Film Review – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)

THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974, USA, 165m, 15) ****
Action, Drama
dist. Twentieth Century Fox (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Warner Bros. / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Irwin Allen Productions; d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant (based on the novels “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson); pr. Irwin Allen; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp (DeLuxe | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm version)); m. John Williams; ed. Carl Kress, Harold F. Kress; pd. William J. Creber; ad. Ward Preston.
cast: Steve McQueen (Chief O’Halloran), Paul Newman (Doug Roberts), William Holden (Jim Duncan), Faye Dunaway (Susan), Fred Astaire (Harlee Claiborne), Susan Blakely (Patty), Richard Chamberlain (Simmons), Jennifer Jones (Lisolette), O.J. Simpson (Jernigan), Robert Vaughn (Senator Parker), Robert Wagner (Dan Bigelow), Susan Flannery (Lorrie), Sheila Allen (Paula Ramsay (as Sheila Mathews)), Norman Burton (Giddings), Jack Collins (Mayor Ramsay), Don Gordon (Kappy), Felton Perry (Scott), Gregory Sierra (Carlos), Ernie F. Orsatti (Mark Powers), Dabney Coleman (Deputy Chief #1).
A fire breaks out in a state-of-the-art San Francisco high-rise building during the opening ceremony attended by a host of A-list guests. McQueen plays the overworked fire chief who along with the building’s architect (Newman) struggles to save lives and subdue panic while a corrupt, cost-cutting contractor (Chamberlain), son-in-law to builder Holden, tries to duck responsibility for the shortcuts he took that caused the disaster. Guillermin sustains the tension throughout this big production disaster movie, which along with producer Irwin Allen’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, is the best example of the 1970s disaster genre and needed the funding of two studios- Fox and Warner. A stellar cast – led by Newman and McQueen – adds considerably to the familiar elements. The photography and production values are first-rate and are enhanced by an excellent grandiose score from Williams. The action sequences, directed by Irwin Allen and photographed by Joseph F.Biroc, are effectively staged. It was Jennifer Jones’s final film.
AA: Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp, Joseph F. Biroc); Best Film Editing (Harold F. Kress, Carl Kress); Best Music, Original Song (Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn for the song “We May Never Love Like This Again”)
AAN: Best Picture (Irwin Allen); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Fred Astaire); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (William J. Creber, Ward Preston, Raphael Bretton); Best Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Herman Lewis); Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams)

Film Review – THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972, USA, 117m, PG) ****
Action, Adventure
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox / Irwin Allen Productions / Kent Productions ; d. Ronald Neame; w. Stirling Silliphant, Wendell Mayes (based on the novel by Paul Gallico); pr. Irwin Allen; ph. Harold E. Stine (DeLuxe | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm prints)); m. John Williams; ed. Harold F. Kress; pd. William J. Creber.
cast: Gene Hackman (Reverend Scott), Ernest Borgnine (Mike Rogo), Red Buttons (James Martin), Carol Lynley (Nonnie Parry), Roddy McDowall (Acres), Stella Stevens (Linda Rogo), Shelley Winters (Belle Rosen), Jack Albertson (Manny Rosen), Pamela Sue Martin (Susan Shelby), Arthur O’Connell (Chaplain), Leslie Nielsen (Captain Harrison), Eric Shea (Robin), Fred Sadoff (Linarcos), Sheila Allen (Nurse (as Sheila Mathews)), Jan Arvan (Doctor Caravello), Byron Webster (Purser), John Crawford (Chief Engineer), Bob Hastings (M. C.), Erik L. Nelson (Mr. Tinkham).
Ocean bound from New York City to Greece on New Year’s Eve, the luxury passenger ship the S.S. Poseidon is capsized by a tidal wave. With the captain (Nielsen) dead, a group of surviving passengers, led by the passionate clergyman (Hackman), struggle through numerous obstacles and a labyrinth of ladders and tunnels in a desperate attempt to reach the surface through the ship’s hull. Following 1970s AIRPORT, this was the movie that set the benchmark for the disaster cycle of the 1970s and made Irwin Allen the king of the blockbuster. The impressive all-star ensemble cast ensures investment in the characters as well as the spectacle. Hackman and Borgnine (as a former cop) are particularly impressive in their antagonistic roles, Whilst Stevens has fun as Borgnine’s reformed hooker wife. Winters gained weight, which is thoughtlessly referenced on numerous occasions by other characters, specifically for her role. Excellent production design and tight direction by Neame help make this an exciting and tense affair. Followed by BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1979) and remade for TV in 2005 and again for theatrical release as POSEIDON in 2006.
AA: Best Music, Original Song (Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn for the song “The Morning After”); Special Achievement Award for visual effects (L.B. Abbott, A.D. Flowers).
AAN: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Shelley Winters); Best Cinematography (Harold E. Stine); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (William J. Creber, Raphael Bretton); Best Costume Design (Paul Zastupnevich); Best Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Herman Lewis); Best Film Editing (Harold F. Kress); Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams).

Film Review – VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1961)

Image result for voyage to the bottom of the sea 1961VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (USA, 1961) ***
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Irwin Allen Productions (as Windsor Productions); Release Date: 12 July 1961; Filming Dates: 25 January 1961 – April 1961; Running Time: 105m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Irwin Allen; Writer: Irwin Allen, Charles Bennett (based on a story by Irwin Allen); Producer: Irwin Allen; Director of Photography: Winton C. Hoch; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter; Film Editor: George Boemler; Production Designer: ; Art Director: Herman A. Blumenthal, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Walter M. Scott, John Sturtevant; Costumes: Paul Zastupnevich; Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: Alfred Bruzlin, Warren B. Delaplain; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese (uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott.
      Cast: Walter Pidgeon (Adm. Harriman Nelson), Joan Fontaine (Dr. Susan Hiller), Barbara Eden (Lt Cathy Connors), Peter Lorre (Comm. Lucius Emery), Robert Sterling (Capt. Lee Crane), Michael Ansara (Miguel Alvarez), Frankie Avalon (Lt (j.g.) Danny Romano), Regis Toomey (Dr. Jamieson), John Litel (Vice-Adm. B.J. Crawford), Howard McNear (Congressman Llewellyn Parker), Henry Daniell (Dr. Zucco), Skip Ward (Crew member), Mark Slade (Seaman Jimmy ‘Red’ Smith), Charles Tannen (CPO Gleason), Del Monroe (Seaman Kowski), Anthony Monaco (Cookie), Michael Ford (Crew member), Robert Easton (Sparks), Jonathan Gilmore (Seaman George Young).
      Synopsis: An Admiral takes a brand new atomic submarine through its paces. When the Van Allen radiation belt catches fire, the admiral must find a way to beat the heat or watch the world go up in smoke.
      Comment: Enjoyable bit of nonsense which became one of its producer’s most successful ventures. Pidgeon is a few levels above the material and his dignified performance keeps you believing in the fantastical events that are unfolding. The topic of global catastrophe triggered by man’s ability to pollute the planet has gained in significance over the years with the debates on global warming.  As such much of this tale will resonate with modern audiences. The script, however, lacks sufficient depth to make the most of these potential messages. There is kids adventure stuff too with one of the underwater sequences involving struggles with a giant octopus. The film was successful enough for Allen to transition it toTV.
      Notes: Song: “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” music and lyrics by Russell Faith. Followed by a TV series (1964-8). This story was remade as an episode of the TV series “The Sky’s on Fire” (season 2, episode 18) broadcast on 23 January 1966.