Missing from DVD for a long time, finally, we have some Irwin Allen classics coming back out for release and thank goodness – this little gems great fun and marks probably his best entry into his TV disaster movie portfolio.
Runtime: 1hr 40mins
A small spark becomes a blaze… hang on Irwin – you’ve done this before? Oh, it’s in a forest this time!
The Disasters Faced
Fire, falling trees, blowing up your car, blowing up your helicopter, rolling your car, being left inside a car or going on a school trip in a van with the worlds worst teacher ever. Transport is bad!
Made for TV in 1977 when Irwin Allen was still very much a big character in the film industry, this is your equivalent of what we get now in these long drawn out 4-hour specials. Irwin, however, decides to cram it all into two hours anyway and cleverly uses all the budget he has to great effect. He brings in stars and rolls out Ernest Borgnine to play quite possibly the nicest man in disaster movie history who ends up driving around from drama to drama trying to save people as he goes. A lot of the film owes itself to Ernest for being earnest! I’ve not wanted to cheer someone on for saving so many lemming like people for a long while. For a 1977 TV movie, it surpassed my expectations and looks infinity better put together than say Beyond the Poseidon or When Time Ran Out – and those were theatrical releases. Tightly woven, enough drama to keep you entertained and with a nice cross-section of characters looking suitably 70’s – you’re in for a treat.
Real fire and stock footage are used often and with the cameras staying close to the flames, you feel much more of the sense of urgency than the actual flames themselves would really portray. It’s clever but it works. Some of the stunts still look very good too. Things were so much better when they didn’t resort to CGI for every tiny thing.
Why It’s Worth Watching
The fire is up and at it by the ten-minute mark and you’re drip-fed action throughout the film. The characters as a whole are likeable although you’ll want to slap the teacher for being the wettest woman since Ariel. About two-thirds of the cast play characters who are lemmings. They just wander into stupid situation after stupid situation and the others have to rescue them all. It’s perfectly cheesy and that’s why we love it.
I have a few for this one. The teacher is such a lemming you should play drinking games for every time she has to be checked on, or when Vera Miles calls someone on the phone just to panic, or when Alex Cord’s very deep voice makes you want to laugh when he’s trying to bicker with his wife.
It has to be Ernest Borgnine’s Sam – everyone’s lovable hero.
Relatively light of big deaths, the biggest is saved for the end… you knew poor Ernie was going to be a cropper. The number one rule is never be the nice guy – you’ll never make it. Instead, you’ll roly poly down a cliff edge in a jeep in a fireball. Toodles!
There are a few but it’s a toss-up between Lloyd Nolan who spends most of the movie trapped in a car and then sat on a sofa with virtually no lines, or the rubbish teacher who decides to nearly die of shock! Return to life by the power of smelling salts!!! However – Alex Cord. That voice. I have never heard anything like it. I wonder if he ever voiced over porn or went on to run a successful hypnosis clinic afterwards?
Although produced in America for TV release, it did make the theatre in Europe which makes me happy as the 70’s had some of the best movie poster art ever made.
Daft in a way only Irwin Allen knows how everything looks fun, everyone is potentially on the death list and the film is tightly woven so the TV values do not shine through. A great product of its time. Allen fans need to see this.