Irwin Allen’s production of “The Towering Inferno” is proof positive that even if lightning is unlikely to strike the same spot twice, there is no restriction of the duplication of stupid ideas for movies. Based on the novels The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, the screenplay is an inspired amalgam of Stirling Silliphant’s ability to throw aside the very worst of the two books and still manage to write a terrible screenplay.
Producer Allen’s second foray into the disaster film genre, the film’s depiction of a massive conflagration in the world’s tallest building (in San Francisco?) pretends to be a testimonial to the heroism of firemen while spending nearly three hours demonstrating them as incapable of handling the simplest crisis without the assistance of an eclectic collection of movie archetypes: a smirky, know-it-all architect (Paul Newman) who is imbued with impossibly useful knowledge of the most infinitesimal technical details which enables him to rewire any minor circuitry in the impossibly big building despite the fact he claims to be so cotton-headed as to have been unaware of the fatal cost-cutting going on during the entire construction process; a gregarious working class bartender (Gregory Sierra) whose status outside of the prominent glare of “all-star” casting combined with his portraying a genuinely reliable working stiff- shades of Roddy McDowall in “The Poseidon Adventure” -is a safe bet to cause him to be dispatched as injudiciously as possible; and a security man (a pre-mug shot O.J. Simpson), who takes it upon himself to waste valuable time searching for and rescuing a kitten while hundreds of people burn in horribly vivid agony.
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