Made-for-tv film (1978). Columbia Pictures Television/NBC Television network. Directed by Jerry Jamerson. Written by Michael Blankfort from a story by Paul Gallico and Dennis Nemec. Cast includes Elizabeth Ashley, Richard Crenna, Andrew Duggan, David Dukes and Joanna Miles. 150 minutes. Colour.
Astronomer Jennifer Dreiser (Miles) discovers a bright, new Comet which initially pleases her greatly, until she realizes it is on a collision course with the earth. Near-earth object specialist Jason Voight (Crenna) determines it will almost directly strike the City of Phoenix, Arizona. They consequently try to get the President (Duggan) to begin evacuating Phoenix, but he refuses. He does authorize a special Minuteman/Titan-Two missile be sent into Earth-orbit to try to destroy the comet if it does approach. After it becomes clear the comet will strike the earth, television journalist Sharon Allan (Ashley) discovers the facts, and broadcasts the story, which results in mass efforts to flee the city. The missile is sent toward the comet, but its two nuclear warheads detonate too far behind its head to have any real effect. The comet impacts the city, causing mass devastation in which Voight also dies.
Preceding the big-budget theatrical film Meteor (1979) by a year, A Fire in the Sky is an early example of the Disaster movie making use of the moderately realistically presented threat of a comet or Asteroid impacting the Earth, a more plausible event than (for instance) the approach of two wandering planets in When Worlds Collide (1951). It appeared around the time when it first began to be realized that such impacts were not nearly as rare an occurrence as had been previously thought. The restriction to Arizona of the damage caused by such a strike may have depended on budget limitations, or ignorance of the potential damage it would plausibly cause; or both. This film should not be confused with the almost identically titled Fire in the Sky (1993). The novelization is A Fire in the Sky (1978) by Walter Kendrick. [GFi]
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