Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The Towering Inferno (3 stars)
The Towering Inferno, from 1974, is one of those disaster films which were all the rage in the 70's. Produced by Irwin Allen, who also created films like The Poseiden Adventure and When Time Ran Out, The Towering Inferno boasts a mega-star cast. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman get top billing, while William Holden and Faye Dunaway are the second tier of stars. Also featured in the film are Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Robert Wagner, and Richard Chamberlain, to name just a few.
Paul Newman is the architect of a building owned by William Holden. Dubbed the "tallest buildling in the world," Holden's glass tower is 120 stories high, and he has planned a big gala to celebrate its completion. Early on, there is an explosion in one of the control rooms; however, since no fire is initially spotted, building personnel think the sensors are just malfunctioning, and the party, which is being held on the building's very top floor, goes on as planned.
Firefighter Steve McQueen and his crew arrive in response to the tripped sensors, and although Holden is urged to move the party to a lower floor, he, at first, refuses to do so. Believing that the building is completely safe and that any electrical malfunction is now under control, he ignores the fireman's order to evacuate. Not long afterwards, with the party in full swing, one explosion after another occurs, and it's not long before several floors of the building are engulfed in flames, leaving hundreds of people trying to make their way down to safety.
This is a very interesting, suspenseful film, especially given the fact that we recently observed the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. While those desperately trying to reach safety in the movie were fictional characters, we all know that not so long ago, there were very real people trapped on the upper floors of very real buildings which were ungulfed in flames. Remembering that made this movie even more realistic.
In addition to the fire/disaster storyline, there were several little subplots going on behind the scenes...namely, Robert Wagner having an affair with his secretary; Fred Astaire (who was 75 at the time) playing a con man, who is trying to romance Jennifer Jones; Richard Chamberlain as the cost-cutting son-in-law of William Holden; a deaf woman with two young children. In some ways, for me, there was a bit too much going on, and for that reason, I just never really connected with any of the characters.
The special effects in this film (fire, explosions, etc.) were really spectacular, so much so that I really wasn't aware of any good acting in the film. That's one of the reasons I prefer the films from the 30's through the 50's---because special effects were almost nil then, the actors and actresses really had to carry a film. Once special effects came on the scene, they took over, and acting could take a backseat, and since I prefer good acting to elaborate effects, I simply prefer older movies. The main reason I recorded this film, which I have seen a few times in my life, is because of William Holden. As a major-huge Holden fan, I want to see as many of his films as possible----even those films from later in his career.
I definitely think The Towering Inferno is an interesting, worthwhile film---a very solid 3 stars; in fact, it actually could have been a 4-star film, but, for me, it was about 45 minutes too long. With a running time of 164 minutes, the film seemed to drag on occasion---I was ready for it to be over at 2 hours or 2 hours/15 minutes max. Even so, I watched the whole thing...just was a bit antsy while doing so.
The film is out on DVD and should be fairly easy to track down. Happy viewing!!