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The Towering Inferno

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The Towering Inferno

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"It's out of control. And it's coming your way."
Chief O' Hallorhan
Genre: Action
Directed By: John Guillermin
Produced By: Irwin Allen
Written By: Sterling Silliphant
Stirling Silliphant
Based On: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern
The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia, and Frank M. Robinson
Starring: Steve McQueen
Paul Newman
William Holden
Faye Dunaway
Fred Astaire
Susan Blakely
Richard Chamberlain
Jennifer Jones
O. J. Simpson
Robert Vaughn
Robert Wagner
Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Joseph Biroc
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox (United States & Canada)
Warner Bros. Pictures (International)
Release Date: December 10, 1974 (Premiere)
December 14, 1974 (Unted States)
January 29, 1975 (United Kingdom)
Runtime: 165 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $14 million
Box Office: $203.3 million (US and Canada)

The Towering Inferno (or Irwin Allen's Production of - The Towering Inferno) is a 1974 American epic disaster action film that was directed by John Guillermin, and it was produced by Irwin Allen, featuring an ensemble cast led by Paul Newman (who would later voice as Doc Hudson in Cars), and Steve McQueen. The film also stars William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, O. J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Susan Flannery, Gregory Sierra, Dabney Coleman and in her final role, Jennifer Jones. In the film, the world's tallest building 130+ story skyscraper caught a massive inferno breaks out that threatens to destroy the tower and everyone in it, and a group of city rescue teams converge upon the scene and attempt to fight against the raging monster.

It is the very first film to have two distributions at one film, with a co-production between 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. The film premiere on December 10, 1974, and it was theatrically released on December 14, 1974, four days later, and it received a box office hit and received positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. The following release of this film, Author Roderick Thorp, the author of the story series of The Detective had watched the film and later made a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever and would later become the new film series called Die Hard, which it was released nearly fourteen years after the released of the film, with a similar premise.


The film begins in a presume almost-near distant future, Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) is traveled by helicopter, and it flies through the shores of the west coast of California, and the countrysides with mountains until they reach the clouds and flies through the Golden Gate Bridge at the San Francisco Bay, and goes past a city hall, and they landed on The Glass Tower where James Duncan is standing and waiting for Doug Roberts to get off of the helicopter, who has been returned from a long vacation to find work nearly completed on his skyscraper and meeting for the dedication of the Glass Tower, which he designed for developer James Duncan (William Holden). The Tower, 1,688 feet (515 m) tall and 138 stories, marketing the world's tallest building in San Francisco. Doug goes to his wife named Susan Franklin (Faye Dunaway), and when the two renew romantic acquaintances, she reveals that she has received a long-sought promotion - which throws a wrench into their plans to move to the countryside to have a family.

During the day, electric power in a huge basement room was suddenly destroyed and causes a fire somewhere on the 81st floor, not knowing anyone that the fire is hiding inside the closet. Meanwhile, in the security room, Harry Jernigan (O.J. Simpson) notices something really wrong with the electrical system, and he tries to fix it, but nothing happens. Doug Roberts and Will Giddings go to Ducan's office and show a damaged cable. They went into Roger Simmons's house, the son-in-law of James Duncan confronts Simmons about the wiring. Simmons, a thoroughly oily man, insists the wiring is up to city safety codes, but those codes are not sufficient for a 1,800-foot skyscraper. Simmons nonetheless blows off Doug, which agitates Patty as she doesn't want her father's business to suffer because of him.

As the day turns into nighttime, the 81st floor was getting worse at the time The Glass Tower was about to open very shortly. That night, a group of people in the city were preparing for the opening night, and at the same time, the glass tower opens to the public, and the whole building begins to light up entirely, and they begin to go up to the promenade room on the 135th story floor to have a party. It was a wonderful time for the visitors and guests are having a great time at the top of a skyscraper, with a group of singers, drinks, dancers, and many more. A group of security guards suddenly notice a huge smoke below the doorway on the 81st floor, and they reported to the fire departments and a group of firefighters were on their way to investigate the 81st floor's doorway. Meanwhile, He proceeds to 81, but before he arrives Doug, Will, and other executives spot the smoke and the fire erupts into the hallway, engulfing Will Giddings.

Doug and the others smother Giddings in drapes while one man grabs a fire hose and begins spraying the flaming storage closet. Jernigan arrives and orders Doug to call an ambulance and also to call Jim Duncan and evacuate the Promenade Room while he helps get Giddings to the ground floor. But when Doug calls Duncan, Duncan insists the fire won't spread and insists that Doug attend the ceremony. A group of firefighters finally arrived, and Battalion Chief Mike O'Halloran (Steve McQueen), who has a distaste for architects because they insist on building skyscrapers even though the department can't easily fight a fire above seven floors. Mike O'Halloran quietly goes to the Promenade Room and confronts Jim Duncan to evacuate the area, and Duncan reluctantly proceeds. Before he can announce, Duncan threatens Robert Simmons to hang him up over this wiring problem as Paul stated earlier.

