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Sampo & Erhardt

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Episode guide: K16- City On Fire

Movie: (1979) A disgruntled former refinery worker starts a city-wide conflagration and a star-studded cast, each with their own subplot, must cope with the disaster.

First shown: 3/19/89
Opening: The Mad Scientist League threatens to revoke Dr. F. and Dr. E.’s licenses. Seems they’re merely “mildly peeved researchers.”
Host segment 1: Servo and Crow pull the old “telescope black eye” prank on Joel
Host segment 2: Joel demonstrates his new anti-theft device, “hell in a handbag”
Host segment 3: J&TB perform a military cadence
End: Joel again shows the stuff you get when you join the MST3K Fan Club
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (119 votes, average: 4.29 out of 5)


• The “hell in a handbag” invention in segment 2 would be re-used in episode 103- MAD MONSTER.
• The Brains apparently thought they had done some of their best work in this episode. Portions of segments 1 and 3 and a couple of segments of theater riffing (the “good morning!” sequence and the childbirth scene) were included on the compilation pitch tape that sold the show to The Comedy Channel. That compilation tape was included on the “MST3K Scrapbook” tape that was sold to fans by the Info Club.
• A portion of segment 3 also appeared in the Comedy Central special “This is MST3K.”
• A commercial advertising Joel Hodgson’s stand-up comedy act (with a voice over by Kevin Murphy) aired during the original broadcast of this episode, and is included in many fan copies.
• This is the first reference to the “Mad Scientists League” that is forever checking up on Dr. F and, later, Pearl.
• Local reference: “I haven’t been in research since I was at the U doing kitchen cabinet analysis for Ken Keller’s house.” Keller was president of the University of Minnesota–known in the Twin Cities as, simply, “the U”–in the 80s. He was nice enough to reply to an email I sent him and explain the joke.

“In 1988, renovations to the university president’s house (Eastcliff) were the hot scandal of the day with lots of talk about a $600,000 kitchen. Aside from the fact that there was no such kitchen (that was the price of the whole renovation, but that’s a longer story), it made great headlines for a couple of months. Since I was the president at the time, the headlines were about me and “my house.” So Twin Citians at the time would have known the reference.
Never thought of hiring researchers to do the kitchen cabinet analysis. We did it the old-fashioned way: you buy the cabinets and you hang them.”

• There’s no “movie sign” sequence at the beginning of the movie. It goes right from the Mads, into the movie.
• In the theater, Joel and Servo start talking at the same moment, but this time Joel doesn’t give way and finishes his joke. Instead, it’s Servo who gives way. Joel asks him what he was going to say. Servo tells him what it was (it isn’t very funny). Joel says “I’m glad I interrupted you.” Crow adds: “Hey, we’re beginning to annoy ourselves! Cool!”
• Crow mistakenly identifies the kid who starts the fire as Brandon Cruz of “Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” He does look a little like Cruz, but it’s actually another child actor, Steven Chaikelson. He had a very short career, and with his terrible acting in this movie, you can see why. By the way, the little girl playing his sister Debbie is his real-life sister Janice. Her career was a little longer–but not much.
• You can see that Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner pretty much phoned their parts in. Probably were on the set for a day or two at most.
• It’s almost spring in Minneapolis and it was a balmy 34 degrees when the show started, moving up to 35 later on.
• Coming back from Segment 1, the Barry Newman character is talking about unintelligible symbols and Joel says “sounds like viewer mail.” Wow he’s only started getting mail for a few weeks and he’s already jaded?
• The sound mixing is a little rough in this one: during some of the louder movie scenes it’s hard to hear the riffers.
• After segment 3, Joel again runs down the hallway and is run over by Cambot.
• Servo uses the term “kindler gentler”–a popular, if mistaken, phrase in 1989.
• Crow sneezes in the theater.
• Cast and crew roundup: Special effects guy Thomas L. Fisher, sound effects editor Dennis Drummond, sound recording mixer David Appleby and dialogue editor Martin Ashbee all also worked on “The Last Chase.” In front of the camera, we’ll see James Franciscus again in “Space Travelers.”
• CreditsWatch: Todd Ziegler gets the director credit. Brian Funk is listed as an “additional” writer. Alexander Carr gets the audio credit. Clayton James would do makeup for this episode and the rest of the season.
• Fave riff: “Boil some newspapers! ” Honorable mention: “It’s the creature from the gross lagoon.”

