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The Towering Inferno (DVD)

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  • A bit too long
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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      22.12.2011 15:52
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      Classic film... but not well presented.

      When two major Hollywood studios such as Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox work together to make a film, then you know it is something that is worth watching. The Towering Inferno was a film released in 1974, which took the fashion of disaster movie to new heights in terms of action adventure movies. This became the hallmark of which further films of the genre were based with the now all too familiar multiple sub-plots coming together to give a bigger picture of the story. Bigger is a key word with this film as well as the cast that have been bought together contain a number of names that previously haven't worked together before, a good example is Paul Newman and Steve McQueen who play the Architect and the Fire Chief respectively. The story begins with Architect Doug Roberts being flown to The Glass Tower, a 137 floor structure that he designed and has been built in San Francisco. The first few minutes and the opening scenes give the viewer the sheer size of the building compared to the remainder of the skyline, upon landing he is met by the builder of The Glass Tower, James Duncan played by William Holden, together they travel down to Duncan's offices on the 85th floor in preparation for the opening dedication ceremony that distinguished guests will be attending at the top of the Tower. Elsewhere in the building a power overload has caused a spark and in turn has caused a pile of rags to catch fire, it's discovered by Roberts that this is due to sub-standard wiring ... and as the story unfolds we discover the same thing is happening in the whole building with disastrous consequences for the 300 people trapped on the 137th floor.

      The cast are unique for a film of this size, Steve McQueen taking the lead from Paul Newman with some ingenious negotiations that involved Newman's name being slightly higher in the credits but in second place to McQueen. It is these two who play tag with the story and even though the pair has exactly the same number of lines, it is McQueen who steals the film from Newman and takes the hero role away. The cast are a great mix; Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain, Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Vaughan make their presence known on screen as does OJ Simpson in one of his early roles; however he does come over slightly wooden in parts of the film. That's not to say that the film is all about the dialogue as it isn't by any means at all, there are a number of sequences that involve Helicopters and Fire Brigade that are of a high calibre with regards to telling the story, this isn't a film where a good guy overcomes the bad guy at all, the villain here is the fire that has been started due to someone thinking cost cutting is a good idea and the bottom line is simply trying to survive the odds rather and the ultimate conclusion with how the obstacles are tackled are done very well for the time this film was made.

      As fire is the main theme running through the film, the scenes in which you see vast floors alight give the story an added dimension, all scenes that involve the flames and the heat look menacing and are frightening to say the least, I remember watching this film as a child and remember vividly that I was frightened out of my life when a lift opened and a person on fire walked out of it. At the time this was horrific for me to see, but as a grown up I can see the facial mask and understand the stunt and how it was done. But this is a film where certain characters will be sacrificed accordingly for the parts of the story where the characters pay a price for incompetence and seeing sets that 30 minutes before were immaculate and fresh go up in flames with Firemen attempting to rescue children seriously grabs your attention. The guilt is also dealt with as well, in an exchange of dialogue between Paul Newman and William Holden towards the end of the film, you see the two men discussing what has happened and how they played a part in the evening proceeding which in reality is the epilogue to the story itself, this gives some balance to the story and puts the blame on someone which I thought was refreshing as usually a disaster movie is based on a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado, where here its different and comes down to human error.

      A building that is 137 floors in height gives the story a lot of scope to be set and so the film is not only based on the inside in various staircases and rooms but also on the outside where the external viewing lifts take people from ground level direct to the Promenade where the opening party is being held. The viewing lift gives the producers an opportunity to utilise an exciting sequence where 12 passengers can get to ground level, of course it doesn't go to plan and so McQueen as the Fire Chief is sent in to rescue the passengers with the help of a US Navy helicopter and some cutting gear, this is an intense scene on its own as the action takes place on the 110th floor.

      This is an Irwin Allen production and he has spared no expense to get this film created as the film is big in every way and the length of the film represents the epic sized proportions of the story, running at a total of 165 minutes in length the film holds the audience on the edge of their seats in every single way possible. The film was released well before the invention of computer created graphics and everything such as the explosions and the stunts have been done manually... so to speak. Although the template for The Towering Inferno was to be used again and again in most disaster movies from here on, so this gives a far more realistic picture of the incident rather than say a recent disaster movie such as 2012.

