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Monday, September 21, 2015

'The Firechasers' DVD: London's Burning and Chad Everett is on the Case

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This Region Four DVD from Australia will not play in a standard U.S. DVD player; you must use a well-worth purchasing) international player.]

The retrotastic fun of the Australia-based Madman Entertainment Britannia film collection continues with another DVD release of a  "shoulda been a series" British TV pilot that has never been released in the U.S. This time, it is the 1971 film "The Firechasers" starring a "Medical Center" era Chad Everett.

Like the previously reviewed Leonard Nimoy atmospheric thriller "Baffled!" and the also covered Patrick Macnee caper film "Mister Jerico" from the Britannia catalog, "Firechasers' is a wonderfully fun example of a late '60s/early '70s TV drama. Everett plays dashing and clever ladies' man/chief fire investigator for an insurance firm Quentin Barnaby. As Barnaby explains, his current profession utilizes skills from past careers that include being an engineer and a police officer.

The aforementioned elements will have fans of crime dramas from this era eagerly anticipating a baritone voice announcing that "Firechasers" is "A Quinn Martin Production." The skill of the behind-the-scenes "Firechaser" folks remove all disappointment regarding the lack of involvement by Martin

The catalyst for the action in "Firechasers" comes in the form of  late-night warehouse fires that seem to be the work of a serial arsonist. The love interest/talented career woman comes in the form of Lois Lane-style newspaper reporter Toby Collins. The efforts of Collins to interview Barnaby leads to professional collaboration, which presumably leads to pillow talk.

Both Barnaby and Collins recognizing that the frequency of blazes far exceeds the statistical norm set them on the path of the malfeasor behind those fires. Their clues include a psychedelic vehicle that makes the Partridge Family bus look like a family sedan and an equally bizarre confession of questionable credibility.

Wonderful humor comes in the form of Barnaby and Collins interacting with the suits who supervise them. Watching Barnaby strut into an officeful of fans only to have a boss whom he does not amuse is as entertaining as seeing Collins argue with her editor regarding her coverage of the fire. Barnaby almost surely would have been taken off of the force only be reinstated at the end of the film if he was a cop.

The even better news is that the story keeps the viewer engaged, and even the numerous highly predictable elements are well presented. The creepy stalker is not so obvious in his or her daily life, and the red herring is wonderfully colorful. The only downside to all this is that it creates a longing for Martin productions such as "The F.B.I." and "The Streets of San Francisco."

The truly special extras include theatrical trailers and a .pdf of the original script. The latter particularly facilitates holding a "Firechasers" themed party, ascots mandatory.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Firechasers" is encouraged to either email or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.