44 Replies to “Episode guide: K16- City On Fire”

  1. Finnias 'Critter' Jones says:

    Servo: “Oh no. It was funny ’til there was a kid in there.” (22:25)

    This one is pretty spectacular. Not from a comedy standpoint, but that of a made-for-TV action movie (via Canada). A horrifying combination of gruesome deaths and death-defying stunts (sweetened with some stock footage of real fires). Some of the riffing gets overpowered by the sheer volume of the sound effects. Unlike recent CGI-enhanced disaster films of the Roland Emmerich variety, I often felt the crew making this were in real danger. Some very impressive visuals make this watchable (if not quite enjoyable) in a rubber-necking/train-wreck kind of way.

    Faded stars Henry Fonda, Ava Gardner, & a pre-career-renaissance Leslie Nielsen, are slumming it, and just seem sad to be here. Barry Newman, so great and mysterious in Vanishing Point, is barely likable as the hospital hero. The onscreen tragedy doesn’t lend itself well to being mocked by our wisecracking crew, so this one fails for me as a satisfying MST venture. SST Death Flight had a goofy danger to it; City On Fire is too grim to ever be really funny. And add the sassy pregnant woman here to our recent list of unfunny comic relief characters (“A baby born in a corridor is illegitimate!”).

    Host segments feature another mango juice reference.
    Servo (to Joel): “Hey babe. You – me – mango fest, how ’bout it?”

    Prophetic statement by Servo: “It’s hard when you feel like you’re getting graded.” (55:29)
    3 KTMA stars, mostly for the movie itself. Stuff blowed up real good.

    Should be the stinger: Wheelchair-bound old man relieves himself in a bedpan, with a sly grin on his face. (1:03:00)


  2. swh1939 says:

    Sampo mentioned the one incident of Joel and Josh talking at the same time. Although that was the main moment, there was a lot of stepping on each others lines in this episode … far more than any other KTMA. It makes one feel glad that they eventually went to fully scripted material because, as Joel has often said, without the script it can be a real train wreck.


  3. Smog Monster says:

    This movie’s riffing was funny for half of the movie, but really simmered down at the second half of the movie, with Tom Servo doing much of the riffing then. This is Mystery Science Theater’s only true wide-scale disaster movie with no sci-fi themes in it, I presume after looking through the long list of episodes. The movie is really something else, though, with all that destruction and gore… :eek: And I thought that the development of the characters in the movie was pretty poor, too.

    Also, about 1 thing Tom Servo said towards the end of the movie… I recall there being quite a few comments about the ‘They’re just ants!’ comment for Phase IV, and I never really got all of the criticism from that due to the nature of humor is sometimes to ignore some details of things, but I think the ‘They’re just ants’ still stands seeing as how, even if these ants were super-intelligent, the scientist retaining some pesticide was pretty stupid – through the lense of humor. The joke was that ants were worthless and still worthy of extermination even if super-intelligent. As long as they were still infestating creatures – the joke stands as logical. Just the fact that the scientist was spreading the gas allows for the joke to be said – the context of why he was doing it gets down-graded like it commonly does for so many riffs from MST3K.
    Fast-forward to this episode, I find myself disagreeing with him during the conclusion of City on Fire, that’s the same thing as the ‘They’re just ants’ joke, and that’s the ‘laughing after the disaster’s conclusion was reached’ bit. It’s the same exact thing as the former – ignoring some context to make fun of characters and plot elements, yet, somehow it’s not the same. I think that the two characters laughing as they get to a safe place other than fiery buildings is a much more sensible thing to do than letting super-intelligent ants survive fumigation. People may be happy after surviving a burning wreckage, and that emotion may take the form of laughter. This time Josh was ignoring context but the joke FAILED. It’s an interesting conundrum, and kinda hard to explain…

    Anyway, it’s an interesting episode. Host segment 3 failed, also. Such a sore thumb that had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Great season,t though.