James Duncan announces to anyone that there is a small fire on the 81st floor, and they tell them to evacuated the area, and moving down the party below the skyscraper. They begin to evacuate the entire promenade room, unfortunately, more fire spread causes a medium-sized explosion, which results from most of the elevators became very unusable. Duncans tries to stop anyone from using the express elevators due to an explosion however, many people ignore this, resulting in everyone dies from a huge fire. Meanwhile, Bigelow And Lorrie were still prepared to go to the promenade room to have a party, not knowing a huge mass of fire begins burning the entire apartment where they lived, burning Bigelow to death, and Lorrie falls off the skyscraper to her death. Doug Roberts was still in the hallways, covering in smoke, and they founded two children, including Lisolette Mueller (Jennifer Jones), and they begin to find their way out. Meanwhile, Senator Parker and James Duncan suggest "those with stout hearts and trim waistlines" use the stairs. They try the first exit, but immediately find smoke when they open the door. They then try the other door, but it appears stuck. They enlist the aid of Carlos, the head bartender, but the three men are unable to find a way to open the fire door. The four people still went downstairs, but the gasoline suddenly explodes, causes the stairway to collapse, almost plunging Roberts to death, thankfully, he went up and takes the two children and Lisolette Mueller down below the and they went up to the promenade room, but the doorway was blocked, and Roberts forces them to stay here so he can find a way to help others.

The power suddenly cuts off, leaving no power due to a massive fire destroying the electrical systems, deactivating the passenger elevators. Meanwhile, the two firefighters laboriously trek up to the 135th floor and succeed in blowing open the door, but the stairway below has been destroyed, and with the power failing, the best hope to evacuate the Promenade Room now is helicopter landing on the rooftop helipad - which disintegrates when several panicking partiers rush to the chopper and it has to swerve out of the way and promptly crashes. They eventually destroyed a stuck door, and they attempt to bring the visitors into the helicopters, but however, the helicopter suddenly loses control and crashes into the roof caused by high winds, resulting from their plan to get out of the roof by using the helicopters failed. They go on a passenger elevator, and it slowly dives down into the lobby. Meanwhile, a group of helicopters throws the roof and uses a breeches buoy that goes from one skyscraper to another. Another explosion occurs in the middle of the skyscraper, causes the passenger elevator off its track, and plunges Lisolette Mueller into her death. O'Halloran eventually goes up to the Peerless Building and he couples the passenger elevator and touches down generally into the ground.

After all female guests were escaped by using the buoy, Roger Simmons tells Duncan they're going next, anger Duncan so much that he punches him and throws him into the wall, and he states that he would be the last one of this building, including his son. Doug Roberts received a phone call, realizing that the fire is about to reach the promenade room. They begin to lose hope, which causes many people to start to panic, Robert Simmons tries to steal the buoy, even going as far as dropping Senator Gary Parker to his death, but another explosion breaks the buoy loose and Simmons falls to his doom. O'Halloran is later helicoptered to the roof. Once there he and Roberts set to work planting explosive charges. They went back to the Promenade room, where a lot of people were tied up, ready for their massive water explosion that was caused by explosive charges, creating a massive flood all over the skyscraper, the two men fall to their deaths, while one statue falls onto him, dying instantly.

Many survivors begin to walk all the way down into the lobby and the outside, Harlee is informed that Lisolette didn't make it, and in grieving disbelief, he impotently yells out her name; Jernigan finds him and gives him her cat, Elke, whom he holds, tearing up both in grief and in shame at himself. Patty is also grief-stricken by the death of Simmons, and Duncan consoles his grieving daughter and promises that such a tragic disaster will never happen again. O'Halloran sees a bunch of dead firemen who didn't make it, Doug also accepts O'Halloran's bitter comment about architects and the need for them to consult the fire department on how to build skyscrapers. The movie ends with Cheif O'Halloran walks away to his car and he drives away exhausted as the film fades to black as the blue screen credits roll in.

