Irwin Allen produced and directed a lot of films, and television as well of course. What I’ve tried to do here is to list some familiar and popular theatrical features along with one of his more obscure made-for-TV productions. Hopefully this gives an accurate representation of the many pleasures his works have to offer.
City Beneath the Sea
Dir. Irwin Allen
A failed 1969 TV pilot served as the basis for this TV movie about an experimental underwater community called Pacifica. As all of the gold in Fort Knox is being moved in to storage there, along with a volatile new element can only be stabilized by the gold, a group of citizens plots to destroy Pacifica to steal it all. Oh, and an asteroid is on course to wipe them all out.
This is ridiculous and a lot of fun for Allen fans. Robert Colbert, James Darren, and Whit Bissell from The Time Tunnel are in it. Richard Basehart and Robert Dowdell were in the TV series of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Also there’s Robert Wagner (who later appeared in The Towering Inferno and the always-welcome Joseph Cotton. Plenty of other Allen irregulars show up as well, including Sheila Allen as a woman who wants to take her dress-making dummy in the evacuation of Pacifica.
98 min., color, 1971
The Poseidon Adventure
Dir. Ronald Neame and Irwin Allen
Based on Paul Gallico’s book, this movie follows a group of survivors trying to escape from a capsized luxury liner. It won an Oscar for Best Music: Original Song (“The Morning After”) and made a big enough splash that it spawned a delayed sequel, 1979’s Beyond the Poseidon Adventure
, directed by Irwin Allen.
Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Roddy McDowall, Leslie Nielsen — if this cast doesn’t grab your attention, how about all of them wading through water tank sets?
117 min., color, 1972
Dir. Irwin Allen
In 1957, Africanized honey bees escaped in Brazil. The aggressive strain began to kill their natural rivals and make their way north, reaching North America in 1985. Based on the book Arthur Herzog, this film depicts a swarm of the killer bees destroying a town in Texas.
This one is endearingly overwrought and ridiculous. The bees manage to wreck a train, and when a school is attacked the carnage is reduced to bees crawling on a giant lollipop.
116 min., color, 1978
The Towering Inferno
Dir. John Guillermin
Based on novels by Richard Martin Stern, Thomas N. Scortia, and Frank M. Robinson, this film about a skyscraper burning won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Song (“We May Never Love Like This Again”). Paul Newman and Steve McQueen head the all-star cast.
Flames, fire hoses, collapsed staircases… this is the big one, the classic. If you’ve seen only one Irwin Allen production I’m willing to bet it was this one.
165 min., color, 1974
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Dir. Irwin Allen
The cutting edge submarine Seaview, designed by Admiral Harriman Nelson (Walter Pidgeon), must stop global warming — by blowing up the Van Allen Belt! Bad science, lots of action, global catastrophe, and sabotage, in the film that inspired Irwin Allen’s longest running show.
Nothing in this makes a lick of sense, but it doesn’t need to with a supporting cast that includes Joan Fontaine, Peter Lorre, Barbara Eden, Michael Ansara, and Frankie Avalon!
105 min., color, 1961