  4. Creepygirl says:

    I really did enjoy this one. I liked the movie, the riffing, and the host segments. I agree with those above that the stunts and fire effects were really cool.

    I gave it 3 stars on the KTMA scale.


  5. You can check out my video review of KTMA 14 Mighty Jack here:
    Can’t wait to get this one reviewed.


  6. Thomas K. Dye says:

    The “We’re beginning to annoy ourselves!” bit startled me when I saw it. It’s like Joel and Josh were really irritated with each other, and Trace was trying to defuse it. I saw it as sort of the germ for why Josh left after Season One.


  7. Graboidz says:

    This is another one I would for them to have tackled again later in the series. I really enjoyed this movie, and can’t help wondering if the riffing slowed down simply because the guys kind of got caught up a bit in action?
    Anywho, if someone knows where I could get an un-riffed version of the flick on DVD it would be appreciated.


  8. monoceros4 says:

    I’ve never seen this episode but I think I may have seen the movie before. At least I vaguely remember being little (seven or eight, maybe) and staying up later than usual to watch a movie where some crazy guy just started twirling wheels and hitting random controls at a big factory and before you know it everything in town is blowing up. It didn’t quite make sense to me even then–assuming it’s the same movie.


  9. dad1153 says:

    “SST Death Flight” was hilarious, “Superdome” not so much plus it was underwhelming to boot. With “City On Fire” the Brains tackled a big-budget theatrical disaster movie (it was released with an ‘R’ rating in the States and had a budget of almost $6 million; this ain’t no made-for-TV cheapo flick even though it looks like one) that, while not as bad as others in the genre (it’s better than “Earthquake!,” “The Swarm” and “Beyond the Poseidon Adventure” IMHO), is still cheesy-enough to generate an insane momentum of its own. How a psychotic man (Jonathan Welsh) causes an entire city to blow-up by turning a few valves in a chemical factory is too ridiculous to describe, almost as silly as the fact Barry “Vanishing Point” Newman is the movie’s unlikely hero. Despite few memorable riffs (bad audio mixing makes it impossible to hear Joel & the Bots over the sound of the movie, an early KTMA-era technical faux pas) the sight of Henry Fonda, Ava Gardner (washed-up alcoholic news anchor), Leslie Nielsen, Shelley Winters (reunited after kick-starting the disaster genre with “The Poseidon Adventure” ) and more fire than ten “Towering Inferno” movies put together is enough to make “City on Fire” a standout KTMA episode. Just don’t expect the funny to come from J&TB’s, but from the sight of Leslie literally hosing the crowd (with water that is! :eek: ). Pretty ‘meh’ host segments + average-at-best jokes (the mini-fight between Josh and Joel, sadly, qualifies as a highlight but has nothing to do with the movie) + awesome-in-scale-but-failure-in-execution movie = an OK experience.

    THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS for “City on Fire” as a movie being skewered within its own juices (EWWWW!) and TWO-AND-A-HALF STARS (on the KTMA scale) for the episode the Brains built around it. Add this to the pile of movies we wish either Rifftrax or Cinematic Titanic (preferably the latter) would re-acquaint themselves with. As a group of movies KTMA would be a great season of “MST3K” if the riffing were up to S3 and beyond standards. It isn’t, hence the movie itself determines whether we’re having fun or not.


  10. bchat says:

    The “we’re beginning to annoy ourselves” moment didn’t stand-out to me as much, but this is the first time I’ve seen this episode so … maybe next time I’ll catch it?

    I gave “City on Fire” 3 Stars. To me, it’s in that group of MST episodes that I enjoy & will watch again and again but it doesn’t really stand-out as a “must watch”. It was a good episode overall but the last 30 minutes or so I had this “get through it” attitude.

    The only line that stood-out for me was Servo saying something along the lines of “Looks like somebody already ate it once”. The “good morning” bits were a little funny, too.


  11. JJK says:

    Never saw this episode or this movie but it sounds like the Towering Inferno with even worse acting, if that’s possible.


  12. My episode guide:

    “the movie itself determines whether we’re having fun or not”

    Whether you’re having fun or not.

    This one is solid from start to finish. Great, cheesy movie (they had to practically drop a building on Shelley Winters to kill her), fun host segments and solid, if workmanlike, riffing. Eminently re-watchable.

