Review: The Towering Inferno (1974)

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The Towering Inferno (1974)

Directed by: John Guillermin | 160 minutes | action, drama, thriller | Actors: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, OJ Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Susan Flannery, Sheila Allen, Norman Burton, Jack Collins, Don Gordon, Felton Perry, Gregory Sierra, Ernie F. Orsatti, Dabney Coleman, Elizabeth Rogers, Ann Leicester, Norman Grabowski, Ross Elliot, Olan Soule, Carlna Gower, Mike Lookinland, Carol McEvoy, Scott Newman, Paul Comi, George Wallace, Patrick Culliton, William Bassett, John Crawford, Erik L. Nelson, Art Balinger, Norman Hicks, Thomas Karnahan

Just the sight of a skyscraper is impressive, but when you imagine yourself stuck high at the top and a big fire threatening you, it becomes completely terrifying. This fear is what drives ‘The Towering Inferno’. Leading actors Steve McQueen and Paul Newman try to limit the damage as much as possible and save the lives of the partygoers present. Lots of tension, drama and impressive action scenes. Hollywood stars McQueen (‘Bullitt’) and Newman (‘The Hustler’) were already fighting over the amount of text and the salary of each before the film was made. Despite this competency struggle, Newman and McQueen play excellent roles as tower architects and fire chiefs. Both seem to make a lot of sense. Newman curses and rants at the tower’s owner, who has cut costs far too much, endangering the lives of innocent people. McQueen is the kind of rough-bolstered, white spunk who puts his life on the line when a dozen people are hopelessly trapped in a glass elevator on the outside of the skyscraper. If you’re not paying attention, the slew of familiar faces passing by may distract you from the film’s main theme. Anyway, it’s the classic beauty of Faye Dunaway (‘Bonnie and Clyde’) that catches the eye and she shows off her amazing acting talent at the same time. Richard Chamberlain (‘The Thorn Birds’) is the hopelessly failing son-in-law of William Holden (‘The Wild Bunch’), who, wearing dark glasses, tries to put the blame on the fire. Robert Wagner (‘Hart to Hart’) overacts and adorns one woman too much, as will become apparent later. Former dance prodigy Fred Astaire (“Top Hat”) appears in a nice role as a charlatan who makes his living deceiving older ladies and OJ Simpson (“The Naked Gun”) shows that he used to be good for the camera.

Director Guillermin keeps up the pace and pays sufficient attention to the various characters of ‘Inferno’. It is obvious that the gentlemen with the money get off with a lot of money in this film: Holden and Robert Vaughn think everyone is for sale and only later wonder whether the immense building they are building is so safe. In addition, the film focuses on the heroic actions of the many firefighters, who try with all their might to get the fire under control. It is also interesting to see how people react in panic situations. When it becomes clear that the fire is fast approaching, fear hits a number of people who then try to get out alive at the expense of others, with all that entails.

‘Inferno’ is one of the best disaster movies. The competition between Newman and McQueen is interesting to watch, as are the many fierce action scenes: helicopters trying to rescue, a glass elevator that is just attached to the skyscraper and people trying to escape the conflagration with a kind of cable car: exciting! Beautifully portrayed by the king of disaster, Irwin Allen. Good action film with prophetic words at the end (think of 9/11) by McQueen about the future of skyscrapers.

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