Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I'm "On Fire" Today!

As a 1970s disaster movie completist, I have long wanted every feature film of the genre on DVD so that my beloved stars and calamities would be at my fingertips any time I was ready for another viewing. My collection has been complete for a while with just one exception and recently I was able to make that right with the purchase of 1979's City on Fire!

Prior to its (long-awaited by me) DVD release, practically the only way to see City on Fire was through the blurry, fourth-generation looking (basically unwatchable) video that was part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode which debuted during that show's first season in 1989. Now I would never want to mislead anyone into thinking that Fire is a great film, but it is certainly better and more impressive than the evidence that is presented within this shoddy, commentary-ridden print. In its proper radio and in high-definition video, we see more of how the movie was presented in theaters and can at least appreciate some of the camerawork and the variety of stunts and effects contained in it.

Things are kicked off with a glimpse of the (unspecified) city's fire chief Henry Fonda, enjoying a chat with his son and fellow fireman outside headquarters. Fire was filmed in Canada, something which is often rather obvious, but nevertheless the fictional metropolis of the movie is set somewhere within the U.S.  Fonda is but a few months from retirement and looks forward to that day with relish.

Next we view someone preparing some sort of health drink. This vomitous concoction contains greens, oranges with the rind still attached, 2% milk, eggs WITH the shells (!) and Chianti, among other things, and emerges from the Osterizer a thick, pale green goop.

We soon learn that this breakfast of champions belongs to doctor Barry Newman, who's prepared this for himself and the naked chick in his bed. She declines the offer, claiming that she doesn't eat breakfast. (And somehow during the trip upstairs, the drinks have become thinner and much darker in color than before...)

Newman heads off to work which is, as we soon discover, as chief of staff at a spanking new hospital. The hospital in question has been built in the heart of a rather run down neighborhood. This dead-end street will serve as the primary setting of the disaster, though I guess Street on Fire wasn't going to make as scintillating a title for the film.

Now we find ourselves at a TV station and a poster for "The Maggie Grayson Show." The poster for the show is positively lunatic. The reason? Well, for starters, the portrait of Ava Gardner is in no way appropriate for a news program. It's actually a still photo from Gardner's earlier movie Earthquake (1974) and is of an early morning scene with her character hungover and in a nightgown! See below.
Gardner emerges from her chauffeured car wearing one of her trademark 1970s hats and appearing more than a little dazed. Once inside her dressing room, she is joined by her producer James Franciscus, with home she shares a simultaneously flirtatious and combative relationship. Almost NOTHING about the scenes set at the TV station ring true, from the bizarrely stark set to the way Gardner languidly delivers the news and information on air.

Her sloppily-framed broadcast is shown in the home of a local refinery worker, Jonathan Welsh. He's busy repairing a dancing toy, ostensibly for one of his children, when his wife calls to tell him that she's spotted him on TV. It seems he showed up to greet a visiting actress who is from the city, but has been away pursuing her career. She's returned in order to present a $3 million check to the hospital on behalf of her wealthy, now dead, husband.

The actress (Susan Clark) is situated in a high-rise and while she wafts around the spacious apartment, she's being spied upon by a photographer with a telescopic lens. Interestingly, in this scene, music plays that sounds tremendously similar at first to that found in The Towering Inferno (1974) when Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway first meet. Except that music was by John Williams and this music sounds like an incomplete, very bad rip-off.

Anyway, Clark is "down in the depths on the ninetieth floor" because her married lover, the city's mayor Leslie Nielsen, is on his way up to see her and she is ready to break things off with him. In one of many Inferno similarities, he takes a glass elevator up to her room. They soon make up enough to start kissing and then some, all of which is caught on film by the photographer on a nearby rooftop.

Back at the hospital, Newman is scampering around, trying to see to the new esta- blishment, which is seemingly co-run by nurse Shelley Winters. She informs him that part of the (shoddy) building lost power for a time that morning. He is also startled to find that the bedmate he left at his home that morning is also one of the new nurses on staff in the children's ward!