    Four stars on the MST3K scale.


  13. mataglap says:

    Unlike Superdome, I would watch this one again some time, the movie is compelling enough on its own even though the premise is ridiculous. This movie begs to not be taken seriously, which makes for pretty easy riffing, although most of the riffs weren’t that inspired they were still amusing, and generally followed along with what just about anyone watching this movie would be thinking.

    Some seriously gross-out stuff here, too, was it really necessary to show someone giving mouth to mouth to a burn victim with a face full of some tofu-like substance that I guess was supposed to be vomit? Some of the more crispy corpse shots I could have done without also.

    It’s kind of interesting how this movie seems to take place in a bubble universe, for a disaster of this scale there is no help from outside, everything is riding on contacting the mayor. The emergency vehicles have no lettering on the sides indicating where they’re from. Everyone seems to have been evacuated to the edge of town, where they just kind of stand around?

    Anyway, let’s get back to movies that are a disaster, rather than just about a disaster.


  14. Happenstance says:

    @11: That is exactly what it is: “The Towering Inferno” on a preposterous city-wide scale that the budget had no hope of dealing with.

    Still, even “phoning it in,” Henry Fonda lends it much.

    From a review:

    “What you are about to see could happen to any city, anywhere.” …Well, no, it most certainly could not. The entire plot hinges on the anonymous midwestern U.S. city (actually Montreal, Canada) being full of shoddy, highly-flammable construction PLUS an “urban refinery” (wow) with non-existent security and no notable safety measures–one that allows pissed-off ex-employees to wander freely about immediately after being summarily fired. (It’s clearly not a union workplace.)

    The last theatrical ’70s disaster movie yet to be released to R1 DVD, Canada’s “City on Fire!” is also the only one to earn an “R” rating (for some glimpses of third-degree burns and operating-room grue). Did they think it would help? It did not; “City on Fire!” scraped together less than one million at the box office.

    Kinda-sorta remade in 2001 as “Ablaze,” which recycled as much footage from “City on Fire!” as possible–to the point that certain characters dress in fashions twenty years out of date to match up with said footage. Could be the only way to see CoF! on DVD; the German and Spanish DVDs are awful.


  15. Alex says:

    This episode (not the entire episode, though) introduced me to the KTMA series. As I just said, I didn’t see the entire episode, but I did see that one clip of Joel and the bots in a marching band during the “This is Mst3k” special. I was like “Holy ****…” when I first saw the clip because I had never seen the show so run-down and dry. But of course, I got to see more episodes from the season and got used to it.

    As for the episode….. I haven’t watched too much of this as well, but I guess it’s decent.


  16. H says:

    This is a good one. Then again, Leslie Nielsen’s the mayor and he’s good in almost anything. But the movie’s good, typical star-studded disaster film and I enjoy those. Host segments are good too.


  17. Seen this episode. Canadian film. Not that bad a movie really.


  18. Screaming_semicolon_Skull says:

    Do they sell rose colored glasses at Walmart? Where do y’all get yours?


  19. CaveDweller says:

    This was the first KTMA episode I ever saw. I remember watching it and thinking that I was watching something that I wasn’t suppose to ever see! HA HA!!!! It’s still one of my favorites KTMA episodes!


  20. Dan in WI says:

    For my money this episode had a below average set of host segments. Those gags they are pulling just don’t fill an entire segment.

    Leslie Neilsen: Now while I’m certainly not old I’m not quite young. I’m 37. You can count me in the category of a generation that really has no memory of Leslie doing a movie role that isn’t a deadpan comedy. So the thought occurred to me, what was Leslie’s last non-comedy? Was this it? I tried to quickly look it up on IMDB but there is way too much stuff I don’t recognize.

    Favorite Riffs

    Welder on fire
    Crow: Bernie come back.

    Sleazy photographer tries to blackmail the Mayor’s flame.
    Tom: Doctor I think we’ve found our blood donor.


  21. Big Dump says:

    @20: Looking through IMDB and encountering horrors of which I was blissfully ignorant (a remake of “Harvey”?!?!), I’m gonna wildly guess that Nielsen’s last dramatic non-comedy THEATRICAL role was in Barbara Striesand’s “Nuts” (1987).


