Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1974. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Warner Bros., Irwin Allen Productions. Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, based on the novels The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia, Frank M. Robinson, and The Tower by Richard Martin Stern. Cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp. Produced by Irwin Allen. Music by John Williams. Production Design by William J. Creber. Costume Design by Paul Zastupnevich. Film Editing by Carl Kress, Harold F. Kress. Academy Awards 1974. Golden Globe Awards 1974.
An enormous skyscraper made entirely of glass and featuring every possible modern convenience is built in San Francisco (prime earthquake territory, by the way) and its owner (William Holden) and architect (Paul Newman) are preparing for its grand opening gala. Holden left the building’s electrical wiring to his snotty son-in-law (Richard Chamberlain in full-tilt sniveling villain mode), so the fire that breaks out on one floor quickly turns the entire building into a giant roman candle that threatens the lives of hundreds of residents and the many partygoers on the top floor (which include the mayor, his wife and a gorgeous Faye Dunaway). Irwin Allen’s near three-hour disaster extravaganza is his most successful and admired of all the films of the type he treated blockbuster audiences to in the seventies, featuring two megastars in the leads (Steve McQueen plays the chief of the fire brigade) and suffering no expense to be spared on visuals (excellent special effects, stunt work and gorgeous production design). It is a ridiculous indulgence, pure soap opera with a physical crisis at its core, and incredibly entertaining despite how insipid the writing is. Jennifer Jones appears in a rare late-life role as one of the residents with one of the most memorable scenes of the film.