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Disaster Porn Saturday Night: Fire!

Sam Brisbane (Ernest Borgnine) has to figure a way out of the fire surrounding him

Sam Brisbane (Ernest Borgnine) has to figure a way out of the fire surrounding him

With the popularity of disaster movies on the decline by the end of the 1970's, Irwin Allen was trying to keep the genre on life support, but his later movies were a shell of the blockbusters that brought in tons of money in the early part of the decade.

The Pinetree Prison Camp prisoners are out in the forest doing foresty things when con Frank (Erik Estrada) whines to Larry (Neville Brand) about being denied a leave to go look for the person that put him in prison. I'm thinking that this is a progressive prison where maybe if you're behaving, you get to go on vacation once a year, but Larry comes up with a plan.

He'll start a fire amongst the brush and the two of them can escape through the woods.

His plan doesn't work and once the fire is put out, the dozen or so prisoners head back to the prison so that they can get in an afternoon of pool out of their system.

Over at Wagner Lodge (where all of the drama takes place) the season is over, and Sam (Ernest Borgnine) is begging Martha (Vera Miles) for the umpteenth time to come into town for dinner with him. She's thinking it's still too soon following the death of her husband, but she tells Sam that maybe fifteen years ago she would have gone to dinner with him.

He's heard the same old song and dance from her and when she sees that he's desperate for a fancy meal, she changes her mind and tells him that she'll come into the bustling city the following week. With a renewed pep in his step, he heads off to his lumber yard.

Since Sam is reinvigorated, the doctor's Wilson (Alex Cord and Patty Duke) are ashamed to admit that they are getting a divorce due to different career aspirations. They leave and head off to say goodbye to their friend Doc Bennett (Lloyd Nolan) and they tell him of their decision to divorce.

The kindly doctor spews some wisdom of advice, following his post-Remy trauma, on love and marriage and the young doctors tell him that even though they appreciate his advice, they need to separate.

Just as the fire begins to spark up again, school marm Miss Malone (Donna Mills) pulls the school bus, err van, into a meadow so that the class can find specimens of leaves. Supposedly she teaches first grade, but the ages of the dozen or so students make it seem like they are from a one room school house.

Judy (Michelle Stacy) forgoes lunch and asks Miss Malone if she can go into the woods and feed the chipmunks. Miss Malone tells her it's alright with her, but while she's somewhere in the woods, she should collect some fern specimens as well. Later when we see her, she's carrying a pine branch.

Pilot Bill Clay (James W. Gavin) receives exciting news that he's been offered a new job at a real company and he doesn't have to fly his chopper over the boring Twin Rivers landscape. He's so excited that he makes the chopper do a little skip and hop.

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As the fire begins to rage once more, Judy is lost in the woods (and Miss Malone has a breakdown after taking the kids to the Wagner Lodge) Doc has an accident when he narrowly misses a bear and over at the prison, Walt Fleming (Ty Hardin) asks for volunteers to put out the fire.

Larry and Frank look at one another and immediately volunteer since this is now the time for the two of them to make their move to freedom. But of course there are consequences once inside the forest.

From the road, the doctors decide to put aside their marital woes and head back to the lodge since Doc might need help with any injuries. They find his overturned car and take him to the lodge since (at this point) it's not in danger of burning.

Well, it is a disaster movie and with people trapped at the lodge, you know what's in store, but, they could have gotten out earlier, so now they have to wait for Pilot Bill to fly in and rescue them.

When they find out that he's been in an accident, Sam is able to pull some strings and a small convoy makes it to the lodge. Of course, tragedy ensues.

And it's not all of the actors' fault.

About halfway through the movie, the scenes shift from day to night and back again. This happens a few times.

Since this is Disaster Porn, if you have a copy of the movie, the censors let a scene get by in which Ty Hardin is talking on the phone to fire boss Dan Harter (Gene Evans). It's a very dramatic scene, but if you let your eyes wander, you'll see what I'm referring to.

Even though it's an innocent mistake, it sure makes you do a double take!




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