Refinery worker Welsh is in a good mood because he's been called into the manager's office for what he believes will be a promotion to foreman. Unfortunately, he's instead encouraged to take a transfer to research and development, something he has no interest in at all. Amazingly, he is instantly fired by the pencil-pushing manager and given severance and vacation pay just as the door is about to hit him on the way out.
Cut to a local neighborhood where a mother and her two children, a boy and a girl, are about to enter their brick apartment house. The boy is called by some friends to come up and enter their tree house where they have some cigarettes. The boy takes one teensy drag off the cig and immediately dives headlong into a Method-acting coughing fit as if he's swallowed battery acid and hurls the lit butt out of the tree house!

Naturally, it lands in a cardboard box of junk and within seconds the box is on fire and flames are licking the back stairs to the building. Out front, the mother leaves to go do some laundry and asks a neighbor lady to keep an eye on the daughter who is upstairs asleep. About a hot minute after the mom leaves and the neighbor makes this promise, the lady heads off to the store for some carrots, leaving the girl unattended!

This girl is now caught upstairs in her smoke-filled room as the fire spreads and is trapped behind the super- humanly impregnable baby gate that mom has drawn across the door to her room... The firemen arrive, led by Fonda's son Richard Donat, and are instantly befuddled as to how to fight this fire which, at present, is merely licking the back of the brick structure. They make no effort whatsoever to check for inhabitants who might be trapped inside.

Gardner, reporting on this fire, is the figurehead of "The Maggie Grayson Show," yet there seems to be NOT ONE other person ever on camera at this network! She has no cohost, no support personalities... it's like she's the only program ever seen on this entire channel, 24/7! The set is unlike any ever seen for a television program. Scarcely any furnishings, background art or decor and plain white walls with an occasional projection on part of them.

Back on the scene, the mother arrives and, in a truly embarr- assing perfor- mance, is distraught over the fact that her child is still inside the building. The little boy attempts to go inside and get her, but he is stopped by some firemen who, now that the stairway is fully engulfed, figure it might be time to get any trapped people out of danger.

There is almost never any sense of urgency during this. In fact, when the firefighters head upstairs and find the daughter unconscious in her smoke-filled room, one of them begins to perform mouth-to-mouth on her RIGHT THERE in the room while visibility and oxygen continue to diminish and flames are licking the stairs. When they finally decide to depart, Donat gets the girl out, but sidesteps his felled partner and never even alerts anyone to him, taking many minutes to go back inside to try to retrieve the hapless man. The downed fireman is hooked up to a CPR machine that bobs up and down on his chest automatically.

All of this is overseen by a ridiculously obnoxious reporter who continually interferes with everything and everyone, darting out blunt questions like, What's happening?," "Is she unconscious or what??" and "Is he dead?"

Back at the hospital, Clark arrives at the dedication ceremony early so that she can be granted a guided tour of the facility that her late husband's money has made possible. (I know I'm not very good at finances and all, but wouldn't the $3 million check be needed PRIOR to the building, opening and complete operation of a hospital and not after? And would $3 million have built a hospital, even in 1979??) Note the prominent American flags, lest anyone think that a city could be run this ignorantly in Canada! LOL

During her tour, she spots Newman and Winters working on the felled fireman from the apartment. Even across the room and with his back to her, she can spot Newman working his magic and we soon realize that Nielsen isn't the only man in the movie with whom she's had a relationship.

Newman isn't at all happy to see her and they share some sarcastic, back and forth banter as the two of them zip through the hospital corridors together.
Welsh, increasingly despondent over being relieved of his job in such a cold way, decides to go out with a bang. He runs around the place, turning valves, dumping fuel, casting time cards to the winds and basically doing everything he can think of to wreak havoc on the place. His shenanigans allow a steady stream of oil/gas to pour into the city's sewage system.

