City On Fire (1979)

It took 45,000 gallons to set a few blocks of Montreal ablaze for this movie, which at least pushes it somewhat past being another version of The Towering Inferno. It was directed by Alvin Rakoff, who also made Death Ship, and written by Dave Lewis, Céline La Frenière and Jack Hill. That’s right — the man who made Spider BabySwitchblade SistersSorceress and Coffy to name just a few.

Mayor William Dudley (Leslie Nielsen, so associated with movie like this that Airplane! had to cast him, a role that changed his career) gets paid off an allows an oil refinery to be built right in the middle of his town. There’s no water source nearby, but nobody would ever get fired — like Herman Stover (Jonathan Welsh) — and flood the streets and sewers with flammable gasoline, right?

Meanwhile, amongst the shoddily built facilities and structures of this flaming metroppolis, we meet the players of this melodrama, liek Dr. Frank Whitman (Barry Newman) who is trying to treat the thousands of burned people, reporter Maggie Grayson (Ava Gardner) who is trying to sweat out the booze and get her name back with this story and Chief Albert Risley (Henry Fonda), the fireman trying to fix it all.

Surely, realizing disasters film casts, you must ask: “Is Shelley Winters in this?”

Of course. She’s a nurse in it.

There’s also Diana Brockhurst-Lautrec (Susan Clark, before she was the mean mother of Webster), who is dating the mayor, but also has an old fling kind of thing with Whitman and has been stalked for years by Stover. She’s seriously catnip to all these felines who dance around the fickle flames of their burning burg.

How do you escape all this? You make a water tunnel. I’m as astounded as you. Also, I’m pleased to see James Franciscus show up as Gardner’s assistant and later boy toy, because that’s how the 70s worked.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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