THE TOWERING INFERNO. (1974) DIRECTED BY JOHN GUILLERMIN. ADAPTED BY STIRLING SILLIPHANT FROM THE NOVELS ‘THE TOWER’ BY RICHARD MARTIN STERN AND ‘THE GLASS INFERNO’ BY THOMAS N. SCORTIA AND FRANK M. ROBINSON.
STARRING AN ENSEMBLE CAST LED BY PAUL NEWMAN AND STEVE MCQUEEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This blockbuster disaster film contains more Hollywood stars than you can shake a stick at, and is perfect Christmas viewing, because when else do you get to watch a film with a running time of one hundred and sixty-five minutes? Exactly, lol.
In a nutshell, it’s the story of a magnificent new San Francisco skyscraper, known as the Glass Tower and comprising one hundred and thirty-eight storeys, making it the tallest building in the world until something even taller comes along.
The film takes place on the night of the Tower’s inaugural party, which will see bigwigs and celebs from all over the place rocking up to be seen swanning up the red carpet and quaffing case after case of champagne in honour of the world’s tallest new building, which offers both office and apartment space, if you please.
On the evening of the party, however, an electrical fire caused by faulty wiring (caused in turn by that peculiar phenomenon known as cutting corners) starts on the 81st floor of the Tower. By the time the fire has been detected, the inaugural party is in full swing up in the Promenade Room on… guess where?… the 135th floor. The race is on to get the party guests out of the building before they’re sizzled to a delicious bacon-y crisp and the Tower becomes the world’s tallest lighted matchstick…
An uber-manly Steve McQueen plays Michael O’Hallorhan, the San Francisco Fire Chief, who has a lot of scathing things to say about big-shot industrialists who build skyscraping monstrosities such as the Glass Tower, without making sure that they are safe and as fire-proof as possible.
Tasty hunk of beefcake and alpha male Paul Newman stars here as Doug Roberts, the ethical architect who designed the building in good faith and didn’t expect the man who built and owns the building, William Holden as the unscrupulous James Duncan, to cut corners in things like electrical wiring and peoples’ safety.
Blond blue-eyed Doug is trying to talk Faye Dunaway’s gorgeous Susan Franklin into running off with him to the back of beyond, but she’s just been offered an editorial position with the magazine she’s been writing for for years, and so she’s dragging her designer heels. Maybe a night spent in fear for their lives will help the sexy pair to put things into perspective …
Richard Chamberlain plays the weak and cowardly Roger Simmons. He’s James Duncan’s son-in-law and the electrical engineer who cut all the corners at a sly nod from his Pops-in-law.
Duncan, of course, was trying to do what builders everywhere have been doing since the dawn of the construction industry: that is, shave a few bucks off the end cost of building the thing. Now, however, the fire is going to cost the Duncan family a hell of a lot more than just a few bucks…
Roger’s married to Duncan’s beautiful daughter Patty, but their marriage is going to hell in a handbasket, because that’s what happens when you’re a woman whose bloke only married you for Daddy’s money and not because he loves you.
While Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are busting their collective humps to save people from the burning building, the selfish and craven Roger Simmons seeks only to save his own skin. He doesn’t even care what happens to his wife, which is how we know the marriage is kaput. Will he make it? Will karma allowed the self-serving S.O.B. to walk free from his sins? Will she hell…
Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones co-star as a loved-up elderly couple destined for heartbreak, Robert Vaughn plays a U.S. Senator and O.J. Simpson (yes, that one!) portrays Harry Jernigan, the building’s Chief Security Officer who saves a cat from Frying Tonight, and that makes him all right in my book.
My favourite story, but perhaps the saddest story of all, sees a suave and handsome Robert Wagner as PR man Dan Bigelow make love to his secretary near the top of the building, far above the fire floor. Everything is going beautifully, not to mention sexily, until the secretary utters the immortal words, Darling, do you smell smoke…?
Such a great star-studded movie. Watch it with THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE for the ultimate disaster movie double bill, and then thank your lucky stars that, thanks to good old COVID, you won’t be booking any cruises or attending any parties in a San Francisco skyscraper any time soon…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.