Irwin, Irwin, Irwin, what were you thinking?
We know that your later movies were bad, but this one really is a total "disaster" no matter how you look at it.
The premise is good. I mean, how many people are afraid of bridges? It preys on their fear (tunnels freak me out) but really, what made the bridge collapse?
It's an ordinary Friday as a group of people are trapped on the Madison Bridge, which has been causing accidents over the last four weeks and no one can really figure out what's causing them.
After the third accident, engineer Cal Miller (James MacArthur) is called in to do an inspection. He wants to shut down the bridge so that he can do a through inspection, but Warren Meech (Philip Baker Hall) says no.
Cal tells him that he wants to review data from a nearby fault and if it shows recent activity he'll shut down the bridge. Meech agrees and Cal goes into the basement of the bridge to check his instruments. A plot hole here is he says that it's not a Los Angeles or San Francisco bridge, so where are they located?
Location aside, Paul Warren (Leslie Nielsen) and his reluctant mistress Elaine Howard (Barbara Rush) are pulling a con job on her boss. She manages to get some stock and he makes copies of it. Again, I don't know what's going on here. The only thing I know is she's reluctant about getting the stock.
Somewhere on the other side of town, "lovebirds" Dee (Char Fontane) and Johnny Pyle (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) stop at the bank before they fly into the great blue yonder to get married in Acapulco. Dee is so blinded by love that she believes his story about getting a mortgage loan for their love nest and has no clue that he's going to rob the bank.
After he crosses the bank robbery off of his to do list, they calmly drive away, but he doesn't know that the bank manager has gotten a good description of the car and license plates!
They head over to a money launderer and are then caught up in a high speed chase with Harvey Lewis (Richard Gilliland) who's really had a bad day.
Earlier in the day, Harvey, learns from his betrothed, Terry Kelly (Eve Plumb) has decided to become a nun.
This is really good foreshadowing in Plumb's career as she's convent bound in a two part episode of The Facts of Life (February 16 and 23,1983) and this movie was first shown on February 28, 1983, opposite the last episode of M*A*S*H and American Gigolo. Of particular note, Hollywood power extra, Leoda Richards, played against herself as she's in both The Night the Bridge Fell Down (as a bank customer) and American Gigolo (as a restaurant patron).
Going back to the story, before he leaves the office, Paul has received a phone call from the babysitter across the street she tells him that his son, Billy, is seriously sick. He races home and grabs him since Mrs. Warren is no where in sight.
Paul fills Elaine in on what's happening with Billy and tells her that he has to go to the hospital and he should meet her at 600 Front Street, by the bridge.
Terry is transporting orphan, recently adopted Judy (Colleen Davis) to her new parents after hours and after Johnny realizes it's safe to crawl along the streets, he and Dee head for the bridge. That is until Harvey spots the pair.
Harvey begins the chase again and everyone is heading toward Madison Bridge, where Diego Ramirez (Gregory Sierra) is pulled over due to a flat tire.
Before he knows it, Johnny hits Diego's truck, followed by Harvey and there's a multi car pile up on the bridge. Johnny tries to get away but isn't successful as the bridge starts to collapse.
Now, I don't know if the collapse is caused by an earthquake or not, but whenever the bridge starts to lose a portion, everyone starts to do do the earthquake dance by shaking and losing their balance, while the rescuers calmly stand on shore. Who knows what's going on up there.
After the drama, the action shifts to the rescue.
One way to get the survivors down is by Breeches bouy. Sound familiar?
During the transport of two of the survivors, the bridge starts shaking again and luckily our survivors make it to shore.
Meanwhile, Johnny has been playing cat and mouse with the survivors and those on shore. He tells Dee that he used her since her father has clout and she'd be cleared of any charges, which leaves her an emotional wreck. (And to think that Marcia Brady had a huge crush on Desi).
As time runs out, the remaining survivors have to scale the pylon and hope that they can make it before the rest of the bridge collapses.
The movie itself is really a yawn fest and best works as background noise. I think the events leading up to the collapse were pretty good, but that's about it.
It's interesting also to note that Plumb was in final talks to be in the horror film, Prom Night (along with Nielsen) but Teen Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis was ultimately cast.