Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Towering Inferno

The Towering Inferno
Director: John Guillermin
Cast: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Jones, Fred Astaire
Released: 12/14/74

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Godfather Part II)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Editing (won)
Best Original Song - "We May Never Love Like This Again" (won)
Best Supporting Actor - Fred Astaire (lost to Robert De Niro for The GodFather Part II)
Best Art Direction (lost to The GodFather II)
Best Sound (lost to Earthquake)
Best Score - John Williams (lost to Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola for The Godfather II)

Watching a movie about hundreds of people being trapped inside the world's tallest building while a fire blazes below them, it's hard not to think of the World Trade Center, especially since the novel it was based on was based on the WTC and what would happen if a fire would ever occur in a building that high. The only differences are that this fictional building is located in San Francisco, is 130-something stories, and didn't collapse. I have to admit: I kept waiting for the building to crumble. There's a bit of a prophetic line in the movie when Steve McQueen's fire marshall told Paul Newman's architect, "We were lucky we only lost 200 people; the next time it could be 10,000." Okay, yeah, maybe not that many people died in the WTC, but still a little eerie considering it was uttered 27 years before 9/11.

The fire is started by faulty wiring which is discovered by none other than a technician played by O.J. Simpson. Hmm, who wants to bet that HE started the fire? Of course the building (which is an office and residential building) has just opened and everyone is attending the grand opening on the top floor. The fire starts on the 80th floor but the owner of the building isn't too concerned with it, thinking it's just a small flame that can be controlled by the fire department and doesn't want to disturb his party.

Being that this film is very reminiscent (aside from a few dashes of Hollywood ridiculousness) of what those people in the WTC went through on September 11, it was a little hard to watch it at times because it seemed too realistic. This wasn't one of those disaster movies like 2012 where everything is so over-the-top, that you can sit back and enjoy the ride and laugh at the absurdity of everything.

I will say that I was caught off guard when one of the characters played by someone in the cast I listed above has a sudden demise. Usually you can tell who's going to live and who's going to die in these types of movies, but this one totally shocked me; I wasn't expecting it at all.

This is what I learned from The Towering Inferno:
-When constructing the tallest building in the world, never be cheap. (The owner wanted to save a few bucks and that's what ultimately caused the fire).
-If you are having an affair with your secretary, both you and your mistress will die a horrible death if there's a fire in your building.
-NEVER get in an elevator when there's a blazing inferno. What the hell were you thinking, Newman?
-Always make sure you have tanks of water on top of your building so you can put out fires. (That may have been a bit of a spoiler).

I really liked Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in this; I might have to check out more of their films.


  1. This is one of my favorite movies EVER. I have seen it at least 200 times. I always thought it was funny that the guy who played Mr. Brady's boss on the Brady Bunch (Jack Collins) and Bobby Brady were in it.

  2. Wait, was Bobby Brady that kid with the little sister? I didn't even recognize him...

  3. Good points about 9/11. I thought about that movie alot when 9/11 happened, but don't remember anyone at the time talking about the movie, showing clips of it, etc.

    To this day I still don't understand Fred Astaire's Oscar nomination for this. He doesn't have that many scenes, really.