I've seen the special edition DVD and it gives this classic
Darren Harrison | Washington D.C. | 05/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Irwin Allen decided to follow up his "The Poseidon Adventure" success with the 1974 suspense-thriller "The Towering Inferno," a movie which also garnered an impressive 10 Oscar nominations and is released as a 2-disc DVD special edition this week.
Whereas in "The Poseidon Adventure" the leads had to travel up, the only way is down for Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Wagner and Faye Dunaway. Attending the opening night gala the guests are trapped on the 129th floor of the world's tallest building which becomes an inferno thanks to the shoddy wiring system installed by chief builder James Duncan (Holden) and his electrician son Roger Simmons (Chamberlain).
Newman plays Doug Roberts, the proud architect behind the Glass Tower, a skyscraper, which dominates the San Francisco skyline at a height of 138-story's. Returning from a long vacation Roberts immediately recognizes that something is wrong and he is proven correct when a circuit breaker burns out and ignites garbage on a lower floor.
While the script can be a tad melodramatic at times, the effort put into this movie is obvious. Nominated for Best Picture and winning for best cinematography, best special effects and best song, the movie was a smash hit and still holds up well today in this age of blockbuster special effects extravaganza's.
As with "The Poseidon Adventure" the previous DVD release was sorely lacking in special features and has been replaced with three hours of extras. Joining the nine all-new featurettes which includes a retrospective, a look at the special effects and the art design is the AMC Backstory on the making of the movie, 32 deleted or extended scenes and an audio commentary by film historian F.X. Feeney.
Feeney's commentary is fascinating and comprehensive, covering all aspects of the production from the writing and dialogue all the way through to the sets and the sense of anticipation director John Guillerman builds up from the start. Feeney tells us that this movie was a milestone for Hollywood in that it was the first time two studios had co-produced a feature. Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox owned two separate books, "The Tower" by Richard Martin Stern and "The Glass Inferno" by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, and both planned to make two competing movies on the same subject.
It was Allen who stepped in and proposed the historic deal and the two studios agreed, splitting first the cost and then the profit equally.
Though not for the full length of the feature special effects director Mike Venzina and stunt coordinator Branko Racki both individually comment on individual scenes. Verzina discusses eight scenes and Racki talks about nine separate scenes. Their observations are largely technical in nature and center on their selective specialties.
The longest of the documentaries is once again the AMC Backstory which runs 22:08. It is in this featurette that we learn that the model used for shots of the tower was itself seven stories high, that William Holden became aggravated with Faye Dunaway's tardy-ness to the set and that despite the media attempting to portray conflict between the two stars Steve McQueen and Paul Newman, the two actually got along well together with a mutual respect and friendly competition (as evidenced by a funny blooper).
The other featurettes range from 4:28 in length (on the directing of the movie) to 9:15 on the writer Stirling Silliphant. But they cover a wide range of topics from a retrospective by the cast and crew "Inside the Tower: We Remember" (8:16) in which Richard Chamberlain likens the set to being at a really glamorous Hollywood party day after day with the standard six star dressing rooms being increased to 15 to the architecture of the tower in "Still the World's Tallest Tower" (8:28) which compares The Glass Tower to other real-life skyscrapers and the impact these high-rise buildings have on the surrounding communities.
Other topics touched on include the safety aspects employed on the production in "Putting out fire" (4:58) in which Allen comments "You'd better have all the camera's rolling because fire waits for no man," and also reveals that firemen were on the set each day to "Running on fire" (5:52) which discusses the work of the stuntmen and includes the facts McQueen did not like anyone else doing his stunts and even Newman and Chamberlain did a number of their own stunts.
Also on this special collector's edition are 32 deleted or extended scenes that range from the 40-second "Still Waiting for the Elevator" which featuresshots of crowds of people pushing and shoving each other at the elevator and Holden's character assessing the situation on the telephone to the 2:55 clip "Four Alarm Fire" which covers the spreading of the fire through the building, the call from security requesting a four-alarm fire and shots of fire engines screaming through the streets of San Francisco.
