The Towering Inferno


(1974) ★★★★

Film4: Sunday 28 June, 3.15pm

Not quite the original 1970s disaster movie (Airport and The Poseidon Adventure came first and second) but it’s still certainly the best of its era. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen lead the fire-fighters as the world’s tallest building turns into the world’s highest bonfire. A few reputations get singed, but the dialogue isn’t really the point (its three Oscars were for photography, editing, and a song that no one remembers). It’s the spectacular pyrotechnics that has us on the edge of our seats and the cast hopping around the flames. There was drama behind the scenes too. Producer Irwin Allen persuaded Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox to team up after both studios had stumped up big bucks for the rights to two novels telling pretty much the same story: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. A deal was struck. But which Hollywood superstar would concede top billing, Steve McQueen or Paul Newman? In the end, Newman’s name appears above McQueen’s, but ranged right. McQueen, reckoning people read from left to right, claimed the victory. No such concerns for Charlton Heston, wigging out in the same year’s Earthquake (Film4, Tuesday at 4pm). In the days before Imax and CGI, this is how they did it. LA reduced to rubble by a series of wobbly effects, presented in ear-splitting ‘Sensurround’. Dwayne Johnson’s new film San Andreas is a glorified remake and The Towering Inferno, too, has been given a 21st century makeover in the tense 2012 South Korean disaster pic The Tower.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 156min

Other Showings Time & Date
Film4 Friday, 3 July at 3:30PM