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The Deadly Tower (1975)

The infamous story of Charles Whitman, "America's favourite sniper" (in Stephen King's words), is told here once again.



(teleplay), (story) (as Antonio Calderon) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview:
Ramiro Martinez (as Richard Yñiguez)
Lieutenant Lee
Captain Fred Ambrose
Narrator (voice)
C.T. Foss
Tim Davis
Maria Elena Cordero ...
Vinni Martinez (as Maria-Elena Cordero)


Charles Whitman is student at the University of Texas in Austin. He often suffers from headaches, during which he tends to violence. One night, he kills wife and mother, buys a number of rifles and loads of ammunition and takes them to the top of the tower of the university, where he barricades himself. With his long-range weapons his starts to shoot at everything that moves. Already until the police arrives, there are numerous people wounded or dead. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama | Thriller


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Release Date:

18 October 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sniper  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


A Martinez auditioned for the role of Officer Ramiro Martinez. See more »


The movie was filmed in downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana, using the state capitol building as a stand-in for the tower on the University of Texas, in Austin. The Mississippi River is clearly seen in several shots from the top of the tower. There is no body of water that large close to Austin, where the tower is located. See more »


Lieutenant Elwood Forbes: Sorry to bother you, but I understand you told one of my men earlier about a guy in here buying guns and ammo. Could you tell me what he looked like?
Gun Shop Owner: Like I told the officer on the phone, I don't pay attention to how my customers look.
Lieutenant Elwood Forbes: Can't you try to remember?
Gun Shop Owner: Well, he was a big man. Short hair, nice looking.
Lieutenant Elwood Forbes: Did you know him? Have you ever seen him in here before?
Gun Shop Owner: Like I told the officer who called, I don't pay attention to how my customers look.
Lieutenant Elwood Forbes: Don't you think it's strange? A man walks in ...
See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXI (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Firmly in the tradition of 70s Made-For-TV movies
19 October 2002 | by See all my reviews

This is pretty much what you expect for the time. There is a fair amount of the pedantic attitude that plagued a lot of TV of the 70s in general. I chalk it up to this: After decades of not being able to say words like "pregnant" on TV, concede cultural differences or problems between races, or generally "act real", TV did so with a vengence in this liberated decade after All In The Family. To make a "message" film or TV show was as essential to auteurs and actors of the decade as beads and smoke were at the front end, and polyester leisure suits with Boeing 747 collars were at the back end of the decade. Today, it seems to us that they were all only stating the obvious, that writers and directors and actors who were certain they had a divinely inspired insight had nothing more than a been-there-done-that brain fart. There was a lot of, as the Bard says, protesting too much. Morals to the story were the order of the day. "People should get along with each other." "Killing is wrong." "People should be tenderer, and more forgiving." Well duh. Into this environment comes an old (but interesting) news story about a troubled guy who comes unhinged one day and goes on a killing spree. The novelty is in the way he did it: sniping people as they went about their daily business hundreds of yards away, from a tower, with a high-powered scope rifle. In 1966 Charles Whitman had staged a one-man seige in Texas that made Rambo's little donniebrook with the local constabulary, a few years later, look as mild as Joe Average tearing up an out-of-town parking ticket.

TV of the 70s, being what is was and is, took one tack: Why of course, it's the gun control issue again, in another guise. One can fairly hear the intonations of some producer as he sells the network on this subject "I conclude, gentlemen, our message is that guns cause misery." And not one "Well duh" in the bunch. This, after all, was the 70s, when the crazy twin mojo of auteurism and "relevance" seems to have made any crock of doodoo salable to the powers that were.

Kurt Russell is as good as always. (One could see Jan Michael Vincent in the same role, and I bet lot of people probably remember him as Charles Whitman, instead of Russell.) The script is a drag. Mediocre. --You pick the adjective. This story could be made into a compelling film in any decade. The combination of parental abuse and intense perfectionism, and being taunted with impunity by every authority figure he came in contact with, seems to have destroyed the inner life of the real life Whitman. This film conveys that pretty well, and it is at it's best in the first half. The denouement is of course absorbing, but overall there is a laxity in production that, compared to today's films, makes this, like a lot of 70s TV and film, seem thrown together. (Too much use of optical zoom; no attention to production values, with every bit of wardrobe and location and studio set seeming like a Dragnet loan-out.)

When you are on a mission, I guess you can't let the details get in the way.

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