”The Towering Inferno” made our list of best disaster movies
FAMILIAR FACES Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, and Steve McQueen (shown); also: William Holden, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, O.J. Simpson, Dabney Coleman, and Mike ”Bobby Brady” Lookinland
UH-OH! On the night of the grand opening of the world’s tallest building, a fire breaks out, trapping hundreds of VIP partygoers 130 stories above the ground. Think of it as a vertical Titanic.
DISASTROUS DIALOGUE ”Someday, you’re gonna kill 10,000 in one of these firetraps, and I’ll keep eating smoke and carrying out bodies until someone asks us how to build them.” —fire chief Michael O’Hallorhan (McQueen)
SAVING THE DAY Chief O’Hallorhan teams up with the skyscraper’s architect, Doug Roberts (Newman), to airlift out survivors and blow up the building’s water tanks.
AFTERSHOCKS Inferno marks the apex of the 1970s wave of disaster movies and the career peak of producer Irwin Allen. Its success (it won three minor Oscars and was nominated for five others, including Best Picture) paved the way for further lavish spectacles of destruction featuring A-list stars, none of them as well-received as Inferno. Its two-studio production deal (Fox and Warner Bros. split the cost) was unprecedented then but is standard now for expensive blockbusters.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT Despite its Love Boat-like casting and thin characterizations, the movie is not as campy as you’d expect; McQueen and Newman give surprisingly grounded performances amid the still-striking pyrotechnics.
EW GRADE C+