Henry Fonda…Cinematic Icon Nonpareil. No barter, no quarrel, no bullsh*t, no sweat. You can’t raise a finger against a man who made many turns driving the Magicmobile during The Days of Black-and-White Cinema. He ranks with Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Kirk Douglas as Pillars of Unflappable Stoicism and Paragons of Finesse.
However…when do the capitalized sobriquets get dragged underneath the earth by the Z-Grade? When did Mr. Fonda encounter an opponent too redoubtable, too stentorian, and too mythologically insurmountable to repudiate, fettering Fonda into (potentially) career-razing enslavement???
The name of this unholy warden is…the 1970s.
However, we mustn’t fret, Fondaholics…I exist/post this frosty Friday evening to celebrate these slight detours ol’ Hank took into the Aberration En Vogue called the Disaster Movie Craze, a stickiness that similarly ensnared many of Fonda’s contemporaries. Hey, kids, it’s rock and roll time again with Deliberately Bad Cinema; what do the Dee-jays say….ah, yes…*ahem*…
CRANK IT UP AND RIP OFF THE KNOB!!!!
1. Rollercoaster (1977): Henry Fonda on the periphery of a battle between George Segal and the “Young Man” (unnamed in the movie) with an explosive, time-released animosity towards Hanna-Barbera. “There’s a bomb on the rollercoaster…what do you do, hotshot?” Released under the Cloak of Darkness unleashed by that sci-fi flick with the chick and the guy and the hairy guy and the heavy breathing guy and Hey Look That British Guy From the Hammer Horror Movies, “Rollercoaster” was modestly successful, but “Rollercoaster II: Loop da Loop da DIE” never crawled outta the birth canal…:
2. Tentacles (1977): OHMYGODSUCHAGREATMOVIE!! <—Obligatory Gushing Appreciation for an entry into the "When Animals Attack" sub-genre of the Disaster Movie Craze…Henry Fonda's mining company has been using "unregulated radio signals" (<–translation: the music of Styx) haphazardly, thus enraging an octopus to eat a baby, a sailor, a scuba diver, and a slew of regatta racers. THE FIRST VICTIM IS A BABY! IT IS AKIN TO HYPNOSIS WHEN ONE IS NOT PHYSICALLY CAPABLE OF CHANGING THE CHANNEL OR THE DVD!!:
If the plot bothers you, stick around for this infectious groove that harmonizes the death scene of Octopus vs. Regatta racers…
3. The Swarm (1978): Fonda’s in a wheelchair as the requisite “old fart/martyr” scientist. Buzzbuzzbuzz, well, the buzz quickly died on this flick. Irwin Allen’s first legitimate failure remains interesting as a movie where A-listers flail, wither, and collapse against killer bees that more closely resemble irradiated Maxwell House grounds than anything conjured by Belushi, Blair, and Brunzell (I hope you catch the references!), and also a movie that surprisingly didn’t vacuum-seal the coffin of many entrants, Michael Caine highest on this list. Yea, verily, Sir Michael was destined for loftier, meatier roles…such as that of Hoagie Newcombe in “Jaws: the Revenge”. Wow.
4. Meteor (1979): Fonda is the President of the United States – cool, mellow, and grandfatherly as he advises prayer and gin’n’tonics for Earth, soon to be obliterated by a recalcitrant asteroid. Sean Connery shows his hairline, and Natalie Wood is a Soviet interpreter, Black Widow beyond Scarlet’s aspirations. In movies such as these, the asteroid/meteor/comet/flaming chicken of death is the true star, and the human beings are the cole slaw. Did I mention I dig cole slaw?
5. City on Fire (1979): Hard to find on VHS and not yet (nevereverever!) available on DVD, this Canadian submission earned stinkbombs-a-plenty upon arrival, barely eking $800,000 at the cinemaplex to meet its million-dollar budget. Fonda doesn’t cave under the pressure of serving as Fire Chief, dispensing warnings on TV and wrinkling his face when prompted. I could not find a trailer for this monstrosity, rather a lackluster and lachrymose affair for a movie about a raging inferno, but I present this snippet for your amusement, a ridiculous romp by a bathrobe-clad ne’er-do-well down the thoroughfare of City Afire, fate kinda friggin’ obvious, but, what the hey, it’s just fiction, right? Go-Go-Gadget-Sh*thead!
Moral: Sometimes, Heroes Don’t Ask for the Glory…Sometimes, the Glory Gets Thrust Upon Them, Via a Swarm of Bees, an Asteroid Dangling from an Invisible Wire (HA!), or a Disgruntled Joyride Enthusiast. Henry Fonda’s greatest role in the late 70’s was his portrayal of Steve Miller: he took the money and ran. Bad Pun, Bad Movies, Good Night.