Towering Inferno, The (Action/Disaster) [Movie/Review]


Year: 1974
Genre: Action/Disaster
Director: John Guillermin
Source: Blu-Ray (Warner Home Video)

Architect Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) returns to San Francisco for the dedication of the Glass Tower, which he designed for developer James Duncan (William Holden). The Tower, 1,688 feet (515 m) tall and 138 stories, is the world’s tallest building. During pre-dedication testing, an electrical short starts an undetected fire on the 81st floor.

During the 1970’s we got a lot of disaster movies, and this one is among the better ones, although I love them all … more or less. It’s definitely on the top 5 list. It’s really realistic and you get the feeling they really filmed during real fires. It’s also jam packed with superstars such as Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn and O.J Simpson. Just unbelievable!

The running time is almost 3 hours (165 minutes) so it moves in a real 1970’s tempo (which I love), but I think if they made it today they would proberly take away an hour or so.

The movie premiered on December 16, 1974. It won three Academy Awards–Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Song (“We May Never Lose Love Again”). It was also nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Fred Astaire ), Art Direction, Music (John Williams ) and Sound. It made over $100 million on its domestic run alone.

Paul Newman’s and Steve McQueen’s names are staggered in the opening credits, closing credits, and on the posters so that, depending on which way you read it (top to bottom or left to right), both appear to get top billing. This is known as “first place – above and below”, This strategy was being worked on when Newman and McQueen almost co-starred together in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), but McQueen eventually dropped out of the project and was replaced by the lesser known Robert Redford.

Paul Newman later regretted his decision to co-star with Steve McQueen because of the rivalry between the two, created by Steve. As a result, the fireman role dominates Newman’s architect. Three contributing factors are 1) Both characters have the same number of lines (at McQueen’s insistence); 2) McQueen’s character doesn’t appear until 43 minutes into the film. As a result, Newman had used almost half his lines before McQueen enters. And 3) the fire chief is the authoritative hero who outranks and captures center stage over all other characters. During filming, Newman was quoted as saying, “For the 1st time, I fell for the goddamn numbers. I did this turkey for a million and 10% of the gross, but it’s the 1st and last time, I swear.” He later collaborated with Irwin Allen on When Time Ran Out… (1980).

Many bit players from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) also appear in this film.

Desperate to capture a truly surprised reaction from the cast, Irwin Allen actually fired a handgun into the ceiling without warning the actors, who were understandably “surprised”. The trick worked and he got his shot.

The blu-ray version I watched was Warner Home Videos Scandinavian version and I can’t complain about either picture or sound quality. Really good!

Bonus Features 

  • Commentaries:Audio Commentary by Film Historian F.X. Feeney
  • Extras:Featurettes 
    – “Inside the Tower: We Remember” (8:16) 
    – “Innovating Tower: The SPFX of an Inferno” (6:55) 
    – “The Art of Towering” (5:18) 
    – “Irwin Allen: The Great Producer” (6:26) 
    – “Directing the Inferno” (4:28) 
    – “Putting Out Fire” (4:58) 
    – “Running on Fire” (5:52) 
    – “Still the World’s Tallest Building” (8:23) 
    – “The Writer: Stirling Silliphant” (9:16) 
    Vintage Promotional Material 
    – NATO Presentation Reel (11:07) 
    – Original 1974 Featurette #1 (8:15) 
    – Original 1974 Featurette #2 (7:20) 
    – Irwin Allen 1977 Interview (12:15) 
    – The Towering Inferno Teaser (1:51) 
    – The Towering Inferno Trailer (2:13) 
    33 Extended and Deleted Scenes (44:47) 
    – Alternate Opening Sequence 
    – Harlee Meets Up with Lisolette and the Kids 
    – Air Ducts 
    – Close Up of Harry on the Phone 
    – Extended Scene with Doug and Susan 
    – The Jeweler Delivers the Golden Scissors as Dan Bigelow Argues with His Staff 
    – James and Dan Discuss the Party 
    – Harlee and Lisolette 
    – James and Susan Discuss San Francisco 
    – The Mayor Addresses the Crowd 
    – James Discusses the Elevator with the Mayor and Senator Gary Parker 
    – James and Senator Parker in the Elevator 
    – The Party’s Entertainer 
    – Firemen 
    – Susan and Patty Discuss Their Significant Others 
    – The Electrical System 
    – Emergency Vehicles on the Scene 
    – Waiting for the Elevator 
    – Four Alarm Fire 
    – Trapped in Her Room 
    – Fire 
    – The Stairwell 
    – Lisolette in the Stairwell 
    – In the Promenade 
    – Still Waiting for the Elevator 
    – Attempting to Revive the Unconscious Man 
    – Shadow-Puppets on the Wall 
    – Roger Returns to the Promenade 
    – Window Warning 
    – Adjusting the Elevator Controls 
    – Connecting the Cable 
    – Rescue Buoy 
    – Hosing Down Flames
  • Subtitles:Danish, Dutch, English HoH, Finnish, French, German HoH, Italian, Italian HoH, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Swedish
  • Aspect Ratio:2.35:1
  • Picture Format:1080p 24fps VC-1
  • Soundtrack(s):English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 
    English Dolby Digital 4.0 
    French Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono 
    German Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono 
    Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono 
    Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono 
    Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0
  • Case type:Keep Case
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