  22. finniasjones says:

    Re. my comment in #1: I stand corrected, this was not a made-for-TV movie, it just feels like one. The absence of identifying marks on the rescue vehicles suggest the location of this Canadian film was meant to stand in for some never named American city.

    Susan Clark, more famous for Webster (the guys make a few references here to that show I never watched), also starred in the late Arthur Penn’s excellent Night Moves from 1975 (with Gene Hackman, who we all know is good in anything).


  23. Kouban says:

    This movie belongs on the Top Ten Darkest MSTed Movies list. It’s the most ridiculous disaster porn possible, almost to the point of being funny on its own if not for the lingering shots of people spontaneously catching fire and literally running down the street until they’re dead.


  24. Mighty Jack says:

    Thanks for details on the Minnesota based riffs, Sampo.

    KTMA got on a decent stretch from here on out. I received some good hearty laughs from this Experiment. I’ve always liked Joel’s “Hell in a Handbag”, it was a cute enough gag to warrent a return visit in season 1. I’m a Henry Fonda fan, even if he was “phoning it in” he was still a pro and he gave me something to watch and enjoy movie-wise.


  25. Smog Monster says:

    @23 – you can say that again.

    One more question about this episode to ask – Is this the only MST3K episode to show somebody giving birth (even if we never got to see the newborn himself … we were still able to see somebody pushing out a baby, so it counts.)… or is there more? I thought Tom Servo’s riff was pretty funny, saying ‘It’s a monster!!!’ RIGHT WHEN they cut away from the whole entire scene (what a lame movie…) as though it was a monster…


  26. Watch-out-for-Snakes says:

    Well let’s see who we have here. Barry Newman, Susan Clark, Shelley Winters, Leslie Nielsen, James Franciscus, Ava Gardner, and Henry Fonda. That’s some real star power, even if Fonda and Gardner are phoning it in and Newman (so great in Vanishing Point) is sorta lame. Shelley Winters does her best Shelley Winters impersonation, and that’s always good for a laugh.

    One of the writers credited for this turkey is Jack Hill, someone all MSTies should dig on, as he is the writer/director of Coffy, Foxy Brown, Switchblade Sisters, and one of the best horror films ever, Spider Baby.

    According to IMDB, City on Fire had a budget of 5.3 million and its box office gross was $784,181 (USA). I’m no mathematician, but that seems like a total failure of a motion picture.

    This movie is a “better made” movie than SST Deathflight, but for whatever reason, I found Deathflight to be a better watch. I was zoning in and out of this one. Maybe it was the mood I was in. :rain: I think the silliness of SST won me over, whilst City on Fire is a bit more serious. As said above, Top Ten Darkest MSTed movie Ever.

    The Host Segments were okay, they are definitely showing progress.

    Some riffs:

    Towards the beginning of the movie, Barry Newman is making a protein morning shake and Joel says, “You’re soaking in it.” I can remember him saying this line a few times during the Comedy Central days of the show.

    There was another John Denver reference by Joel, just like in SST Deathflight. A callback???

    When the little kids are smoking, Crow says, “It’s okay, it’s menthol,” which got a belly laugh from me. I love children-smoking humor.

    Joel also throws out a “Flame On!” at one point. A little Fantastic Four humor is never a bad thing.

    Servo: Who could argue with Shelley Winters?
    Crow: Ernest Borgnine.

    True that, Crow. True that.


  27. Bobby 23-Skidoo says:

    This is the only movie that I’d seen prior to being aware of its MSTatus. 4:00 AM insomnia can lead to that. I guess even at that time of the day, it qualified as Cancon.

    Pretty much anything out of Canada between 1978-81 could qualify as MST fodder. Tax shelter laws pretty much guaranteed a 100% write-off.


  28. eegah says:

    I didn’t notice the commercial for Joel, but my copy has a commercial for “Cocktail” that has a bit tacked on at the end with Kevin’s voice advertising a local video store.


  29. Dan in WI –

    Before Airplane! came out, Nielsen was mainly known for playing serious authority figures on TV (as were the other actors playing authority figures in the movie.)
    I think Nielsen is the only one of them who took the ball and ran with it, although Robert Stack did show up in Baseketball.