The hospital dedication is in full swing now. Nielsen has ordered a reluctant Newman to speak at the ceremony, though he threatens to say more than rather crooked Nielsen ever bargained for if he does. Note the prominent sign that reads "For a Better Future," which recalls the one from Inferno that said, "We Build for Life."

Welsh, harboring a serious crush on Clark (I mean EVERYONE wants in this woman's pants in this movie!), trades in his navy blue coveralls for a new powder blue 3-piece suit from Adonis boutique and heads over to the hospital. It turns out that Clark went to high school with Welsh, though she was a couple of grades ahead of him.

Meanwhile, Fonda has this huge, high-tech grid of the entire city yet still concerns himself with the one-building apartment fire that his men don't seem to be able to extinguish. It's starting to spread to nearby buildings, though he congratulates his son on the fine work he's done in fighting it....! (If you can stay awake during Fonda's scenes, listen for his pronunciation of "deemolition!")
Things are about to go all wrong, however. Underground, a pair of welders are working in the sewage system and their blowtorches set off a horrendous fire which burns the two of them up and sets off a series of chain reaction conflagrations that spreads across the city!

The refinery (which is controversially located in the heart of town!) begins to blow and thus begins a series of eye-popping explosions and a variety of rather impressive stunt falls as workers are shaken from their perches throughout the place.
The ground shakes from the impact of all the explosions, causing Gardner to exclaim - on air - "What the fuck's going on?" to the momentary delight of Fonda (and the consternation of her producer Franciscus.)

Now comes perhaps the most flagrant Inferno rip-off yet as a tall, glass-filled skyscraper bursts into flames, sending bits of searing hot shrapnel to the ground below. This building, which is not associated with any of the characters in the movie, is referred to by the camera several times in various stages of destruction.

The folks at the dedication ceremony are located nearby enough to have to dodge the bits of burning steel and glass while being shaken to the ground by all the rumbling of the explosions.

Here comes the most hilariously entertaining sequence of the movie as the camera catches a variety of people being hurtled to the ground or otherwise shaken up. A soccer game has all the players sent to the turf, kids are flung from playground equipment, grocery store shelves have product careening off them and on to patrons, a man is sent flopping into his swimming pool, a muu muu-wearing woman loses all her groceries to the pavement (which, miraculously, don't seem to include a loaf of French bread!) and then things really head down the shitter... the walls of a bathroom stall crumble apart to where a man is seen sitting on the toilet!

After all this excitement and destruction, Gardner finds herself under pressure to report on everything nationally, through a live feed to her station. She sends for wardrobe, but road closures limit what items she can select from, then she berates her flouncy hairstylist for his sub-par work. She asks him (not her makeup person), "Can't you do something about these lines?!" to which he pithily replies, "Only God can work miracles."

She pulls it together enough to go on air (with a completely pitch black set save a couple of modern art sculptures on either side!) and give play-by-play coverage of what is going on in the city. (Stock footage from probably every building fire in Canada is shown onscreen while she's reporting.)

Back at the hospital, which has been overrun by wounded, scared people, one of Newman's nurses shows her incredible composure by dropping what's in her hands and screaming at the sight of a severely burned man who's being brought in on a stretcher. This grisly sight is nonetheless NOT the most unpleasant one of the movie...

Newman tells Winters he wants everyone in the hospital, which has completely run out of rooms and has wounded people lining the halls, who isn't a patient in immediate danger evacuated from the place immediately.

Clark, who's been pitching in the best she can, now has her (and the movie's) big gross-out scene. She finds a man who cannot breathe because some thick, horrible vomit-like material is blocking his airways. Digging in, she clears his mouth of much of this gunk and then performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him!
Welsh has also been filling in and helping, though most of his efforts are in a bid to win Clark's attention. When she declares that the man she has just saved needs a room, Welsh hurtles into a room containing a pregnant woman close to going into labor, he wheels her out into the hallway so that Clark's latest date can rest in there instead!

