Tower-ing Fiction #1: Beverly Heights apartment building, Volcano (1997)

by Shawn Gilmore

The nearly-finished Beverly Heights aparement building opens and closes the other volcano-themed disaster film of 1997, Volcano (dir. Mick Jackson), appearing in the title sequence and an early series of establishing vignettes.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights complex.

Beverly Heights is seen just south-west of the Beverly Center, putting it on the south-west corner of San Vincente Blvd and 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights complex on left.

An establishing shot, looking west from the corner of La Cienega Blvd and 3rd St.: Beverly Heights on the left.

Voice-over narration tells us the building is 22 stories, and the tower’s builder, Norman Calder (played by John Corbett) introduces the building as part of a revitalization of the Beverly Center area, including an at-the-time-fictional Metro stop, characterizing the building as having been through “three years, four banks, and one hundred million dollars.”

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights building, top floors.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights complex, lower portion.

Its location is marked by its promiximity to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center complex, visible just across the street.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights complex, view of Cedars-Sinai.

With Beverly Heighrs and its geography now established, the film has now clearly established the locations it needs for later in the film:


After a lot of volcano menacing, the film stages is climax at the foot of the Beverly Heights tower, with geography helpfully reestablished by the camera and the film’s protagonist, Mike Roark (played by Tommy Lee Jones)

Volcano (1997), main characters, street level.

The Cedars-Sinai complex on the left and Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Keith David with a helpful map:

Volcano (1997), diagetic map of San Vicente and 3rd.

Behind this team of volcano-stopping problem solvers, Beverly Heights:

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights complex in background.

As lava errupts at the intersection of San Vicente and 3rd, the climax plays out:

Volcano (1997), lava erupts.

Roark, prompted by an off-hand comment by Lt. Ed Fox (played by Keith David), realizes he can bring down Beverly Heights, as “it’s gotta be 50,000 tons of steel and concrete,” and bring it down he does.

Beverly Heights is conventiently the right size to fall across the intersection, diverting the lava to a trench Roark and company had just cut to the tunnels and viaducts of Los Angeles, and out to sea.

Volcano (1997), “Tower” demolition control.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights begins to fall.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights collapsing.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights collapsing.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights collapsing.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights collapsing.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights blocking the lava flow.

Volcano (1997), Beverly Heights blocking the lava flow.