Blu-ray Review: Irwin Allen: Master of Disaster Collection

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

If you were a kid growing up in the ’70s, Irwin Allen was the first producer that you cared about seeing in the credits. Why would a kid care about seeing a producer’s name on the screen? Because Irwin Allen built a TV empire in the ’60s that was rerunning after school. Lost In Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants and Time Tunnel were essential viewing after getting off the bus. Even though his TV show hot streak had stopped at the end of the decade, he became even bigger in the ’70s by producing The Poseiden Adventure and The Towering Inferno. He was Oscar nominated for The Towering Inferno (and won for Best Documentary in 1953). Irwin Allen understood how to make you terrified of simple things that we’re supposed to not worry about doing. The Poseiden Adventure shocked audiences when a cruise ship flip over by a rogue wave. The Towering Inferno featured a skyscraper burst into flames. Irwin Allen made us pay attention to the safety exit signs. While we often hear about his two blockbusters, Irwin Allen kept producing films in the ’70s that made us scared to go anywhere. Irwin Allen: The Master of Disaster Collection brings together seven of his productions that were theatrical films, TV movies and TV miniseries about the dangers around us.

Flood (1976 – 98 minutes) is about the dangers of living in the country near an earthen dam. A small town that was built up by Richard Basehart (Voyage To the Bottom of the Sea) is in jeopardy when the nearby dam is being pushed to its limit. Robert Culp (I Spy) and Martin Milner (Adam-12) sense that bad things might happen if they don’t release the dam to take off pressure. Basehart refuses to do anything since lowering the water level will destroy the sports fishing tourism business. He swears the damn is in great shape even though helicopter pilot Culp has spotted a leak. Cameron Mitchell (High Chaparral) thinks they just need to re-enforce the dam with more rocks. But would it be an Irwin Allen TV movie if the re-enforcing is effective? Among the other stars are Gloria Stuart (Titanic), Leif Garrett (The Outsiders), Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) and Barbara Hershey (Beaches). While this was made for TV, the flooding of effects are great when they aren’t archival footage of historic floods.

Fire (1977 – 97 minutes) takes us back to the country. Instead of water, people have to fear a forest fire taking out their town. This is logging country and Ernest Borgnine (The Poseidon Adventure) is visiting to see how his trees are doing. He’s also looking to flirt with Vera Miles (Psycho). What he doesn’t count on is convict Neville Brand (The Untouchables) escaping and setting a forest fire to cover his tracks. Is anyone going to escape the inferno? The TV movie is star packed with Patty Duke Astin (Patty Duke Show), Donna Mills (Knots Landing), Lloyd Nolan (Julia) and Erik Estrada (CHiPs).

Hanging By A Thread (1979 – 196 minutes) brings the magic of an Irwin Allen disasterpiece to the mini-series format. What is dangling? Why a cable car in Palm Springs (you might have seen this location on an episode of Mannix). The action doesn’t only take place on the stalled cable car. We’re given numerous flashbacks to grasp what brought all these people together on the fateful ride. The stars include Sam Groom (Police Surgeon), Patty Duke (while she was Patty Duke Astin), Joyce Bulifant (Airplane!), Donna Mills, Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace) and Bert Convy (Tattletales). There’s a lot more character development before making us fear that the final strand will snap on the cable car.

Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979 – 114 minutes) brings us back to the flipped cruise ship with Irwin Allen acting as director and producer. The movie pretty much starts when the survivors of the original were rescued. Tugboat captain Michael Cain (Alfie) and his crew of Karl Malden (Streets of San Francisco) and Sally Field (Smokey and the Bandit) show up at the wreck ready to salvage a rumored fortune in the ship’s vault. When they arrive, they discover Telly Savalas (Kojak) on a nearby boat. He claims he’s a doctor and his crew are medics. They only want to help any survivors trapped inside the flipped cruise ship. There’s a feeling that Telly isn’t an angel of mercy as they explore inside. This isn’t nearly as good as the original film, but it is fun to see Michael Caine and Telly Savalas facing off. The stars they find still trapped below include Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein), Angela Cartwright (Lost In Space), Jack Warden (Shampoo), Veronica Hamel (Hill Street Blues), Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family), Slim Pickens (Dr. Strangelove) and a very young Mark Harmon (Summer School). You’ll fear ever boarding a capsized cruise ship. Beyond the Poseidon Adventure received a theatrical release.

When Time Ran Out… (1980 – 109 minutes) reunites two the major stars from The Towering Inferno. William Holden (The Wild Bunch) has built a luxury hotel on a remote tropical island. This should be the new fantasy island with his fantasy being to marry Jacqueline Bisset (Class), his secretary. Problem is her true love is also on the island and he’s Paul Newman (The Sting). Besides taking off with his woman, Newman has warnings that the volcano on the island is going to erupt. Holden isn’t eager to shut down his resort and send people to safety. They argue about the odds until the volcano starts rumbling. The stars that are at risk of being coated in lava include Edward Albert (Green Acres), Red Buttons (Stagecoach), Barbara Carrera (Never Say Never Again), Veronica Hamel (Hill Street Blues), Alex Karras (Webster), Burgess Meredith (The Penguin on Batman), James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) and Pat Morita (The Karate Kid). The effects include people being lowered into a volcano in a sphere and lots of crossing lava flows on busted up bridges. Danger is everywhere on the resort, but you’ll feel safe in Paul Newman’s blue eyes.