      The film has been released on DVD quite a lot over the years in various collections and runs and is simply inferior to the DVD version in every single way, get a Blu-ray copy as it is a real treat to watch given the better quality of the transfer giving a superior picture and the plethora of extras as well that, the quality of the transfer for a film that is nearly 40 years old is good but could have been better and isn't really consistent throughout with colours dropping in quality and dirt visible on screen, the black sky against the golden colour of the tower makes the shot look all the more impressive but the DVD copy isn't as sharp as it should be even on a player that can upscale the picture which having watched this on two machines certainly highlighted the issues even further, also the DVD copy is simply a bare bones disc without any extras at all which I consider to be quite offensive in some ways given the scope of the production. Just dont buy the DVD release.

      Overall I absolutely love this film and the rollercoaster ride of suspense it gives the viewer, however seeing it on DVD made me return it to HMV and buy the Blu-ray version instead to enjoy it again from a whole new perspective that really got me hooked. It isn't a film where you automatically assume that all the main cast will survive, they don't and the efforts that are done to steer the audience in one direction while the story unexpectedly veers off in another is simply great to watch as you are taken on a journey from start to finish that takes place over a single night. There is a fair amount of grief in the last few minutes and McQueen gets the last word, there is a message to be savoured that a building that is 137 floors high cannot be managed successfully should a fire break out and with 9/11 this was proved true to some extent as this is the closest that Hollywood has come to a real life disaster before its happened. With buildings like The Shard in London being built it does make you think about where this is leading.

      Respect has been paid to the services that are shown throughout the film and a dedication is shown at the beginning.

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        14.05.2010 10:13
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        Just a cracking action film.

        Of all the disaster films, this is surely one of the original, one of the best and one of most prolific ever brought to screen. It also happens to be arguably the most realistic, with some stunning action, brilliant acting and important social point.

        The Towing Inferno was a blockbuster of its day with an A List Cast.It stars Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and William Holden, with support from several other character actors including Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire and Richard Chamberlin. It had two directors. John Guillermin directed the character driven scenes, while action maestro Irwin Allen directed the action scenes. It's based upon three different novels, with the screenplay being credited to Striling Silliphant.

        An architect called Doug Roberts (Newman) and a contractor called James Duncan (Holden) have designed and built the tallest tower in the world in San Francisco, which has both business floors and residential floors. Both men are attending the opening of the building, which is to be a back tied, star studded affair.

        Upon arrival, the two men talk about how they are going to advance the construction industry and the world of skyscrapers together. However, all that is put on hold when a small fire breaks out in an electrical circuit downstairs. Duncan thinks nothing of it, saying small problems are to be expected. Doug is worried, however, and goes to check the problem.

        While the building becomes full of guests, the lights are all switched on and the electrical circuits are put into overload. Duncan entertains the guests, but Doug finds that Duncan's son-in-law Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlin) has used substandard electrical equipment.

        Meanwhile, on Floor 81, another fire breaks out.

        Doug talks to Duncan, who doesn't seem to really care and is adamant that there are no problems.

        Doug then starts to come down again. As he does, a security guard opens a door on floor 81 and the fire is let loose. The Fire Department are called immediately. Still Duncan says there is no problem and he is adamant he will not stop the party.

        Fire Chief Michael O'Hallorharn arrives (Steve MacQueen) and soon sets to work trying to stop the fire along with other firefighters and Doug, who gives him all the plans. Soon, even Duncan is worried and as the fire rages out of control, it becomes clear that there are major problems with the building and that everyone is in danger.

        This is the best of the disaster films, and even now is the one that all others are measured against. Although I'd always say that Roland Emmerich's 2012 boasts the most destruction, this film boasts the most believable and horrific action, and some stunning characterization. No actor in this film is badly cast, and it's impossible to choose who is best between all the talent that is in this. The direction is excellent, and Irwin Allen goes all out to get the desired effects for the action.

        This is a relentless, non stop action film that has some important messages that are kept to a minimum, and is surely the greatest disaster film of all time. Superb.

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        11.01.2010 14:19
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        super movie

        There are epic films and then there are really epic films and this falls into the latter category. The Towering Inferno comes in at a whopping one hundred and fifty nine minutes. The title is somewhat of a giveaway, the world's tallest building is just about to be unveiled and to celebrate this occasion, an important party is being held at the dizzy heights of the top of the building.

        As you can guess, things don't go according to plan and an electrical fault starts a fire on one of the lower floors. Fires can usually be put out, but not when you're dealing with the world's biggest skyscraper! Mayhem ensues as the fire gets out of control and begins to climb further and further up the building, forcing our petrified guests to resort to drastic measures to avoid it. It is down to brave firefighter Steve McQueen and architect Paul Newman to lead the struggle for survival in this startling disaster movie.