  30. Dan in WI says:

    Mike in Portland:
    I’m with you there. And in fact looking at IMDB I’d say most of Nielsen’s TV appearance remained serious. My point is had to be among his last serious movie roles prior to reinventing himself as the deadpan comedic type.


  31. Jack McRobbie says:

    Alright-one thing to point out- it’s not particularly noticeable- Servo’s cummerbund changes colour in this episode- it’s now red.


  32. Bruce Boxliker says:

    I actually found this to be a fairly well-made movie, all things considered. And as stated before, Leslie Nielsen is good in anything (well, maybe not Dracula Dead & Loving It…).
    I liked at the end, when the fire chief & all his people are walking out, & Servo comments that half the city is still on fire. Speaking of the fire chief, his line of ‘All it takes is one man to destroy a city’ confuses me. Did I completely miss the scene (which is entirely possible) where they figured out who did it?


  33. pondoscp says:

    This is the movie with the horrific, completely outdated piece of machinery that does automatic chest compressions. I’m still horrified to think about it.
    This one seems like a good candidate for riffing, what with little kids smoking cigarettes, and all. But then it takes a horrible turn. Ouch!
    Actually, on my most recent viewing, I found this one to be funnier than I remembered. Still, after we finish this run of the K’s, I’m more than likely going to not revisit them often. Going through them again really makes me understand why they won’t be released and why the Brains aren’t keen on people watching them. They’re interesting, but not part of the episodes that I “live” in.


  34. jjb3k says:

    The phrase “mildly peeved” seems to be a favorite of either Trace or Josh. It reappeared a few times on America’s Funniest Home Videos during the time when they were writing for it – there’s one where a calf escapes a pen and runs off across the pasture, dragging a hapless farmer in the dirt behind it, and Tom Bergeron quips “Did you hear? Mad Cow disease has been downgraded to Mildly Peeved.”

    As far as KTMA episodes go, I do think this is one of their stronger efforts. Big dumb disaster movies from the ’70s are great for this sort of thing, and I wish they’d done more of them on cable. The sight gag of Joel and the bots diving out of the way of the flaming river still makes me giggle :)


  35. Cornjob says:

    One of the better KTMA episodes. The refinery was remarkably easy to sabotage, with astounding results. And the city (don’t ask which one) was remarkably combustible. What pyromaniac of a civil engineer was behind this?

    Did Dr. Boring decide to not sleep with the nurse again because she didn’t want to drink his glass of algae?

    Did the psycho from this movie and SST-Deathflight get hired from the same employment agency? If they either had survived it would have been rough getting another job. What with the resume indicating at his last job he was responsible for hundreds of deaths, thousands of horrific injuries and billions of dollars in property damage. And letters of recommendation reading, “While employed with our organization Mr. Crazy was punctual, thorough, diligent, and blew us all up. We hope this helps you make any relevant hiring decisions.


  36. brekinapez says:

    Am I the only one noticing that this article was reposted on 9/11? That is so funny, and I say that as a survivor so I get a pass.


  37. Cornjob says:

    It really does seem at the end like everyone is being evacuated to another place to burn to death.


  38. Cornjob says:

    So the kid with the ugly striped shirt (like some I must have worn) lights up once and immediately burns down his house, puts his sister in the hospital, and kills a firefighter. Was this movie an overlong anti-smoking infomercial? Don’t smoke kids. Or God will destroy all you love.

    That was one heck of a weird retro coal powered steampunk chest compressor. Wasn’t it going a little fast? I’m sure all the kids want one now.

    It really seemed to me that Dr. Grumpy was in a good mood until his date turned down his disgusting breakfast in a glass. Then his heart broke and he decided that she wasn’t worthy of his genitals and he didn’t want to be her friend anymore. What a jerk. And what a weird cinematic moment. Was the audience supposed to respect his superior dedication to masochistic nutrition regimens?


  39. ety3rd says:

    I wrote the references for linked above and this wasn’t an easy one.

    Typically, I transcribe all of the riffs for an episode in one sitting. Then, over four more sittings, I’ll watch a single theater segment in one sitting (about twenty minutes each) to verify my transcriptions and write the annotations for the riffs that need them, pausing the movie as I do so.

