly upset, but need Jody remind him that thieves and scum, just this sort, are always at his grocery store trying to use green stamps after theyÂve expired? His tormentors safely vanquished, he returns to the girl. Oh, and that tight t-shirt, which simply must come off.
Dressing her up with the stolen jewelry and droning on about taking care ofÂ her since, well, her entire family just has to be dead and all, Jody tears her clothes, prompting him to roar, ÂOnly a whore would wear something like that!Â Kennedy and Heston try to intervene, but Jody keeps them at bay with his trusty rifle. ItÂs time, and the penetration must commence. Then, in a flash, GK returns, putting a bullet in JodyÂs chest before he buttons his trousers. HeÂs dead. Eyes wide open with that ever-present smirk, but dead and gone. GK comforts the poor girl: ÂEarthquakes bring out the worst in some guards, thatÂs all.Â Indeed. But never let us forget the ingenuity and wit of our Jody, the sort who, while clearly conflicted about sex and love during peacetime, could not let a disaster pass without channeling his inner deviant. ItÂs the American spirit that makes lemonade out of lemons, or reaps millions from war and suffering. Damn Jody if you must for impersonating a soldier and satisfying a lust for both revenge and that elusive orgasm, but history is surely more than a tale of self-sacrifice and martyrdom. Sometimes, the real nobility is just being true to yourself.