City on Fire (review by Doug Smith)

“City on Fire” is a perfect example of what happens when actors, who used to be somewhat respected, start losing roles and have to settle for brainless pieces of cinematic radioactivity like this little movie. It’s your typical seventies disaster film, with a disgruntled oil refinery employee going postal and starting a fire, which spreads to the rest of the city, incinerating pretty near everything.
The movie features quite a star studded cast, including Barry Newman, who just may find out what Bowfinger’s big thing is in the near future, as Dr. Frank Whitman. Susan Clark, who gave an astounding performance as LaVona Harding in “Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story,” plays Diana Brockhurst-Lautrec. Mouth-breather, Shelly Winters is Nurse Andrea Harper, whose bedside manner is similar to that of a hippopotamus on speed. And, finally, James Franciscus – who is constantly confused with finder of lost love, Tony Franciosa – plays Jimbo.
In the opening scenes of the movie, we see assorted things and buildings and whatnot, not unlike pretty much any other movie ever made. Also, there’s some words floating around, which I guess they want people to read so they know who to blame for the movie. The first person we see is Henry Fonda and his gaping, wide-mouthed, toothy grin, talking about how he’s soon going to retire and live a life of sailing. He then proceeds to go back to work and into the men’s room.
Next, we see Richard Simmons making some sort of health shake. But it’s actually just Barry Newman making breakfast. Well, hey, he’s got curly hair, so can’t you see how I could be mistaken? Anyway, he apparently had a bit of a romp with an intern from the hospital he works for, so he promptly shuns her and heads for work. As he’s leaving, he squeals the tires of his car in an attempt to imitate Mannix.
There’s really nothing too important that happens during the first half-hour or so of the movie, aside from the introductions of all the characters. It seems as though there’s about five or six different plots all taking place at the same time. First, we have plot A, with the grinning, dopey fire chief who’s about to retire. Then there’s plot B, involving a complete lush of a news anchor. Plot C revolves around a corrupt mayor (Leslie Neilson, by the way … don’t call him Shirley), who cheats on his wife, pretty much like any other Republican. Plot D is about Herman, the misfit oil refinery worker, who gets to work in the morning and immediately gets fired. Plot E has something to do with Shelly Winters fathering a baby or something. I’m not really sure.
Finally, we get to the most important part of the movie. Well, wait, no it isn’t. It’s just foreshadowing or some really unnecessary thing. At any rate, there’s some kids in upsetting shorts sitting in a tree house. They invite their friend up for a nice smoking session and to look and the newest issue of “Esquire,” but the little wimp ends up tossing a lung, and the still-burning cigarette, into some dry boxes that were conveniently placed right next to the porch stairway. The little puss at least as enough brains to call the fire department. Even though the fire is still pretty much confined to the stairs when the fire department gets there, the roof and a couple other buildings seem to spontaneously combust a couple minutes later. The press of course has a complete hay day with the fact there’s a little girl trapped inside the building, asking such questions as, “Hey, is she gonna burn?” and, “So, is she dead, or what?” One of the firemen inhales too much smoke, and they put what seems to be a Swedish penis pump on his chest. Not entirely sure how that’s going to help, but, whatever…
Off to the hospital for the girl and the injured firemen, where, of course, they meet Dr. Groovy and Nurse Hippo. See how it all comes together in some way that I haven’t quite figured out yet? Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay together very long, as some brand new plots are introduced during the hospital scene. I have absolutely no idea what they’re about, or if they’re even important, because I decided to watch a ladybug crawling up my computer screen instead.
A little later, we go to the oil refinery, where Herman, the lost brother of the Dumb & Dumber clan, is wreaking havoc because he was fired. Eventually, something blows up and fires start and all hell breaks loose. I’m not really 100% sure of exactly how the fire manages to spread to the entire city, but, please, if you really want to, feel free to watch the movie and email me if you can figure it out.
Keep your eyes peeled for a couple entirely unnecessary scenes, one involving an ambiguously gay hair stylist, the other involving an old man … er … relieving himself. Also, you can get a pretty good feeling for just how hateful the filmmakers were, when they show a dying bird and a dog trapped on the roof of a burning building. Yeah, that really makes the audience respect you.
As much as I made it sound like I was going to give this movie a Yak Turd, I really have to give it at least one yak, as it had endless unintentional hilarity. Definitely one to watch when you’re stoned. Well, I mean … not that I’d … know … or anything … heh…