    I had completed all of that for this episode and lacked only a final check of spelling, etc., when my computer died. I mean, shutdown and died. Nothing could resurrect it. Hard disk broke apart and rattled inside the case when I took it to a shop to try and offload the files.

    Once I got a new computer, I, begrudgingly, did the above all over again. There’s no real point to this. I saw the title and just wanted to vent.

    Thank you.


  40. jaybird3rd says:

    @#35: The homicidal psychos in “City on Fire” and “SST Death Flight” do indeed seem to have been cut from the same cloth. Both were passed over for a promotion (or fired, or both) because their employers thought they were unsuitable or unstable, and they both snapped and killed a bunch of people, either directly or indirectly, shortly afterward. The fact that doing this would only prove their bosses right about them never seemed to have occurred to them …

    Obviously, this is another strong KTMA effort. I’d place it just a notch below “SST Death Flight” because the movie is so gruesome, but it also gives J&TB plenty to work with. Henry Fonda may have phoned his part in, but he does add a certain moral gravity to his role, brief though it is. Ava Gardner, on the other hand, doesn’t bring anything to the movie that couldn’t have been brought by any other actress in the same age range, IMHO. Even after she finally sobers up, her character’s on-air persona is so bland and unsympathetic that I can’t imagine anyone caring whether or not the disaster thrust her into the national spotlight. I did like Susan Clark’s work in this movie, but I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I first saw “Colossus: The Forbin Project”, the role of hers that I still remember best.

    I was about to make the same observation about “mildly peeved”, but #34 beat me to it! You know you’re a devoted Trace and Josh fan when you begin recognizing their favorite phrases in their other writing. I’m just as confused as #32 about Fonda’s “All it takes is one man …” soliloquy at the end of the movie. I don’t remember seeing any indication before that point that they had already figured out who started the fire.


  41. jaybird3rd says:

    Oh, and thanks to #39 for your hard work in compiling the annotations. I’m sure those things are hard to write, and I’ve learned a lot from them.


  42. buckeyemike says:

    I first saw “City on Fire” in 1983 or so. CBS actually had it as their Friday Night movie at least twice that I can remember. And I remember this one more for the subject matter than anything else. Even after natural disasters in San Francisco and other places, the entire city didn’t catch fire. So apparently this one is Canada’s answer to “The Towering Inferno”, just as the 70s disaster movie craze was wheezing toward its end. It’s hard to figure out which movie is worse — this or “When Time Ran Out”, which was actually supposed to be a Towering Inferno sequel, but got dumbed down to probably the worst film Paul Newman ever starred in.

    Yes, CoF is a Canadian film, and yes, that is Montreal. However, it’s supposed to be in the midwestern or western United States. Montreal, the last time I checked, does not resemble Denver, Kansas City, or Indianapolis. This city was apparently built of matchboxes and oily rags. The giant flames (?) coming from what’s left of the oil refinery — are those supposed to be fireballs? I’ve seen this movie several times over the years and I still don’t get what those flames/flashes are supposed to be.

    Further, you know your movie has problems when a) Barry Newman’s your hero, b) Susan Clark is your sex symbol, and c) Leslie Nielsen is not providing comic relief — but this was made one year before “Airplane!” so I will give c) a pass.

    I’m glad MST3K did this one, otherwise, CoF is confined to the dust bin of bad movie history, and nobody else but me would remember it. And Susan Clark.


  43. jaybird3rd says:

    @#42: I don’t find Susan Clark so implausible as a sex symbol, but that’s probably because of the influence of “Colossus: The Forbin Project”. I think I first saw that movie when I was about twelve, so the scene in which she gets undressed in front of Colossus’s cameras and stands naked behind a wine glass was a real eye-opener for me! :inlove:


  44. Mnenoch says:

    This episode certainly ups the riff count it seems. I’m also guessing they started working on timing with watching the movie before hand. You can tell that they have a lot more jokes lined up and timed with the movie in this episode. Some good laughs from this one plus the recording is pretty good considering that it was video taped in 1989!

    My favorite part is at the end when they just got away from the hospital and they start laughing. Servo goes nuts about that. Good times!


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