Friday, May 20, 2011

City on Fire

(Alvin Rakoff, 1979)
This lateral-inferno disaster movie seems to think that its lack of seriousness is a virtue - it wants to be a lark. Producer Harold Greenberg even snags Corman/Pam Grier veteran Jack Hill to write the script, a good start. And then, in his infinite wisdom, Greenberg entrusts the enterprise to Alvin Rakoff, who wouldn't know a lark if it shat in his beer. Ten-thumbed and crosseyed, Rakoff spends 106 minutes showcasing a peerless inability to establish a character, direct an actor, stage a scene. A gratuitously complex multi-tiered narrative disappears bit by bit into the only elements these tremorous hands can grasp, to wit: "Get everyone into the hospital! Get everyone out of the hospital!" The existential despair this plot arc evokes is written all over the performers' faces, from Jonathan "what's my motivation" Welsh to Henry "fire my agent" Fonda, whose transparent, head-shaking contempt for this project proves once again that he is a man of the people.

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