The photographer who has the goods on Clark experiences a sudden fire back at his home. He idiotically enters his flame-ridden darkroom to retrieve the pictorial evidence of her affair with mayor Nielsen and proceeds to become completely engulfed in flames, runs out into the street frenetically and is instantly hit by a passing car!

Winters is busy evacuating the hospital and has a confron- tation with Nielsen (her costar from The Poseidon Adventure, 1972, though they shared no scenes in that one.) She blames his corrupt policies and shortcuts for the mess they're all in and, after scowling at him for a while, barks "Well, I didn't vote for you!"

Gardner is crumbling under the pressure of what is apparently a 24-hour broadcast from her studio (though only God knows what is on the air while she's passed out in her dressing room suffering from what, an addiction to Coke?  LOL) Actually, her big problem is Beefeater gin, which she's been guzzling in semi-secret. (It can't be THAT big a secret since most of her words in the film have been garbled!)

Franciscus, desperate for her to get it together and get back on the air, backs her into her dressing room shower and jolts her awake with a quick, cold spritz! She gives him a few choice words in that way that only Miss Gardner could!

The frazzled, but somewhat more pulled-together Gardner goes back on the air, relaying that over 3,000 people have been killed in the firestorm. She eventually becomes a liaison between Fonda at the (completely untouched?) fire station and Nielsen at the hospital when regular phone lines go dead.

At the hospital, the photo- grapher (who is somehow still alive after being charbroiled and crashed into!) tells Clark that he's got the film on her and is going to tell her story though pictures, much to her confusion. Once she leaves, Welch takes a look at the pictures in question, which have somehow made it to the hospital with him despite his injuries, and is dejected beyond all reason.
Now the fire has engulfed most of the afore- mentioned dead end near the hospital entrance and not only is the heat overwhelming, but there is precious little oxygen left in the air. Everyone, sick or not, needs to get out! Firemen use their hoses (not unlike the swords at a U.S. Marine wedding!) to form a passageway for evacuees to use on their way out. Unfortunately, they only reach about halfway down the alleyway.
Before those fleeing the hospital can even get to the 21 (water)gun salute, they have to pass through a blazing section of the street with flames licking the sides and crashed vehicles littering the way! Nielsen has appointed himself to hose everyone down with water and wet blankets in the hopes that the survivors can make it through the hot spot. It's unintentionally hilarious to see the extras getting doused by a hose as they flail around and squeal "Oh my God!"

Since (or before) The Painted Veil (1934) with Greta Garbo, The Rains Came (1939) with Myrna Loy and Gone with the Wind (1939), women of questionable virtue have been redeemed by giving their all in a hospital during catastrophe and Clark is not yet finished. Now she has come upon the pregnant lady that Welsh evicted from her room earlier. And guess what... the baby's coming! (See if you recognize this so far unnamed actress, who I will reveal later.)

By this point, fire has broken out INSIDE the hospital, too, and nurses have idiotically opened doors with smoke billowing from behind them to become roasted on site, so urgency is the key word. But Clark pulls down the woman's sheet, hoists up her skirt and seems to be awfully surprised by what she sees under there as the woman props her feet on Clark's shoulders!

The place is nearly empty by now, but Newman is on the hunt for Clark, who he now has newfound respect for along with love. He pops in after the (cute) baby has arrived in order to cut the cord. He then readies the mama and baby for their wet, hot ride down the street to safety.

The movie's climax involves all the key inhabitants of the hospital taking his or her turn under Nielsen's fire hose and trudging down the fiery street to the waiting arms of rescuers (who at no point consider, even for a second, aiming their hoses towards the hospital to wet down or cool off the furnace that people have to go through, sometimes without making it!)

This movie is derivative and lame in many ways, but it is not typically boring. There is a plethora of fire and water blasting this way and that and a variety of stunts happening every so often. The acting ranges from committed to unintentionally funny, but it helps keep things going in either case. I was surprised by a couple of things. The rating of R is a disaster movie first and allows for more gore and, in one case, language than we usually find.