        Jollied along by a star studded cast, Mc Queen brings a rough and ready edge to his part, part action man and part silent heart-throb, his performance is superbly gritty and he looks genuinely commanding in all his action scenes. Newman turns in a charismatic performance, providing amicable macho man competition for McQueen. The cast also boasts cameos from Fred Astaire, who is underused and the wonderful Faye Dunaway, whose voluptuous presence ignites every moment she is onscreen. The relationships between the characters are really well fleshed out and the first half of the film is where the acting skills of the cast are at their brightest.

        For a film made in the seventies, the effects are pretty fine and the threat of danger is very real. It is perhaps twenty minutes too long, but a lot of the film is about the set up and developing the characters so that we become attached to them later on. Great dialogue and music assist in turning this disaster movie into anything but disastrous!

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          09.03.2006 11:16
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          Disaster strikes a huge skyscraper

          It's the launch party for the newly constructed, 138 storey skyscraper in the centre of San Francisco, supposedly the world's tallest skyscraper. With loads of prominent dignitaries and celebrities invited to the gala celebration, it is going to be a night to remember as they party on the 135th floor. After some wring short circuits in one of the systems, architect Doug Roberts believes that the skyscraper has not been built to his stringent specifications and that the project manager has been cutting costs in attempt to bring the development in under budget. As the party gets into full swing, a fire breaks out on the 81st floor, caused by more dodgy wiring, and the fire service are called. The fire quickly spreads and although the firemen do their best to stop it, they are pretty helpless 81 floors above the ground. As more fires start appearing, the party goers find themselves trapped and helpless in the penthouse. Now it's up to the chief of the fire service to find a way of rescuing the party goers and put out the fire.


          Back in the 70's, disaster movies were a main stay of the cinemas with the likes of The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Airport (1970) to name just two. The Towering Inferno was released in 1974 and is the culmination of 2 novels "The Tower" and "The Glass Inferno". Originally the rights to the books, were bought by two different studios, but to avoid creating two similar films, they combined there efforts and shared the budget. This is probably why the cast reads like a who's who of show business back in the 70's, I doubt if a single studio would have been able to afford all these stars and make a very credible action movie. As with a lot of disaster movies, it would be easy for it to rely on the effects to keep you engrossed, but instead the thing that keeps you engrossed the most is who, if any one will survive the inferno. The film is actually dedicated to the fire service with the following line in the opening credits "To those who give their lives so that others might live... To the fire fighters of the world... This picture is gratefully dedicated." A very poignant message when you think about the part that the fire service has played in rescuing people from recent events such as the bombings in London.

          As I mentioned earlier, the cast list does read like a who's who of showbiz. The two main stars of the film are Paul Newman as Doug Roberts, the skyscrapers architect, and Steve McQueen as Chief Michael O'Hallorhan in charge of the fire service. Although Newman may not look like your typical architect, he plays the role very convincingly as it relies more on him providing action rather than technical knowledge. McQueen is brilliant as the fire chief who detests the skyscraper as it is impossible to fight the fire so high up, although this is by no means his best performance, he looks very natural as a fire chief. Both the stars ooze 70's sex appeal as they go into action mode to try and rescue the stranded party goers. Of course there are some very cheesy lines that they have too say, but remember this was made in the 70s. There was a lot of competition between the two stars off set, and they had to have equal billing, paid equally and the same amount of lines in the film. The supporting cast is headed by William Holden as James Duncan the owner of the building and has other stars such as Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain and Fred Astaire playing supporting parts. All the supporting cast is brilliant and you really feel for most of them as they become stuck at the top of this huge building.

          The film is directed by John Guillermin (King Kong - 1976) and Irwin Allen (The Swarm - 1978). The film is very well directed and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The director's have done a good job in keeping the suspense of who is going to survive and how they are going to survive, the main feature of the film. They could have easily let the clever special effects or the stars to out shine the story, but have kept them all in check. In the following years Oscars, The Towering Inferno won 3 Oscars and was nominated for a further 5, being beaten for The Best Picture Oscar by The Godfather Part II.


