Most people are probably too distracted by one of the finest opening shots in film to actually contemplate how it was achieved.
After all, it's an impressive special effect for 1979. How did they go about making it look like a huge section of forest had been burned to the ground?
Surprise! They did it by actually burning a huge section of forest to the ground.
That's pretty much it. Around 1,200 gallons of gasoline were poured over the splendid palm trees and then set alight. Tires were also burned to generate more smoke for the shot, while canisters were dropped onto the area to look like falling napalm. Acres of the forest were destroyed in a matter of seconds. Fitting, for a shot that was supposed to visually demonstrate the mindless, indiscriminate destruction of war.
But that's just the beginning. Read stories of four other disturbing movie shoots at Cracked. Link