The Night The Bridge Fell Down (1980 – 194 minutes) would probably be better known as The Night The Ratings Fell Down. The miniseries was basically burned by NBC against the final episode of M*A*S*H*. Your family probably has no memory Irwin’s production. James MacArthur (Hawaii Five-O) shuts down the Madison Bridge when he deems it not safe for traffic. However a police chase ignores the safety issues and leads to the nightmare we’re expecting: a falling apart bridge and people in jeopardy. The stars that might plummet into the water below include Desi Arnaz Jr. (Here’s Lucy), Richard Gilliand (Designing Women), Leslie Nielsen (Police Squad), Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch), Gregory Sierra (Barney Miller) and Phillip Baker Hall (Boogie Nights). This movie does not let you down like that final episode of M*A*S*H*.

Cave-In! (1983 – 98 minutes) reminds us all that nothing good can come from taking one of those long tours through a cavern complex. Even though there’s been a few ceiling collapses, the park service keeps the place open because a U.S. Senator (Falcon Crest‘s Susan Sullivan) wants to take the tour and she doesn’t want to be disappointed. Among the people on the tour are Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun) and Ray Milland (Frogs). The TV movie was shot in 1980, but sat on the shelf for a bit before NBC ran it. This must have been a bit odd for fans of Leslie Nielsen who had seen him playing a goofball character in Airplane! and Police Squad while this sat gathering dust. He’s a serious character here and might be up to something in the middle of the cavern disaster. You won’t stop for a cave tour after watching Cave-In!

Irwin Allen: Master of Disaster Collection does a thrilling job of gathering up the producer’s lesser titles from the ’70s. He was able to find the jeopardy in so many peaceful pursuits. Who thought about being stuck on a cable car, having your resort hotel attacked by lava bombs, natural dams busting apart or a Park Service Tour going to Hell? We all did thanks to Irwin Allen. This was a time before computer effects, so you’ll see plenty of odd ways Irwin and his team figured out how to take us into the mayhem. The producer came up with the perfect formula for his disaster flicks including gather up a huge famous cast so that viewers can’t be sure who will survive the movie. This is the perfect boxset for people who want to get deeper into the destruction Irwin Allen could bring to the screen. Any Gen Xer will be transported back to the shag carpeting of their youth and the anxiety that all vacations can go horribly wrong when they press play on Irwin Allen: Master of Disaster Collection.

The Video for most of the movies is 1.33.1 full frame since they aired on TV in the ’70s and early ’80s. Beyond the Poseidon Adventure and When Time Ran Out is 2.35:1 anamorphic. All seven transfers looks so much better than I ever remember. The Audio for all the movies is DTS-HD MA Mono. The cleaned up the sound so you’ll hear the creaks clearly before something snaps. The movies are subtitled in English.

Flood Trailer (2:46) will have you saying “Flood!”

Still Gallery for Flood (1:38) has posters newspaper advertising and press photos.

Fire Trailer (1:07) promising to give us a blazing hell with Ernest Borgnine.

Beyond The Poseidon Adventure Trailer (2:06) tells us what happens the day after the first movie ended.

Still Gallery (8:14) has press photos, lobby cards, sweepstakes ads, posters, concept art, a goofy poster for a comedy angle, Irwin Allen roaming the sets, the press book, the special effects details, newspaper ads, TV ad and Polaroids for the continuity.

Extended Cut (145 minutes) is from the movie ran on TV. It’s pan and scan and bad resolution – just like watching it on TV with an antenna.

Sunday Night Movie Promo (1:03) is the old ABC opener. It’s beautiful and worth the price of the boxset!

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure Sweepstakes Promo (1:24) lacks audio, but you’ll be dazzled by the prizes including an AMC Spirit!

Still Gallery for When Time Ran Out… (3:06) has posters, photo of Irwin Allen with cast, press photos and a comical cast drawing.

Extended Cut of When Time Ran Out… (143 minutes) is the version that ran when it was put on TV as film that could fill up an entire afternoon’s programming.

Additional Scenes from Extended Cut (53:41) give you the parts of When Tie Ran Out… from the TV version. We get more of the rooster fighting story with Pat Morita.

Shout! Factory presents Irwin Allen: Master of Disaster Collection. Produced by Irwin Allen. Starring Paul Newman, William Holden, Sally Field, Michael Caine, Telly Savalas and Bert Convy. Boxset Contents: 7 movies on 7 Blu-ray discs. Rating: PG Rated. Release Date: September 12, 2023.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.