The Towering Inferno (1974) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Thriller
Fox || PG - 165 minutes - $34.98 || July 14, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-08-01


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: John Guillermin, Irwin Allen
Writer(s): Richard Martin Stern (novel "The Tower"), Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson (novel "The Glass Inferno"); Stirling Silliphant (screenplay)
Cast: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner


Theatrical Release Date: December 14, 1974


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • 2 Scene Specific Commentaries
  • 10 Featurettes
  • Interviews
  • Storyboard Comparisons
  • Still Galleries
  • Trailers


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.7), English (Dolby Surround 4.0), English (Dolby Surround 3.0), Spanish (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Plot: A sky-high building turns into the ultimate fire trap when faulty wiring ignites a raging inferno below!

Irwin Allenís 1974 classic, The Towering Inferno isnít exactly a masterpiece, cinematically speaking but it is a masterpiece in special and pyro effects as well as miniature works. Even by todayís standards, it has held up fairly well for the most part save for a couple cheesy shots or obvious stuntmen running around on fire. Of course, what looks cheesy now, was completely amazing back then, and even now itís still impressive (see: the Robert Wagner burn scene).

What continues to impress me about The Towering Inferno, other than seeing two of my favorite iconic actors in Paul Newman and Steve McQueen on screen together, but the fact that all these impressive fire and stunt work was done on set whereas today it would be completely CGI. Although Iím sure CGI would provide more realistic looking scenes, it would no doubt go unnoticed whereas here, you canít help but appreciate the effort.

The only thing about the film that bothers me isnít with the story which is straight forward and simple (building burns, people die) but more with the acting and stilted/forced dialogue by some of the supporting actors outside of Fred Astaire and Faye Dunaway (who has a fairly small part anyway). One example comes towards the end when one of the characters sums up the dangers of such tall buildings and preventing a disaster in the future. Personally, thatís all well and good, but seemed tacked on than anything else.

Flaws aside, I do admire the creativity that producer Irwin Allen once again displays as a follow-up to The Poseidon Adventure, a film that stands as my favorite disaster movie ever made. The Towering Inferno may not live up to those standards, it is still one of the better films in the genre and none of these current CGI-laden movies can hold a candle to.

Along with McQueen and Newman, also look for other celebrity guest roles including William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, O.J. Simpson (he canít be THAT bad, he did save a kitty after all...), Robert Vaughn and Robert Wagner.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

All features have been ported over from the 2-Disc Special Edition release. Also, maybe it was my player, but I was unable to return to the main menu while watching a feature and instead had to use the skip button to finally get back...

Feature Commentary Ė Film Historian F. X. Fenney provides an insightful track covering the various aspects of the production, casting, billing, etc. Some might find him a tad dull but you will get some insight into how the film was made.

There are two sets of scene specific commentaries. The first is with X-Men: The Last Stand Special Effects Director Mike Vezina (12:45) and the other with The Day After Tomorrow Stunt Coordinator Branko Racki (24:31). Each go through key scenes and talk about what it took (or wouldíve taken) to film those scenes. I think these wouldíve been more interesting if they were in the booth together since they cover the same scenes.

Deleted/Extended Scenes (44:58) Ė An astounding 33 scenes have been included, mostly alternate or extended scenes but still interesting to watch. It starts out with an alternate opening which isnít all that different anyway. These will also make you appreciate how well they cleaned up the print.

The Blu-ray (and DVD) includes 9 featurettes and a short description of each:
- Inside the Tower: We Remember (8:15): A retrospective featuring comments from the cast and crew.
- Innovating Tower: The SPFX of an Inferno (6:55): Covers the miniature and pyrotechnic work on the film.
- The Art of Towering (5:17): Goes over the storyboarding and concept art.
- Irwin Allen: The Great Producer (6:25): A profile of the producer from the perspective of those who worked with him.
- Directing the Inferno (4:28): Covers directing tasks of John Guillerman (who did the dramatic scenes) and Irwin Allen (who took over the action scenes).
- Putting Out the Fire (4:58) is about the dangerous fire work on the film.
- Running on Fire (5:52): Focuses on the stunt work.
- Still the Worldís Tallest Building (8:23): Featurette on making these tall towers and how they compare with the tower featured in the movie.
- The Writer: Stirling Silliphant (9:16): The last featurette is a profile on the writer.

AMC Backstory: The Towering Inferno (22:08) is just a basic featurette that features clips from the film and comments from the cast and crew. If youíve seen other AMC Backstory specials, itís basically the same thing.

The Blu-ray also has 6 Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons (12:05); some ďVintage Promotional MaterialĒ including a NATO Presentation Reel (11:08), Original 1974 Featurettes #1 (8:15) and #2 (7:20), 1977 Irwin Allen Interview (12:18) and a couple of trailers; interactive galleries where you can read transcripts of articles written about filming the movie; and stills galleries (Shot Compositions, Publicity, Behind the Scenes, Conceptual Sketches, Costumes).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Presented in its original 2.35 aspect ratio, The Towering Inferno comes to Blu-ray in 1080p high-definition on a 50GB dual layered disc. Although I would hardly call the picture overly impressive, given the filmís 35 year age, it doesnít look half bad. There is the normal film grain and some noise but Iíd say this was a solid video transfer from Fox.

The Blu-ray comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio as well as 4.0 Surround and, for the purists out there, standard Dolby Surround (3.0). The DTS-HD track isnít all that great, which wasnít much of a surprise since the movie is older. My subwoofer got very little use and any explosions didnít have that impact I expect from a lossless track. But, as I said, the movie is 35 years old so I did cut it some slack as dialogue levels were good and some of the audio effects were effective enough.



.::OVERALL::.

Less about the story, Towering Inferno is known for its fantastic pyrotechnics, miniature work and stunt works that even in this day and age of CGI and computer graphics, the film is still mightily impressive.