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.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures logos don't appear in the beginning. See more »
Syndicated Network TV versions shorten Dan Bigelow catching fire and cut the scene of Lorrie's death, ending it where she screams "DAN!" and runs away. It then cuts to the firemen fighting the reception area blaze See more »
Seen today, it is impossible to watch THE TOWERING INFERNO without reflecting upon the tragedy that befell the World Trade Towers on 9-11. Perhaps even more disconcerting, however, is the discovery that the construction of the World Trade Towers actually prompted the two novels upon which THE TOWERING INFERNO was based: THE TOWER by Richard Martin Stern and THE GLASS INFERNO by Thomas M. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, both of which concerned out-of-control fires in skyscrapers.
When the 1972 success of THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE gave producer Irwin Allen the title "Master of Disaster," Allen set out to live up to it and moved to acquire the rights to THE TOWER. 20th Century Fox was outbid by Warner Brothers--but Allen saw a way to turn a big project into a bigger one and encouraged Fox to snap up the rights to the Scortia and Robinson novel. Allen then managed to negotiate a deal that found Fox and Warner combining forces on a single film: THE TOWERING INFERNO. As written by Stirling Slilliphant, the story concerned the world's tallest building on its grand opening--when shoddy constructions causes a fire that traps hundreds of people above the eighty-first floor.
In a general sort of way, INFERNO might have been called POSEIDON REDUX, for while the specifics were quite different the concept was essentially the same: an all-star cast trapped by a disaster and forced to fight for their lives. And the cast is amazing; not only did Allen succeed in getting Steve McQueen and Paul Newman to co-star, he signed Faye Dunaway to play Newman's love interest and cast Fred Astaire against type as a con-man. Even more astonishingly, he lured reclusive and legendary film star Jennifer Jones out of retirement for the sympathetic role of Lisolette Mueller. Other notables include William Holden, Richard Chamberlin, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Susan Flannery, Robert Vaughn, and a pre-scandal O.J. Simpson.
But POSEIDON and INFERNO differ in two very significant ways. POSEIDON focuses on the struggles of ten people who acted as a single unit throughout the film; INFERNO casts a wider net with multiple story lines, and the result is considerably looser in terms of plot and action. With the exception of long shots of the ship, POSEIDON did not use miniatures--and indeed every set and effect was real time; the sets were real, the water was real, the fire was real, and the cast (which did most of the stunts) was very much in the middle of it. The fire and the heights involved in INFERNO, however, were too dangerous for such, and consequently INFERNO makes considerable use of miniatures, various process shots (matte paintings and rear projection), and stunt people. Some of this has not dated well at all.
With its loose structure, the occasional dated effect, and a running time of almost three hours, THE TOWERING INFERNO is sometimes less tense than simply wearing--but only occasionally, and even with these defects it remains a visually fascinating display of pre-CGI "state of the art in special effects." At its best, it is an extremely exciting film, and certainly 1974 audiences found it so; it would play in theatrical release for close to a full year, becoming one of the biggest box office hits of the decade.
The current Special Edition DVD release is quite fine, including a host of extras that range from a nicely done AMC Backstory documentary to an interview with Irwin Allen himself; the various commentary tracks (one of the scene specific re effects and stunt work) are also well done, although I did think it a pity that none of the surviving cast could be lured into commentaries of their own. The picture quality is excellent and the sound quality quite good. People will probably always argue about which is better: THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE or THE TOWERING INFERNO. My money is on POSEIDON, but there's no denying that INFERNO, even with its occasional flaws, is right up there in the genre. Recommended for disaster film junkies without hesitation! GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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