Also, apart from some crappy file footage and questionable matte effects, there was some money spent here. The cinematography is better than expected after one has been used to cruddy TV prints. And, of course, it's a virtual class reunion of disaster movie actors (omitting Newman), which makes it fun for genre fans. One drawback is that many of the actors never meet on screen, their roles remain compartmentalized instead of interactive. Preposterous as the premise might sound, there was in actuality a chain-reaction fire with severe explosions in Texas City, TX in 1947 that killed nearly 600 people, wounded thousands more and eliminated all but one member of the fire department, so it did have a basis in fact.

Stage-trained Newman had been working in movies and on TV since the dawn of the 1960s with his cinematic high mark being Vanishing Point (1971), in which his drug-addled character tore across the U.S. with the police in pursuit. He'd also made The Lawyer (1970), which led to a spun-off TV series called Petrocelli, which ran for two seasons. He was Emmy-nominated for that series, but Robert Blake of Baretta won. After that, his presence became less prominent, though he worked as recently as 2015. (He also popped up in Daylight, 1996, which was part of a 1990s wave of disaster on the big screen.) He is currently seventy-eight.
Clark truly was Canadian, so her role of a successful actress returning home wasn't such a big stretch in that regard. Initial work in Canada led to training at RADA in London and then to Los Angeles. She costarred with many prominent leading men during the '60s and '70s including Henry Fonda (as his lover -!- in Madigan, 1968), Clint Eastwood (in Coogan's Bluff, 1968), Robert Redford (in Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, 1969), Burt Lancaster (in Valdez is Coming, 1971) and Gene Hackman (in Night Moves, 1975.) Of course, she also had a featured role in Airport 1975 (1974.) Clark won an Emmy for Babe, about athlete Babe Didrickson, and was also nominated for Amelia Earhart, but understandably lost to Sally Field for Sybil. Later, she costarred with her husband Alex Karras on Webster before retiring in 1999.  She is currently seventy-six.

Winters, of course, is immortal in The Underworld for her portrayal of Belle Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure though, by this short time later, she was appearing in all sorts of dreck (such as Tentacles, 1977, which also featured Fonda) with occasional better projects like The Tenant (1976.) A curvy starlet of the 1940s turned curvier character actress by the 1960s, she had a long, busy career with Oscars for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and A Patch of Blue (1965.) She retired in 1999 after La Bomba and passed away of heart failure in 2006 at the age of eighty-five.

Nielsen, another Canadian, was busy on TV from 1950 on, with many movies (including The Poseidon Adventure, 1972) to his credit as well after 1956. After spending decades as a dependable straight man in all kinds of projects decent and dull, he completely inverted his career in 1980 with the release of Airplane! and proceeded to a hot, new career as an absurdist comedian. This newfound skill kept him extraordinarily busy well into the 2000s until pneumonia claimed him in 2010 at age eighty-four.

Franciscus' role in this is rather thankless, though he does get to spar with Gardner (almost the only cast member he interacts with.) He has his own profile here for those who wish to know more about him. The year after this, he had a much more significant part in the equally loony When Time Ran Out... (1980.) He died in 1991 at only age fifty-seven of emphysema after a lifetime of very heavy smoking.

This is number three in Gardner's triumvirate of '70s disaster flicks and has to count as the least of the three. Earthquake (1974) features her at her bitchy, brittle, blowsy best while The Cassandra Crossing (1976) has her looking great and taking part in more action than Fire ever does. By 1986 she was off screen for good, passing away of bronchial pneumonia in 1990 at age sixty-seven (one can only imagine the cigarette smoke billowing between - and sometimes during! - takes between Franciscus and her!) Her sole Oscar nomination was for Mogambo (1953), but Audrey Hepburn won that year for Roman Holiday. There's a little tribute to her later career here.
Fonda, a leading man in films from the 1930s on, was turning up in all sorts of junk around this time from the afore- mentioned Tentacles (1977) to international messes like The Biggest Battle (1978.) He also appeared in Rollercoaster (1977), The Swarm (1978) and Meteor (1979.) Daughter Jane's pet project On Golden Pond (1981) lifted him out of this phase and won him the coveted Oscar which had eluded him for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), which went to his close friend James Stewart for The Philadelphia Story. He'd been granted an Honorary one the year before that, most people thinking he'd never be eligible for a competitive one again. He died in 1982 of cardiorespiratory arrest at age seventy-seven.

