May 1977

Iwrin Allen's moive 'Fire' lights up tube tonight

By Jerry Buck AP Television Writer


~ Irwin Allen says he's in no danger of running out of disasters to turn into motion pictures.


The man who turned an ocean liner upside down in "The Poseidon Adventure" and incinerated a skyscraper in "The Towering Inferno" is back with a forest fire big enouogh to cause a timber shortage.


"Fire," starring Ernest Borgnine, Vera Miles, Patty Duke Astin, Alex Cord and Donna Mills, is an NBC "Big Event" at 9 p.m. today (on Channel 4).


"As long as in real life we have floods, storms, fires and other disasters, there's no end in sight," said Allen. "These kinds of pictures will be around as long as we're alive. Every poll we've taken says "Give us more."


"No, I'm not going to run out of disasters. Pick up the daily newspaper which is my best source for crisis stories, and you'll find 10 or 15 every day."


The veteran producer said there are two reasons for the popularity of crisis stories, as he prefers to call them.


"Every man, and every woman for all that matter, fancies himself as a Walter Mitty character," he said. "Everyone wants the thrill of being a hero, and films like this let them be Errol Flyn without getting hurt."


"The other reason is in human nature. I think we all suffer from a faulty id. People chase fire engines, flock to car crashes. People thrive on tradgdy. It's unfortunate, but in my cas it's fortunate. The bigger the tragedy, the bigger the autdience."


There is no shortage of tragedy in "Fire." It seems that the writers researched every forest fire in recent years and found every possible complication and tragic turn-and put them all into this movie.


It's an esciting and tense film, and the fire is nothing less than spectacular. It should be. Thatís a real forest burning.


Allen said he obtained permission to film during the annual slash burning in Oregon. These are controlled fires set by the state's Forest Service. He also bought several old buildings on the outskirts of Silverton, Ore. And set them on fire.


"We added our own movie magic fires to make it look like the whole world was on fire," he said.


Norman Katkov and Arhur Weiss wrote the script and Earl Bellamy directed.


Like all such films, this one is a seriesof overlapping stories: two convicts who set the fire to cover an escape attempt; a lumberman trying to get the lodge owner to marry him; a husband-wife doctor team headed for divorce court; a teacher-who loses one of her young charges in the forest; a helicopter pilot who's just landed a new job, and the tough-tender fire boss who finally whips the blaze.


All the disasters in the world wouldn't amount to much unless they were told in human terms, Allen said. "You become wrapped up in who lives, who dies, who rises above normal cowardice at a time of crisis. I think that's the reason for the success."


Allen's production company occupies two buildings at the Burbank Studio, where he is at work planning a dozen or more crusis movies. Every movie is plotted out in advance on story boards, with arttist's rendition of each scene.


Next up for NBC in the coming season are "The Night the Bridge Collapsed" and "Hanging by a Thread," about a cable car collapse. Theatrical films in preparation are "Swarm," a $12 million film of the invasion African killer bees from South America,and "The Day the World Ended," a $20 million re-creation of the volcano eruption on Martinique that killed 24,000 people in 15 minutes.~