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Sunday June 23rd 2024

Volcano | 1997

Volcano location: The May & Co store, Wilshire Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles
Volcano location: Threatened by the volcano: The May & Co store, Wilshire Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles

You wait years for a volcano movie, then two come along at once.

Dante’s Peak spurted lava over a small town in Idaho, but Volcano staged the (geologically unlikely) eruption smack in the centre of Los Angeles.

The first inkling of disaster comes when a burst of sulphurous flame kills underground workers in a storm drain in MacArthur Park at the junction of Seventh Street and Alvarado, downtown. This notoriously risky area has been cleaned up a lot of late. The park, once a centre for drug-related violence, is a bright, refreshing oasis in the downtown district, but it’s still best to avoid after dark.

Soon the park’s lake is bubbling and there are strange disturbances at the La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, at Curson Avenue, where the volcano eventually erupts. Don’t worry, it’s still there. You can visit the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum – that’s the excellent museum (established in 1977) built at the site of the Pits, where the remains of thousands of Pleistocene Age animals were preserved as fossils. A double ticket admits you to the LA County Museum of Art next door.

The museum is also featured in Curtis Hanson’s excellent Bad Influence, and the dark, satiric thriller Miracle Mile, while the pits were recreated down in Long Beach for the Arnold Schwarzenegger bomb Last Action Hero.

A section of Wilshire Boulevard, centering around the junction with Fairfax Avenue, with Johnie’s Coffee Shop (seen in American History X) and the gold deco cylinder of the old May and Co building, was reconstructed at the studio for the destruction scenes.

Volcano location: Beverly Center, Beverly Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles
Volcano location: Halting the lava flow: Beverly Center, Beverly Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles

The lava flow is finally halted when it’s just about to engulf the Beverly Center, 8500 Beverly Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard – the shopping mall setting of Scenes From a Mall.