Canadian Welsh came to prominence on stage in, of all things, the counterculture musical Hair before segueing onto TV in his homeland in the early-'70s. Unlike most of the principal cast of City on Fire, his career (while successful) was limited almost entirely to Canadian projects. A married father of three, he portrayed a gay character to good effect on the newsroom series E.N.G. for several seasons from 1989-1994. Sadly, he died in his sleep at only age fifty-seven following a brief (unknown to me) illness.

Finally, we come to that pregnant lady who looked familiar. At first we thought, could it possibly be Mercedes Ruehl?  Nah... Finally, after looking her up, we discovered that she was Hilary Labow. Not only was Labow a cast member of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) - she played the bride in the wedding at the beginning - but later, under the name Hilary Farr, she became half of the team in charge of HGTV's home makeover/real estate series Love It or List It along with David Visentin. The show ran for six seasons with them at the helm and she then moved on to other programs, HGTV and otherwise. It's unknown whether, when it comes to her resume, she loves and lists City on Fire!

8 comments:

Gingerguy said...

This looks great!! It must be a fairly unique experience to actually try and find a movie lampooned on "MST 3,000" (same here for a Linda Evans treatment called "Mitchell"). I recently caught "The Swarm" from this period, which I had overlooked, and found it incredibly entertaining. Something tells me this is in the same realm. Why in the world do they take so long to release things on dvd?
I laughed at your "Street on Fire" comment, but "Streets Of Fire" was a movie title!
Could this be Shelley's first nurse role? I love her in the cap, it's a natural.
The chianti in the blender breakfast drink is gross and seems like slipping your date a morning micky. The plot of The Doctor's one night stand showing up at his hospital as a nurse on her first day was used again in the pilot of "Gray's Anatomy".
Eeew, the CPR bit is disgusting and hilarious. Similarly the poster for Ava. Good eye on that one. I think that nightgown was lavender. I can't wait to watch after reading this.
I kept being reminded of this Australian Industrial safety film an Aussie friend told me to watch (that is apparently required viewing for everyone who works in hospitals) called "Hospitals Don't Burn Down" It won a slew of awards in 1978 and was directed by a horror film Director. The charge nurse is gorgeous and wears a big wimple like an old fashioned Nun. Oddly compelling, it's on youtube. Who knew there was a genre for burning hospital fans? Outstanding Poseidon.

Manoel said...

Another great post. Thanks!

joel65913 said...

Oy this movie!! It was one that I had missed during the disaster glut and didn't have a chance to catch up with until last year when I stumbled across it on YouTube.

The print was terrible, though I don't think quite MST3000's degraded quality. Except for the sight of many stars slumming for a paycheck I can't say I got much joy out of the movie.

It's always rather sad to see good performers stuck in this sort of twaddle. Poor Ava far from the halcyon Metro days looked very rough but her boozy performance actually lightened up the viewing. What a wildly uneven career Susan Clark had in terms of quality! A very fine actress when given good material she really swung from excellent films like Babe to trash like this and Webster (though I think her participation on that was so she could work with Karras). It was nice to see Shelley Winters in a role with some authority attached so she could modulate her tendency to just be loud and braying.

Whoever had the idea Barry Newman could carry a movie? He's okay in character roles and even did well in Petrocelli but the full weight of a feature was more than his limited charisma could handle. As soon as I saw his name pop up as the star of the picture I knew what I was in for, much like seeing Dennis Quaid's name a few decades later. I instantly think how many hands did this puppy pass through before it landed on HIS desk?

