The Towering Inferno (1974)
Reviewed on 2010 July 31
Another ’70s disaster epic, following the formula of Irwin Allen Doom-O-Vision and featuring a raft of Love Boat-type stars, but also packing Steve McQueen and Paul Newman.
Doug Roberts (Newman) is an architect of shiny luxury skyscrapers, the kind with zillions of windows and disco wallpaper so vivid it could be an aircraft landing strip. He hit his apex with The Glass Tower, a swanky building that is the tallest in the world. Like a starlet with a bad plastic surgeon, the building looks lovely but has problems on the inside. Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain) the electrical contractor got his job through nepotism and general sliminess, hiring sub-par contractors and apparently spending the money he saves on his own digs. Of course, the building goes up like a toy coated in Chinese paint. Since this is an Irwin Allen flick, it happens during the grand opening soirée, attended by the crème of the community. It ain’t a ’70s disaster flick until we have men in leisure suits and women in flammable club wear trying to run.
That hideous wallpaper is thicker than the silly plot, but McQueen (as the heroic fire chief) and Newman together are like peanut butter and chocolate, and it was fun to see Faye Dunaway play Newman’s loving girlfriend (unlike the chilly persona that she would use in Network, two years later). And, never mind the irony of O.J. Simpson as a security guard. Like most of these things with bloated budgets, the special effects were amazing and still hold up today.
Three morsels. It’s a total guilty pleasure, and I have to respect something that opens with a dedication to firefighters.