TV Terror Guide: Red Alert (1977)


Air Date: May 18, 1977

Production Companies: The Jozak Company, Paramount Television

Running Time: 95 min.

Available on: YouTube

Written by: Sandor Stern

Based on the novel Paradigm Red by Harold King

Directed by: William Hale

Cast: William Devane, Michael Brandon, Adrienne Barbeau, Ralph Waite, David Hayward, M. Emmet Walsh

Rating: 7 vintage televisions (out of 10)

 

Movies take place in the land of make-believe. It’s not uncommon that we must suspend our disbelief so we can enjoy the experience. It may help that I don’t know how a nuclear power plant worked in the mid-1970s, or how advanced computers were at the time, but I thought Red Alert (1977) was surprisingly good entertainment.

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Sure, coincidence piles upon coincidence. A simple accident conveniently occurs right before an attempt to sabotage Nuclear Station 34 in Birchfield, Minnesota, foiling the environmental activist’s plans to detonate five bombs that would send a radioactive cloud toward Minneapolis (since the wind happens to be blowing that way.)

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Sure, the characters are extreme. Commander Stone, played by Ralph Waite, doesn’t so much deliver his lines as he barks them. (His catch phrase is, “It’s impossible!”) Frank Brolen, played by William Devane, fares best; however, the near disaster happens the night before he’s scheduled to go on a fishing trip.

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Sure, the situations are unbelievable. Carl Wych (Michael Brandon) calls his wife, Judy (Adrienne Barbeau) and tells her to take the children “back east” for a few days. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says, which is practically an invitation for Judy to call her mother and before you know it, the airport is full of panicked residents attempting to flee.

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Sure, the technology is unlikely. Proteus, the computer that monitors and controls Nuclear Station 34 from Silver Creek, Colorado, contradicts what the men on the ground in Birchfield are telling Commander Stone, yet he trusts a possible computer malfunction even when 14 people’s lives are put at stake… because, you know, “It’s impossible!”

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These silly elements mix to make a truly suspenseful adventure. It’s, of course, a race against time and there are obstacles in the way. There’s conflict, there’s defying authority, there’s music by George Aliceson Tipton (Soap, 1977-1981.) It’s written by Sandor Stern (The Amityville Horror) and directed by William Hale (The Time Tunnel, The Invaders, Night Gallery.)

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Finally, there’s the great M. Emmett Walsh as Sweeney, the befuddled sheriff who wants to investigate (Spoiler!) the suicide of the “terrorist’s” (not called that back then, I guess) wife. He appears in two scenes and his character is arrested for his trouble. On paper, there’s no reason Red Alert should work. Some may say it doesn’t. However, I sat on the edge of my seat.

 

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Red Alert as well as all the great movies from this series.

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