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

Poseidon, I'm SO glad you saw and reviewed this movie...so I don't have to! It looks pretty awful to be honest. Not nearly enough fun. My main takeaway is yet another PSA for not smoking. You can be utterly beautiful, but cigarettes will take away even the best faces. RIP Ava Gardner and James Fransiscus.

A said...

Thank you for another great post, Poseidon,

As others have said, it sounds terrible but I do hope to see it one day.

And I love the idea of Hilary being in Rock Horror - I'm ashamed to say I'm an HGTV junkie.

A.

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, I love '70s disaster movies so much that it's barely pertinent whether they're "good or not! Ha ha! So long as there's a cast of familiar faces being banged around. "The Swarm" is a laugh riot at times, though I have the extended version, which can become a bit trying. ("When Time Ran Out" and "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" also were available in "expanded" versions and I always had to see every possible extra moment of footage, even when it slowed down the pace! Sadly, both DVDs of these films are the abridged editions.) As far as I ever saw or knew, this was Shelley's first time as a nurse. Some of her expressions in this movie are priceless. I started to watch some of that Australian film, but was pulled away before too long. Fascinating.

Thanks, Manoel, gald you liked this!

Joel, I do feel that this plays much better than anticipated in a decent print and in widescreen, but then I say that about almost anything! I had "Avalanche" on DVD and it was a shoddy print, though widescreen. I recently upgraded to a new release of it and was stunned at how much better the picture is! It's still tacky and cheap, but not AS MUCH as I always thought. It actually seemed like a modicum of lighting budget was spent on it, which was not the way it looked before. Whenever I think of Susan Clark, I recall her hideous SPIKED hair that she sported during her days on "Webster" and how furious she was that the show (intended to focus on Karras and her) was named "Webster" after she was promised that it wouldn't be! Chilly feelings on that set between her and poor little Emmanuel Lewis! LOL I sort of wondered if the people who were initiating this Towering Inferno-ish rip-off wanted Barry Newman because the other movie had PAUL Newman! Ha ha! Maybe they thought they could fool some (blind) people?

Dave, do trust me that there is SOME fun to be had watching "City on Fire." I chortled more than once - anything involving the extras/stunt people tends to be amusing, especially that whole section with the earth rumbling (which really did happen in the event that inspired this - The Texas City disaster! People were sent falling to their knees in Galveston, if I recall correctly!) And, yes, I'm with you on the smoking. It really tore up some faces over the years (and voices!)

A, I think you'd enjoy this. I couldn't believe it when it finally hit DVD because I thought that the rights were all caught up in some Canadian tax write-off quagmire! I guess it got sorted out. 'Cause it has not been shown on TV in ages either. I love HGTV, but I am not much of a fan of Love it or List It because it always comes off as very fake to me. In EVERY SINGLE EPISODE, the budget is set and then certain things are taken away, much to Hilary's distress. Life is never that consistently horrendous. You'd think that just once she'd be able to deliver the plan, but then there'd be no angst... and I never cared much for the guy, David. I do like her, though.

Narciso Duran said...

I realize I am six months late in posting this comment, but from the photos you've included here, Ava Gardner looks quite attractive for being what -- 57 at the time? Her hair and makeup appear to be both soft and simple -- very, very flattering in my opinion. I love your comment about the cigarette smoke generated by Gardner and Franciscus, LOL.

Poseidon3 said...

Narciso, in a way I agree with you and in a way I don't. I have a bit of a reflex action to try to always capture shots of the stars when they look their best, so whenever you see a cap, it's usually one that I've struggled to achieve the best, most flattering results with. There are often many other frames where the person looks like shit. LOLOL She could still make an impression... don't doubt it! But she also was very hard on her looks with all that late, crazy living, up to and including bull fighters and booze. :-)