          Won Oscar Best Cinematography - Fred J. Koenekamp, Joseph F. Biroc
          Won Oscar Best Film Editing - Harold F. Kress, Carl Kress
          Won Oscar Best Music, Original Song - Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn For the song "We May Never Love Like This Again"

          Nominated Oscar Best Picture - Irwin Allen
          Nominated Oscar Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Fred Astaire
          Nominated Oscar Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - William J. Creber , Ward Preston, Raphael Bretton
          Nominated Oscar Best Music, Original Dramatic Score - John Williams
          Nominated Oscar Best Sound - Theodore Soderberg, Herman Lewis


          =======
          The Cast
          =======

          Steve McQueen .... Chief Michael O'Hallorhan
          Paul Newman .... Doug Roberts
          William Holden .... James Duncan
          Faye Dunaway .... Susan Franklin
          Richard Chamberlain .... Roger Simmons
          Fred Astaire .... Harlee Claiborne
          Susan Blakely .... Patty Simmons
          Robert Vaughn .... Sen. Gary Parker
          Robert Wagner .... Dan Bigelow
          Jennifer Jones .... Lisolette Mueller
          O.J. Simpson .... Harry Jernigan
          Susan Flannery .... Lorrie
          Jack Collins .... Mayor Robert Ramsey


          =============
          Technical Details
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          Certificate: PG
          Length: 165 mins


          ================
          Conclusion & Rating
          ================

          Although this film is now into its thirties, it is still as good today as the first time I watched it. Yes it maybe a little bit dated and the script may be a little bit cheesy, but I cannot put my finger on a film from the last decade which can compete with this classic disaster movie. The story line is great, the effects are great, the cast is exceptional and their performances are great, and all round brilliant film. Most people will have seen this at some point as it is shown on TV at least once a year, but I doubt that many people own it, but at only £5.97 on Amazon, it is a small amount to pay for a really great film. For anyone who hasn't seen this, I really do recommend you either rent it or buy it as it truly is a bit of cinematic history.

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            06.06.2004 01:01
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            • "A bit too long"

            I wasn't around when this film was released, but i have seen it twice, and was fairly impressed. So what happens then? Well, the tallest skyscraper has been built in San Francisco. The film is set on the night of the opening party. But, in their haste to open the building, not all of the safety checks were done. It transpires that the electrical wiring architect Paul Newman specified wasn't used, as the builders needed to cut costs. Fuses are blowing, and in a storage room on the 81st floor, the wiring catches fire. You can tell things are going to go wrong - the party is on the topmost floor, and there are no fire alarms going off. Soon fire chief Steve Mc Queen is crawling all over the building, answering the phone when everything else in the building has gone wrong?!?!? There are a host of other characters, who i'm led to believe were quite famous, for example O.J Simpson, Faye Dunaway and Robert wagner, to name but a few. THe acting is very good, and there are lots of little, gritty subplots to support the main plot, for example, the man who was responsible for building the tower hired his son-in-law to do the electrics. The son-in-law was asked to cut costs, as the budget was running out, so he used crap wiring, which is why it caught fire. This electrician is definitely the bad guy when he tries to save himself by skipping the queue of people to be rescued. There is lots of suspense, and nearly every attempt to save the partygoers fails. Some go down in the faulty lifts, which stop and open on the floor with the fire, so everyone in the lift is cooked. The breeches buoy (a steel seat attached to a rope), used to move people to a neighbouring tower, colllapses. A helicopter lands on the top of the roof, but crashes. The music is very emotive, and adds to the suspense. But I find music does make it more predictable. When the ?dangerous? music comes on, you know somethings about to happen!!! I thought the acting w
            as good, but what makes the setting even more scary is the brown, orange and lime green wallpaper. Typical 70's!!!! The film is very graphic in some places; especcially when the faulty lift returns to the top floor, the doors open and we see the burning people, including a burning man who stumbles out of the lift and collapses. This is not a particularly nice scene. Equally as gruesome is when a women, trapped by the fire, is blown out of the window when there is an explosion. Not to mention another women falling out of a lift on the outside of the tower. So, in this respect, i wasn't too keen on the film. The story may play on your mind a bit; indeed, i went to bed thinking "I hope the wiring in my house is ok" and "I hope the smoke alarms work". But maybe that's just me - i do tend to read too much into things. So in conclusion, I liked the film; adventure movies are some of my favourites. However, I do find them a bit predictable, and certainly, this applies to The Towering Inferno. When there?s an hour left of the film, and yet another attempt to rescue people is being undertaken, you know it?ll go wrong.

