The Towering Inferno (1974)

toweringinferno_1974_poster
The Towering Inferno (1974)
  • Time: 165 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | Thriller
  • Directors: Irwin Allen, John Guillermin
  • Cast: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway

Storyline:

Doug Roberts, Architect, returns from a long vacation to find work nearly completed on his skyscraper. He goes to the party that night concerned he’s found that his wiring specifications have not been followed and that the building continues to develop short circuits. When the fire begins, Michael O’Halleran is the chief on duty as a series of daring rescues punctuate the terror of a building too tall to have a fire successfully fought from the ground.

One review

  • I remember it like it was yesterday. There I was, a young kid, sitting in my parents house on a cold bleak Saturday morning in Michigan. We had HBO back then so I turned on the cable box hoping to find something fun to watch (possible cartoons). As I was channel surfing, I came across a classic 70’s disaster flick that remains to this day, one of my all time favorite films. The Towering Inferno is a tense, exciting, and flat out entertaining piece of cinema. It has “popcorn flick” written all over it. At 165 minutes, its got a long running time, but it doesn’t feel that way. “Inferno” moves by at an unbelievably fast clip and its got a huge cast of stars who look as if they all had a lot of fun making it. Its also got special effects that even today would hold up against any lifeless Michael Bay production.

    “Inferno” came out during a wave of other disaster flicks like Earthquake (1974), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and Airport (1970). Safe to say it’s the best one of the bunch. It’s truly one of the reasons I love watching movies as well as reviewing them.

    It tells the story of the world’s tallest building (The Glass Tower) in San Francisco having an electrical short that starts a huge fire (81st floor). The fire quickly spreads threatening to kill everybody on the top floor (they’re having a dedication ceremony/party for the opening of the tower). With the help of a determined architect (Doug Roberts played by Paul Newman) and a fire department led by Chief Michael O’Hallorhan (Steve McQueen ), enormous efforts are made to try and stop the out of control blaze using any means necessary.

    The concept for The Towering Inferno was based on two novels, The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. And although the film is minimal on plot, it makes up with for it with relentless action and suspense. They didn’t have PG-13 movies back then and this film really pushed the envelope for PG fare. Yes, there are death by fire scenes in the film that really shook me upon first viewing. But as I got older and viewed “Inferno” many times over, I realized that this was an important element in keeping the viewer clinging to the screen, helplessly wanted to know if the rest of the cast makes it out alive.

    Lets talk about that cast. We have William Holden as James Duncan (the builder), we got Fred Astaire as Harlee Claiborne (Astaire was nominated for best supporting actor by the Academy), we got Richard Chamberlain as Roger Simmons (the electrical engineer), and lets not forget former NFL running back O.J. Simpson as Harry Jernigan (Chief Security Officer). With his huge 70’s Afro and confident demeanor, he pioneered the whole “athletes transitioning to acting” thing. He gives a solid performance, unlike the forgettable ones he gave in the Naked Gun movies.

    All in all, The Towering Inferno is a bonafide masterpiece. I normally don’t say that about a lot of films because I have been critical in the past with movies of this genre. Edited splendidly by Harold Kress and Carl Kress and directed with gusto by John Guillermin and Irwin Allen, “Inferno” has the real feel of a true Best Picture Nominee (it was in fact nominated at the 1975 Academy Awards). It also kind of serves secretly as a public announcement about the dangers of fire and fire prevention.

    “Inferno” is dangerous, epic, exhausting stuff and when it does move closer and closer to its conclusion, we get the pleasure of seeing two renegades (Newman and McQueen) come together to stop an out of control fire destroying everything in its path. I’ve gotta admit seeing these two Hollywood legends on screen gives me goosebumps. Oh heck, the whole film gives me goosebumps. If you love movies and want to escape, “Inferno” is pretty serviceable. Just get a big bucket of popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

    Rating: 4 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog: http://www.viewsonfilm.com

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