Thursday, February 2, 2017

Oscar Movie Review: "The Towering Inferno" (1974)

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Movie"The Towering Inferno"
Year Nominated: 1975
Director: John Guillermin
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

The newly built tallest building in the world catches fire while its grand opening party takes place on the 135th floor.

"The Towering Inferno" is an epic disaster flick directed by John Guillermin, who has helmed such films as "Tarzan Goes to India" and "Shaft in Africa." It is written by Stirling Silliphant, based on two novels called "The Tower" and "The Glass Inferno." It stars an ensemble cast including the wonderful Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Susan Blakely, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, and even a young O.J. Simpson.

The film takes place at a newly developed 1,800 foot tall office and apartment building in San Francisco. The building developer is holding a grand opening party on the 135th floor for all of the city big wigs. Despite being the tallest building in the world, it is also apparently the most poorly constructed one, too, as almost every electrical system malfunctions and there are almost zero safety standards in place properly by grand opening day. Despite the claim to the contrary by one of the characters, the structure is clearly not up to code in any way, shape, or form, though we must overlook that fact, suspend our disbelief, and move on. Being such a terribly constructed building, a fire breaks out on the 81st floor and quickly spreads, trapping many party goers upstairs.

This is a fairly entertaining albeit long story of survival amidst a horrific disaster. It has some great special effects work for its time and some really action-packed, tense moments. Though there is a large cast, Guillermin and Silliphant still manage to find a way to develop most of the characters enough so the audience cares about them if and/or when they don't make it out of this blazing inferno. There is also a lot of really good acting on the part of Newman, McQueen, and several others, and each person seemingly gets to deliver a whopper of a line at one point or another. The movie also manages to create a villain in Simmons, played by Richard Chamberlain, who is responsible for cutting corners and building the structure with sub-par standards. We actually watch the movie hoping this self-centered douchebag won't make it out of his self-imposed tragedy alive. We know, we know, we're terrible people. There is no shortage of carnage here as people catch fire, fall from great heights, and some others even fall from great heights while on fire. It's truly a spectacle to behold.

"The Towering Inferno" wound up being nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture, and wound up taking home three Oscars for cinematography, editing, and score. This is a movie that is worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of disaster films like "The Poseidon Adventure," or even more modern ones like "Twister."

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
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Last Oscar season, we were watching: "The Hours"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "Five Easy Pieces"

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