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              18.07.2001 19:02
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              Does anyone else remember the time when this movie used to virtually live on our television screens? When you couldn't turn on your television on a bank holiday or saturday afternoon and not find it on seemingly at least 4 times a year? Well I do and I never saw why because to be honest it is such an abysmal movie. The 70s ran through a spate of disaster movies, basically churning out the same movie over and over but changing the location. We had planes, trains, boats, earthquakes, hurricanes...anything you could think of they associated a disaster movie with and everyone flocked to see it...until it got THIS boring and the genre died a death until its 90s mini-revival. The Towering Inferno takes a skyscraper as its own particular disaster location. A new building which obviously shouldn't have passed safety inspections because whatever can go wrong does here. Soon the tower is ablaze and uncontrollable trapping an all star cast of performers in the upper section. Well the expected ensues as a few try heroics, some get hysterical and overall all OVERPLAY their rather wooden one-dimensional characters to the point of almost self-parody. It is interesting that such a cast of well known actors can put in such a collective truly abysmal set of performances, but trust me they do. OK, so we are looking at what can best be described as a bunch of has-beens and never-weres but you would think some of the old flair might shine through...I mean, hows this for a list to be going on with: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, O.J.Simpson and Robert Vaughn...and more. Tell me not one of these can muster up anything other than a 'just-gimme-the-money' performance? Well, they do not. Steve McQueen looks plainly bored with the whole idea, as does Paul Newman, and to be honest with a script and supporting cast like this then who could blame them. Faye Duna
              way looks dead, drunk or stoned, I haven't decided yet which, Fred Astaire plays his part like a constipated rabbit caught in the headlights of an onrushing lorry and overall its all a pretty poor show all round. Then add a little bit of dumb plot. Why is O.J. Simpson in this movie? Well to risk his life rescuing a cat of course! Such heroics, such bravery, such claptrap! A cat? What the hell were they thinking...why not a child or a damsel in distress(sexist I know, but we are talking about the 70s here ;o)) or ANYTHING other than a damn cat! This is but one example of just how silly and poorly thought out this movie is. I could name more, but you may want to watch it(well I can only warn you) so I wouldn't want to give too much of the 'action' away. The disaster movie genre really had gotten rather stale by this time anyway and it is movies like this which caused it to die something of a death until its later big-budget blockbuster revival in the 90s. With a script this paper-thin, acting so plastic and characters so cardboard it is a surprise that the whole thing didn't go up in the first 5 minutes, rather than forcing us to endure over two and a half hours of it. It would have been a blessed relief if it had because they could have saved us from a seriously poor movie...but no, its here in all its glory instead for your viewing 'pleasure'. Take my advice and give it a miss. It is certainly one of the worst of a pretty poor bunch all round and certainly not one to go out of your way to see.

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                17.07.2000 01:37
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                I'm watching this movie as I write. I have seen it about three times before, but I forgot just how intense it is. The Hollywood movie makers do not allow us the happy endings to each individual story that we are used to. OK so the end of the film is a little predictable but the individual distasters are not tamed for the general movie-going public at all. Some of it is really horrific. This film is clever in that it plays on our own fears of losing a loved one and suggests a theme that argues that we would rather die together than survive whilst a loved one dies. Quite avant-garde for its' time, I thought. An all-star cast and some heart-wrenching stories. Not for the feint-hearted.

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                  27.06.2000 01:19
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                  This is the film that stopped me using elevators for a decade! The disaster movie to end them all! Rich and famous people trapped at the top of a burning sky scrapper, with only Steve McQueen (as the Fire Chief) and Paul Newman (as the Architect who designed the building) standing between them and certain incineration. There are so many star names in this movie, that it's a good job you don't need to concentrate too hard on the plot, because you spend a lot of time saying "Isn't that....?".... Amongst those appearing are Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain and Robert Wagner. There are thrills-a-plenty in this film, as you wait to discover who will survive to the end. There are laughs too, not all intentional though, my own favourite line is when Robert Wagners lover asks him if he smells smoke and has he left a cigarette burning...this at a time when they are sitting on top of a burning building!! A great film to watch if you enjoy non-stop action, but I wouldn't recommend it for young children or anyone living in a tower block!

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                  Disaster movies used to work because there was little certainty as to who would survive. Not so in this film, really an amalgam of two original stories, about a group of well-to-do celebrants at the top floor of a skyscraper. Cheapo electrical wiring and bad construction management cause an enormous blaze at the lower floors, steadily rising to consume the revellers. Newman's an architect, McQueen a firefighter and Fred Astaire a kind old gentleman, for which he was Oscar-nominated. OJ Simpson plays a security guard who rescues a cat. Now that's a disaster. -- Keith Simanton, Amazon.com