Monday, January 05, 2015

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Towering Inferno (1974) ***

PG, 165 min.
Director: John Guillerman
Writers: Stirling Silliphant, Richard Martin Stern (novel “The Tower”), Thomas N. Scortia (novel “The Glass Inferno”), Frank M. Robinson (novel “The Glass Inferno”)
Starring: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakley, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, O.J. Simpson, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, Susan Flannery, Sheila Mathews, Normann Burton, Jack Collins, Don Gordon, Felton Perry, Gregory Sierra, Ernie Orsatti, Dabney Coleman, Mike Lookinland

I think “The Towering Inferno” was the first movie for which I ever developed an obsession. It was a major score for the major networks—back in the day when they were the only three channels to choose from—to get this film on their “Movie of the Week”. I’m not sure which one had it first, but when it aired, it was a two-night event.

I was too young to stay up and watch it the first time I remember it airing. It ran until 11 and it was a school night. I think the same network re-aired it in the summer and I was able to stay up and watch it that time. I really didn’t know any of the stars in it. I’m sure I recognized some of the names—Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, O.J. Simpson. Although, I was pretty sure that last guy was a football player. The most recognizable actor to me was the kid who also played Bobby Brady on “The Brady Bunch”. Nor did I have any clue that it had been a Best Picture contender at the 47th Academy Awards.

What I did know was that there were a bunch of people trapped in the tallest building in the world by fire. Whoa! That was real! I was hooked on the disaster format at the age of 6. I think I watched this movie every time it aired on broadcast television. Soon I was also watching other disaster movies, like “The Poseidon Adventure”, “Airport”, and “Earthquake”. After a while I was creating disaster pictures of my own. I would sing the ABC Sunday Night Movie theme to my brother as he tried to sleep in the bunk above me at night. Then I would go into a trailer description of a movie titled “Blizzard”, about how the biggest snowstorm in recorded history hitting the coast of Maine and millions were stranded, including the students of Williams-Cone Elementary School in Topsham. After months trapped within the white walls of the snow, the students had developed their own underworld civilization under the snow in the playground area, but they still had to survive the tunnel collapses and the wolves.

Anyway, it all started with this movie and the anticipation built up by commercials for the two-night special event. Looking back at it today, it barely deserves the three stars I award it. I can’t believe this was a Best Picture nominee. But, I still hold a very fond place for it in my heart.

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