Monday, January 2, 2012

Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner in City on Fire (1979)

Along the same lines of last week's post about Disaster on the Coastliner (also from 1979), this film is another bloated star epic, though some of the stars are, or had been decidedly first tier. When a refinery worker, upset because he was passed over for a promotion, sets his refinery on fire, he sets off a chain reaction of disaster in a city that's been compromised by graft and shoddy construction standards. Among the people involved are fire chief Risley (Fonda), heiress Diana Brockhurst-Lautrec (Susan Clark), nurse Andrea Harper (Shelly Winters), inebriated television reporter Maggie Grayson (Gardner) and corrupt mayor William Dudley (Leslie Nielsen).
Though set in the midwest, this film was shot in Montreal. It's the usual disaster fare, following the lives of certain key people as they are irrevocably changed by the ensuing events. Look for James Franciscus and Barry Newman in the cast as well.

Though not available on DVD, this film can be found on VHS and is available in full on YouTube. Above is the entire film uploaded by TheGialloGrindhouse.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, barely remembered)


  1. Lot of famous people in this film. I'm surprised it's not more popular :(

  2. Well, it's a bit cheesy... Ava Gardner is somewhat ridiculous in it.

  3. I love cheese. Gonna need to watch it :)

  4. Apparently, most the the $5 million budget went to star salaries, as the special effects are pretty bad. Gardner is a definitely a hoot in this - just about as unlikely an anchorperson as you'd see anywhere. Fonda is, as always, a class act. I'm thrilled that he was able to make "On Golden Pond" at the end of his career - the late 70s saw him in a string of horrible disaster films, with this being one of the worst (well, maybe I should see "Tentacles").

    "Catastrophe 2000"??? I wasn't aware that this was supposed to be "futuristic" - maybe I missed that aspect...

  5. I think that's most likely just creative promotion... I don't see a futuristic aspect to it either.

    Yes, Gardner is particularly un anchor like in this. It's definitely part of the fun.

  6. I seem to recall that Shelly Winters was in a lot of these 70s disaster flicks. She always had a borderline-hysterical quality about her that made her a natural for them.