Monday, March 16, 2015

Irwin Allen's Disaster

In the 1960's, Irwin Allen was the king of sci-fi television. His classic Lost in Space was hugely successful. In the 1970's he turned to films, creating the film genre that would take the decade by storm- the disaster film.

With 1972's Poseidon Adventure, Mr. Allen lucked into a genre that would serve him well for the next decade. Seen as a visionary, Mr. Allen was bombarded with requests from the networks, who begged him for huge event programming. Mr. Allen didn't disappoint, producing self-explanatory disaster films such as Flood!' Fire!, and Hanging By A String. These disaster films all used Mr. Allen's formula of casting has-beens, up and coming stars and character actors, putting them in harm's way, then producing a melodramatic film. One of his last disaster films was The Night the Bridge Fell Down.

In 1978, NBC commissioned Mr. Allen to go back to the well one more time and produce a two part disaster mini-series. Having exhausted most other disaster types, Irwin chose a falling bridge for this film. (Hard to miss that plot considering the title of the film.) The movie starred a Pre-Airplane! Leslie Nielsen, James MacArthur and a Post-Brady Bunch Eve Plumb.

Mr. Allen pulled out all the stops for this one; there's the bureaucrat who ignores all the warnings about the titular bridge, a sick baby, young love, nuns. After watching four hours of near misses and melodrama, even Mr. Rogers would be hoping the bridge collapses taking these people with it. By the time the film was completed, the bottom had fallen out of the disaster genre. Irwin Allen had milked it for all it was worth and audiences were tired of such films. NBC put the film on the shelf and it didn't actually air until February 28, 1983. If that date sounds familiar, it's because M*A*S*H ended its historic run the very same night. NBC had given this disaster film a suicide mission.