Why It Can't Get Out of Control

  1. The concept of having the world's tallest 130+ story skyscraper (even taller than the Original World Trade Center from New York City) in San Francisco getting inferno by the flames is amazing, thus, having a story about an even taller skyscraper getting caught on fire is very terrifying to everyone who are in any skyscrapers across at any city.
  2. Epic story, even though the movie is nearly three hours long, but the movie has rooms of thrills, blazing suspense, excitements, and thrilling moments throughout the film.
  3. Even though it is meant to be a fun-thriller-disaster movie, it does take a break from being a thriller film to have a nice romantic sub-plots for the couples at the top of the Glass Tower.
  4. Great acting from the casts, especially for Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and the female, and male casts as well, not only that but Steven McQueen and Paul Newman's performances as Architect Doug Roberts, and Michael O'Hallorhan were spectacular, and both of them are pretty memorable at the time, and it also has likable characters, especially with a cute kitty at the apartment room in the film.
    • Doug Roberts is good as the Glass Tower architect.
    • Steve McQueen as Michael O'Hallorhan, SFFD 5th Battalion Chief is great.
  5. John Williams' soundtrack in the movie, is amazing as always, with a mix of excitement, scares and suspense throughout the movie, one and three years before he performed Jaws and Star Wars as well, in addition, a beautiful song named "We May Never Love Like This Again" that was made by Kasha/Hirschhorn.
  6. Lots of terrifying, and memorable moments from here and there, such as when you're riding on the chair connecting to the second skyscraper, not only that but it had a bunch of explosive jumpscares, which terrified many viewers who were watching the film.
  7. Great directing by John Guillermin.
  8. This is the several times that Irwin Allen has shown to have good skills as a producer, and his concept of the movie since he produces The Poseidon Adventure in 1972.
  9. The movie does have good touching moments, such as at the ending scene where Harlee is looking for Lisolette, not realizing she has been killed. Jernigan then catches up with him and hands him the cat.
  10. Amazing cinematography that were both well done by Frederick James Koenekamp, and Joseph Biroc.
  11. Shortly before the inferno started to happen there is a pretty good scene where a lot of people are dancing around on the top of the 135-floor skyscraper.
  12. The film is very responsible for having the Die Hard series to exist, and as well as popularizing the entire action movie genre. If it weren't for the movie, the Die Hard franchise would've never be made, and many action movies wouldn't be the same.
  13. The fire effects in the film are very impressive, and realistic, and they look good for the mid-1970's standards.
  14. The Glass Tower, the tallest building than the original World Trade Center in the movie, is well done designed, almost looked as realistic as a fictional skyscraper was.
  15. The ending is very emotional, Duncan consoles his grieving daughter and promises that such a tragic disaster will never happen again. Roberts accepts O'Hallorhan's offer of guidance on how to build a fire-safe skyscraper, and he drives away, exhausted.

Bad Qualities

  1. The first several parts of the movie, before the inferno started to happen can be rather boring at times.
  2. The pacing, while pretty decent can be pretty long at times, due to the fact that the runtime is almost three hours long.
  3. Roger Simmons is a very unlikeable, and lame antagonist, he's a greedy person and he doesn't listen to Duncan's order to be last on the buoy with Duncan.
  4. Some of the deaths are very horrifying to the viewers, such as a lot of people on the 135th floor falling to their deaths, seeing a person burning in flames deadlier, which isn't suitable for a PG rating.
  5. Duncan can be a bit cruel at times, such as the scene during his phone call with Michael, where he doesn't believe that the fire started at the 81st floor, right before the firefighters arrives at the Glass Tower.


Critical response

The Towering Inferno was released on December 14, 1974, and it was generally well-received by critics and audiences alike. It received a 70% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews with an average rating of 6.6/10 on the same site, and according to the site's consensus states: "Although it is not consistently engaging enough to fully justify its towering runtime, "The Towering Inferno" is a blustery spectacle that executes its disaster premise with flair." Metacritic scores a film a 69/100 "Generally favorable reviews" and a 7/10 on IMDb. Roger Ebert of the "Chicago Sun-Times" gave the film three out of four stars and praised it as "the best of the mid-1970s wave of disaster films".

Box Office

The movie became the second huge hit in 1975, with over domestic rentals of $48,838,000, and the movie grossed over 203 million dollars, making a huge box office hit.

Die Hard franchise

Author Roderick Thorp, the author of the story series of The Detective, saw the movie, after seeing the film, Thorp fell asleep and had a dream of seeing a man being chased through a skyscraper by men with guns. He woke up and later took that idea and turned it into The Detective sequel, Nothing Lasts Forever, in 1988, Die Hard was released with a similar premise to the movie.


  • Both novels were inspired by the construction of the World Trade Center in the early-1970s, and what could happen in a fire in a skyscraper. In Richard Martin Stern's novel "The Tower", the fictional 140-story building was set next to the north tower of the World Trade Center. The climax of the novel was centered around a rescue mounted from the north tower.
  • There's a poster of The Towering Inferno can be seen in The Swarm (1978) during a killer bee attack in Marysville (Yes, really).
  • The building used in the film was a series of miniatures and matte paintings. Only sections of the building were actually constructed for the actors and stunt people to perform their scenes. Interior shots of the building were of San Francisco's Hyatt Regency. Exterior shots used the Bank of America building (at 555 California St.) with an additional 50 stories of matte paintings added.
  • It is the longest Irwin Allen's disaster film to date.
  • There were over 1,000 real firefighters were hired throughout the entire production.
  • This is the final film to involved with Jennifer Jones.
  • This film marked the first joint production by 2 major studios: "Warner Bros." and "20th Century-Fox."



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