Detailing the goings-on of Los Angeles County paramedics, firemen and medical practitioners, the Jack Webb-produced “Emergency!” lasted six long seasons on NBC. Its unofficial seventh comprises the contents of Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s double-disc “Emergency: The Final Rescues,” collecting all six of the 90-minute made-for-TV movies that aired between 1978 and 1979.
These telefilms play up the disaster angles like never before, perhaps taking cues from Irwin Allen’s big-screen bonanzas that were fashionable of the era. And by “perhaps,” I mean “totally” — after all, the first offering here is “The Steel Inferno.” Minus the star power, massive budget and roughly 75 minutes, “Steel” is way more fun than the lumbering “The Towering Inferno” could ever hope.
Master disasters continue with “Survival on Charter #220,” which sees the midair collision of two planes — one carrying politicians, the other carrying a bickering couple (talk about sweating over picking sides) — and the resulting, impressive decimation (even by TV standards) of the neighborhood below.
Each of these weaves in multiple subplots to keep pulses high — or at least your interest — but the mix doesn’t quite serve subsequent episodes as well, growing increasingly silly. On one hand, you’ve got a would-be Evel Knievel leaping off the Space Needle; on another, a woman giving birth amid sniper fire. That’s not really a complaint.
The kitschy highlight is the fourth film, “Greatest Rescues of Emergency!,” as if the explosions-aplenty opening credits don’t make that immediately clear. This amounts to that old prime-time standby of the clip show, here with our ambulance heroes John (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy (Kevin Tighe) accepting promotions, they reminisce about their most memorable moments of the previous seasons, and not all of them action-oriented, as evidenced by the beefy woman who calls 911 because her girdle is so tight, she can barely breathe.
At least this one gives nurse Dixie (Julie London) an opportunity to get out in the field. Otherwise, she bears none of the heavy lifting, just walking from gurney to gurney and barking orders like “Get her to X-ray, stat!" and "Get him to the burn ward, stat!"
Are you a fan of action dramas of the 1970s? Grab this one, stat! —Rod Lott