20th Century Fox releases The Towering Inferno today, July14, on Blu-ray in all of its high definition glory. It’s actually hard to believe that it will be 35 years come December that this 1974 disaster classic was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. If all of the so-called popcorn films released nowadays were half as GREAT as The Towering Inferno I would be one very happy moviegoer. Released two years after Producer Irwin Allen’s blockbuster hit The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno went on to become the year’s highest grossing film, pulling in $116,000,000 domestically on a budget of $14,000,000. If only Hollywood could maximize a profit like that now on big studio movies.
Both Fox and Warner Bros financed the film which was considered a gamble at the time because of its sizable budget. Actually it’s only $58 million today adjusted for inflation – pretty cheap for a studio tent-pole. 57 stage sets established records for a single film on the Twentieth Century Fox lot and, while John Guillermin (King Kong-1976), helmed the overall film Irwin Allen himself directed the action scenes.
Initially, the fire chief’s role was relatively minor. The architect was the lead and hero and Ernest Borgnine was planned to be Fire Chief Mario Infantino to Steve McQueen’s architect Doug Roberts. However, when McQueen signed on, he requested the fire chief’s role (renamed Chief O’Hallorhan) and Paul Newman was signed to take the architect’s role. Both actors who had equal lines and billing were terrific and their star power was as big an attraction as the movies stunning special effects. In an era pre-GCI – quite impressive.
Supporting turns by hollywood legends Fred Astaire (Oscar nominated for Supporting actor) and Jennifer Jones (her last film role) also elevated the whole project. The film, which had a running time of 2hrs and 45 minutes, was the last movie I can remember attending that had an intermission at its halfway mark. At the time movie theaters were single screened houses so it was much easier doing this than it would be nowadays with multiplexes. While the film had many highlights, Robert Wagner’s heroic death scene has always stuck out for me as it’s just so beatifully done. It’s truly a genre classic.
It was also a time when OJ Simpson was a really likable guy. Actually he’s quite good in the film. Originally released December 14, 1974, The Towering Inferno is one of my all time favorite films and well worth owning on Blu-ray. The behind the scenes featurettes are a must see for diehard fans. Watching Irwin Allen in action is just fascinating. I said it before and I’ll say it again, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. The Towering Inferno is a classic.
Primary cast • Steve McQueen as Chief Michael O’ Hallorhan • Paul Newman as Doug Roberts • William Holden as James Duncan • Faye Dunaway as Susan Franklin • Fred Astaire as Harlee Clairbone • Susan Blakely as Patty Duncan Simmons • Richard Chamberlain as Roger Simmons • Jennifer Jones as Lisolette Mueller • O.J. Simpson as Harry Jernigan • Robert Vaughn as Sen. Gary Parker • Robert Wagner as Dan Bigelow • Susan Flannery as Lorrie • Mike Lookinland as Phillip Albright