Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Towering Inferno (1974)

Magazine article American Cinematographer

The Towering Inferno (1974)

Article excerpt

The Towering Inferno (1974) Special Edition 2.35:1(16x9 Enhanced) Dolby Digital 5.1,2.0 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, $19.98

If you're Doug Roberts (Paul Newman), the shrewd architect of the world's tallest building, you don't keep an elegant lady friend (Faye Dunaway), your wealthy boss (William Holden), the mayor of San Francisco, a U.S. senator and more than a hundred other important guests waiting at a party on the 135th floor of your latest creation unless it's really important. What the guests are at first blissfully unaware of as they dine and dance in the glittering Promenade Room is that Roberts is desperately trying to contain an electrical fire on the 81 st floor of the building. Within a few short hours, the skyscraper turns into a furnace of hazards for those inside, and the partiers on the top floor find themselves in a veritable deathtrap. With the help of crackerjack fire chief O'Hallorhan (Steve McQueen) and his army of firefighters, who struggle through a maelstrom of fireballs, gas leaks and explosions, Roberts and others all risk their lives to escape The Towering Inferno.

Following his immensely popular disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure, producer Irwin Alien went full steam ahead with what would prove to be his crowning achievement. The Academy Award-winning, spectacularly sadistic and compulsively absorbing Towering Inferno called for twice the effort of Poseidon on every level. In an unusual move, two studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., agreed to collaborate on the picture because each owned movie rights to similarly themed novels. Alien himself directed the film's groundbreaking action sequences, while John Guillermin directed the dramatic scenes.

Two excellent cinematographers, both of whom were later honored with ASC Lifetime Achievement Awards, were brought onboard: Fred J. Koenekamp, ASC (Patton) worked with Guillermin, while Joseph Biroc, ASC (Ulzanas Raid] photographed Alien's action sequences. Both cameramen collaborated closely; once Koenekamp finished with a set, Biroc arrived with matches. The two also worked with several other units, notably the specialeffects and miniature crew headed by Bill Abbott, ASC, that were simultaneously shooting on the epic project. …

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