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Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno Special Edition

Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno (1974)
Special Edition DVD

Going back and watching The Towering Inferno was incredible. It still gives me goose bumps when Paul Newman yells at William Holden, “Why?! Because we’ve got a FIRE here!!!” I am not sure if it’s the gravity of the situation (and Holden’s character’s stupid “Why should we evacuate?”) that gets me worked up; or the fact that Paul Newman is one of the freaking coolest guys ever to grace the screen; or if it is, perhaps, some errant homoerotic sensation that the then 49 year old Newman could awaken in the machoest of men or the manliest of women….I mean c’mon, let’s face it; even at 81 Newman is a damn sexy guy. (….Mmmmm, Paul Newman. NO! NO! NO! MMMMM, JESSICA ALBA!!! Mmm, Carla Gugino. Mmmmmmmmmm, Jennifer Love Hewitt….. mmmm-hmm!!! Yep, THAT’S the one. Phew!) Okay, okay; I think I’ve recovered.

Ahem. Well then, where was I? Oh, yes… The Poseidon Adven…no, no; The Towering Inferno. That’s right. (J-Love does it every time! She can bring me back from anywhere.)

Inferno’s special effects were not only good for 1974; they were good for eighty-four, ninety-four, or ought-four. What is the premise? Paul Newman designs and William Holden builds the tallest skyscraper in the world, but due to some corner cutting by Holden’s son-in-law Richard Chamberlain, the building catches fire on the night of the gala opening. That’s the story: there, I just ruined it for you. It should be mentioned that if you are looking for a deep and meaningful plot this is NOT your movie, but you don’t really need an intricate and multilayered plotline when you’ve got disaster, daring rescues, courageous firemen, and a BUTTload of star power: Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, and an actor we thought that would never amount to anything, named–wait for it–O.J. Simpson. (Juice saves a kitty from a burning room, showing us his “soft side.”) What a magical on-screen pairing, a pairing for the ages: Paul Newman and O.J. Simpson. Forget the scenes between screen legends Newman and McQueen, watch O.J. and Paul go at it. Sparks fly, and all I can say is “WOW!!!” …Anyway…. (It may be time for me to cut back on the meds.)

The Towering Inferno Special Edition has 9 all-new features, and a couple of vintage ones. Interesting tidbits highlight a feud between Newman and McQueen that never actually happened, and a feud between Dunaway and Holden that did. In attendance are the expected deleted scenes and outtakes (you get to see Newman and McQueen clowning around with each other); and a couple of commentary options (one from a film historian–what I would call a “Buff,” but that might be cynical of me; I didn’t actually watch the movie with the commentary on, so it could be worthwhile–and one from the stunt coordinator of the X-Men).

Randy Otteson