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Television Reviews : Missile Explosion Is Reenacted in ABC Movie

November 25, 1988|DON SHIRLEY

Television earnestly addresses already resolved issues in "Disaster at Silo 7" (Sunday at 9 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).

The movie is a docudrama based on an explosion that shook a Titan II missile silo in Arkansas in 1980. At the end of the movie, we're told not to worry--the last Titan II missile wing was deactivated in August, 1987.

If the script, by Douglas Lloyd McIntosh and executive producer Mark Carliner, didn't try to dispel the anxieties it raises, the movie would be more compelling. As it is, the script carefully identifies the defunct Titan II missiles, not the warheads they carry, as the source of danger.

In fact, when the explosion ejects a warhead into the surrounding countryside, it remains intact, with hardly any release of radiation. While this may well be the likely result of such an incident, the movie suffers from the reduced sense of jeopardy. It would have been more urgent in, say, 1981, when the Titan II was still in use.

The film focuses on Sgt. Mike Fitzgerald (Michael O'Keefe), who descends into the silo twice to take readings on the possibility of an explosion. O'Keefe is rather charming here, but his character doesn't begin to suggest the post-accident agony that his real-life counterpart, Jeff Kennedy, went through--a history that's related in the movie's press releases but not in the film itself.

Those press releases also report that the Air Force didn't like the original script, which was subsequently rewritten. Without Air Force cooperation, director Larry Elikann wouldn't have been able to shoot at the Titan II Museum, a former silo, in Tucson. Unfortunately, while the silo itself looks authentic, the surrounding desert and mountains look nothing like East Texas, where the story is set.

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