- City on Fire (1979 film)
City on Fire
City on Fire movie poster.
Directed by Alvin Rakoff Produced by Claude Héroux Written by Jack Hill
Céline La Frenière
Starring Barry Newman
Music by Matthew McCauley
Cinematography René Verzier Studio Astral Bellevue Pathé
Distributed by AVCO Embassy Pictures Release date(s) August 29, 1979
August 31, 1979
Running time 106 min. Country Canada
Language French/English Budget $5,300,000 (estimated) Box office $784,181(USA)
City on Fire is a 1979 disaster film directed by Alvin Rakoff and featuring an “all-star cast,” as was the custom for that time. The film’s plot revolves around a disgruntled employee who sets fire to an oil refinery, setting off a blaze which engulfs an entire city. Various people try to either fight or flee the fire as it spreads throughout the city. Some elements of the disaster depicted reflect the infamous Texas City Disaster of 1947.
The film was partially financed by the government agency Telefilm Canada and was thus filmed in Montreal, Canada, although the name of the city is not mentioned in the film. Although American stars Henry Fonda, James Franciscus, Shelly Winters, and Ava Gardner, all veterans of the numerous disaster flicks of the 70's, appeared in the film, albeit in relatively supporting or minor roles, the majority of the rest of the cast originated from Canada. Filmed on a confined budget some of the fire sequences utilized stock footage from both existing movies and news footage. City on Fire was ultimately a unsuccessful venture for the company and had a limited run at the American box office. The film was resurrected from obscurity by Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1989, and has since been known as an example of campy disaster B-movies.
William Dudley (Leslie Nielsen) is a corrupt mayor of a nameless Midwestern U.S. city who has allowed a oil refinery to be built right in the center of town, far from any river, lake or reservoir. On one typical hot summer day, Herman Stover (Jonathan Welsh), a dangerously disturbed employee at the works has been denied an expected promotion and in addition, finds himself fired. He then decides to take his revenge against the works by opening the valves to the storage vats and their interconnecting pipes, flooding the area and sewers with gasoline and chemicals. It doesn't take long for this act of petty vandalism to start a fire, which starts a chain reaction that causes massive explosions at the refinery, destroying it and spreading a mushroom-cloud of flame that soon engulfs the entire metropolis. The drama focuses on a newly built hospital which, like the refinery and all civic buildings that went up during the mayor's crooked administration, is shoddily built and poorly equipped where the head doctor, Frank Whitman (Barry Newman), and his staff treat thousands of casualties from the fire while the city fire chief Risley (Henry Fonda) keeps in constant contact with the fire companies fighting a losing battle against the fires, and Maggie Grayson (Ava Gardner), an alcoholic reporter, sees it as her chance to make it nationwide with her coverage of the story of the "city on fire".
- Barry Newman as Dr. Frank Whitman
- Susan Clark as Diana Brockhurst-Lautrec
- Shelley Winters as Nurse Andrea Harper
- Leslie Nielsen as Mayor William Dudley
- James Franciscus as Jimbo
- Ava Gardner as Maggie Grayson
- Henry Fonda as Chief Albert Risley
- Jonathan Welsh as Herman Stover
- The city used in the movie was Montreal.
- City On Fire was featured on a 1989 KTMA-era episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- Leslie Nielsen would go on to star in Airplane!, a spoof of disaster films.
- Many of the fire scenes were stock footage.
- Although set in a unnamed American city, identifiable because of the appearance of American flags in a few scenes, the television station setting for the movie has the call letters listed as CETV. In the United States, all television and radio station call letters begin with either the letter K (for states west of the Mississippi River), or the letter W (for states east of the Mississippi River). The letter C is used for all of Canada's provinces.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
- "Mystery Science Theater 3000" City on Fire (TV episode 1989) at the Internet Movie Database
- Episode guide: K16- City on Fire
The films of Alvin Rakoff 1950sPassport to Shame (1958) • The Treasure of San Teresa (1959) 1960sAn einem Freitag um halb zwölf (1961) • The Comedy Man (1964) • Crossplot (1969) 1970sSay Hello to Yesterday (1971) • Hoffman (1971) • Three Dangerous Ladies (1977) • City on Fire (1979) • King Solomon's Treasure (1979) 1980sDeath Ship (1980) • Dirty Tricks (1981)
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