Director: John Guillermin
Writer: Stirling Silliphant (Screenplay) Richard Martin Stern, Thomas N Scortia, Frank M Robinon (Novel)
Starring: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain
Plot: At the opening party of a colossal, but poorly constructed, office building, a massive fire breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it.
There may be spoilers the rest of the review
Verdict: Classic Disaster Masterclass
Story: The Towering Inferno starts as the architect of the brand-new building preparing for opening night Doug Roberts (Newman) discovers not everything is quite as he had planned only up to standard rather than up to his desired safety standards.
With the party bringing in the who’s who of the town including the mayor (Collins), Senator Parker (Vaughn) along with a range of celebrity faces. But little do the guest know there is a fire starting to burn in on the maintenance rooms. When Doug discovers the fire, he goes to bring it under control wanting to end the party early but Jim Duncan (Holden) refuses let it be a worry. Fire Chief O’Hallorhan (McQueen) comes to tackle the fire bring the party to an end with the 300 plus guests need to find a way below the fire, but when it becomes clear that Simmons (Chamberlain) has cut corners the safety of everyone in the building it now at risk. We are left to see how the Chief can put together the best rescue possible for everyone inside the building.
Thoughts on Towering Inferno
Story – The disaster genre has always been an easy sell on the story and this is no different having group of survivors trapped in a building that is on fire with little to no easy escape, what more could you want? This does have deeper stories because each character has their own story to why they are in the tower and what is waiting if they can get out which draws us into the bigger picture of the story, which is what many disaster films have tried and failed over the years.
Action/Thriller – The action sequences are planned brilliantly as we see how each moment that could go wrong does go wrong which leads us into the thrilling side as we are left on edge seeing where this story will go next.
Characters/Performance – Doug the architect is a great leading character because he knows the flaws that are not his fault, Chief O’Hallorhan also makes for a joint great leading character because he controls the men to pull off the rescue mission, having to characters that are putting everything into saving as many people as possible really shines through. Looking deeper into the characters we get plenty of supporting characters we can all enjoy watching their stories as we are drawn into finding out what happens to them.
Diving into the performances I feel Newman was the star of the show with Holden showing just all of the experience he bought to his role. I did find it hard to get pulled into the McQueen performance who feels static in certain scenes with Dunaway doing well without reaching her ability. The rest of the supporting cast all do well and you want to follow their stories through.
Settings – We have the whole film within the glass tower which becomes the prison for people stuck in the top floor. The setting is used perfectly because at the time the buildings were getting bigger and dealing with a blaze would have be a challenge for any fire crew.
Special Effects – When you look at the disaster movie genre one of the main attractions is seeing how breath-taking all the sequences are and this has them with wonderful special effects that make you believe in every sequence going on through the film.
Final Thoughts – We have here a disaster film that is nearly three hours long and never get remotely dull, now that is something directors should all be learning from.
Overall: If you ever want to know how to make a disaster film that tells the story well this is where you start.