All of the deleted or extended scenes were originally part of a longer television broadcast. Unfortunately their condition has deteriorated and they were deemed of too poor quality for Fox to include them through the popular DVD technique of seamless branching alongside the theatrical cut on the first disc.
Rounding out the special features on this release are three 1975 articles from "American Cinematographer" which run for a combined 83 pages and which, like those on "The Poseidon Adventure" DVD release, include selectable images which take the viewer to image galleries. These articles are all technical in nature and include discussion on how the movie was photographed and the work of the action unit. There are also six storyboard comparisons and five image galleries that range from shot compositions and costumes through to publicity and conceptual sketches."
Inferno Really Burns
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 02/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After the success of The Poseidon Adventure, disaster flicks became the rage in Hollywood. Stars lined up left in right to appear in them. While most are laughable and only worth watching for the camp value, Towering Inferno rises above the pack. It is a well-crafted and well-acted movie, with excellent performances. Like most disaster movies, the plot revolves around a state of the art high-rise in San Francisco. Due to faulty wiring, the building catches fire trapping people all throughout. You are kept on the edge of your seat with amazing pyrotechnics, daring helicopter rescues and the fire departments last ditch effort to save the last remaining people on the top floor of the building. Paul Newman plays the architect who designed the building and Steve McQueen is the fire chief who risks his life fighting the fire. They are but two of a mega-watt cast that includes Fred Astaire (who received his only Academy Award nomination for the role), Faye Dunaway, Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain (who is cast against type as the villain), Jennifer Jones, OJ Simpson and Robert Vaughan (Mike Lookinland, Bobby Brady from The Brady Bunch has a small part). The film was a huge success and received a nomination for Best Picture in 1974."
Better Than It Has Right To Be
Ricky Hunter | New York City, NY United States | 08/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Towering Inferno is one of the top two of the seventies cycle of disaster films (the other, of course, being the Poseidon Adventure) and, by all reckoning, it probably should have been a big a disaster (pardon the expression) cinematically as Earthquake or The Swarm. There is the faded star Love Boat-style in the casting, particularly with Jennifer Jones and Fred Astaire, although with better than average choices in still-hot stars, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and an underused Faye Dunaway, and odd guest stars such as O.J. Simpson and Bobby Brady of the Brady Bunch. But it always manages to feel better than the sum of its disparate parts. Sadly, 9-11 itself adds an element of terror to the film from the moment Robert Wagner falls flaming from the building to Steve McQueen's final line. But even without those potent resonances, the movie is quite gripping as it often rises above its cliche-ridden script. A interesting and exciting example of a certain style of popular seventies cinema."
Hollywood's Final Great Disaster Flick (and those gowns!)
Kevin D. Ivers | Washington, DC United States | 07/04/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In her autobiography, Faye Dunaway complains that she (and her other big Hollywood pals like "Bill" Holden...) were just used for their names on the billboard, when the real star of this pic was the fire. Well, I remember seeing this movie in the theater with my parents and sister at age 7 -- my first PG rated movie -- and I was so dazzled I couldn't sleep that night. All those fabulous stars of the past and present in fabulous 1970s gowns, falling to their deaths ablaze. Susan Blakely on that tether being scared and fabulous, Faye in her faux Halston getting it on with Paul Newman in his office (can you believe that bedroom ?). Mike "Bobby Brady" Lookinland as the child hero. OJ Simpson as the handsome black man (we wont go there) And Fred Astaire gets the Shelly Winters oscar nod. And when Steve McQueen is informed he has to go in to blow the tanks, his profane response is so macho and sexy. And don't you miss when the Glass Tower wiggles at the very beginning (good old matte photography - this was 2 years before Star Wars, folks...) I don't know -- what is NOT to love in this movie? All I can say is, it changed my life as age 7 and had a profound effect on me, much as Airport 1975, Earthquake and Airport 1977 did -- all that cheese, all that hair, all those gals in danger. But this was the best of them. (For the record, Poseidon Adventure was in a class all its own - I don't think that was campy.)"