The Towering Inferno – The fire is the star!!!
August 1, 2013 in Classic 70s Movies
The Towering Inferno – by far one of the best disaster movies of the 1970s was promoted as a tribute to firefighters and their heroic work. It was also the highest grossing film released in 1974.
The Towering Inferno was produced by Irwin Allen and directed by John Guillermin. It was a co-production of two major Hollywood studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros and is based on a pair of novels The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. In addition to McQueen and Newman, the cast includes William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Susan Flannery, Gregory Sierra, Dabney Coleman and, in her final film, Jennifer Jones.
The film was a critical success and was nominated for Oscar awards in eight categories but won only three, namely, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Music Original Song.
The plot goes like this:
To celebrate the construction of the Glass Tower, the world’s tallest building, architect Doug Roberts and builder James Duncan hold a gala bash on the highest floors. Trouble is, Duncan’s son-in-law and electrical subcontractor Roger Simmons installed faulty wiring throughout the 138-story behemoth to save money. While the guests — including Doug’s lady friend, a rich widow, a con man and a politico – enjoy the party, and a security guard wonders why his equipment is on the fritz, a burnt-out circuit breaker ignites some garbage on the 85th floor, swiftly turning the high-rise into a towering inferno. With the guests trapped on the 135th floor, it’s up to Roberts and Fire Chief O’Hallorhan to find a way to stop the blaze.
A few interesting trivia:
- The building used in the film was a series of miniatures and matte paintings. Only sections of the building were actually constructed for the actors and stunt people to perform their scenes.
- Steve McQueen insisted that he and co-star Paul Newman should have exactly the same number of lines of dialogue in the script.
- Steve McQueen and Paul Newman were both paid the same: $1 million and 7.5% of box office each.
- The only feature film to co-star father and son Paul Newman and Scott Newman.
At a running time of 158 minutes, this movie which pictures the calamity of a fire break out blends action, intrigue, suspense and emotional drama. The film is mainly concerned with what happens during the holocaust and how the rescue of the myriad of characters ranging from lovers, frauds, villains, a little girl and even a small cat is staged during the fire. To mention a few scenes: the helicopter rescue of the derailed scenic elevator is heartstoppingly thrilling. The explosive final showdown with the villainous fire is a befitting finale to an epic disaster movie.
I saw this movie in my school days and it created such an impression that sometimes I used to get nightmares of getting caught in a fire in a building and waking up being thankful that I don’t live in any of those high rise apartments
The Towering Inferno” is a masterpiece of stunt co-ordination and special effects.
A milestone in the movies of disaster genre and it remains to me a wonderful archaic gem.