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 SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)

SONG OF BERNADETTE, THE (1943, USA) ****
Biography, Drama

dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox; d. Henry King; w. George Seaton (based on the novel by Franz Werfel); pr. William Perlberg; ph. Arthur C. Miller (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Alfred Newman; ed. Barbara McLean; ad. James Basevi, William S. Darling; set d. Thomas Little; cos. René Hubert; m/up. Guy Pearce; sd. Alfred Bruzlin, Roger Heman Sr. (Mono (Western Electric Recording)); vfx. Fred Sersen; rel. 21 December 1943 (USA); cert: U; r/t. 156m.

cast: Jennifer Jones (Bernadette), William Eythe (Antoine Nicolau), Charles Bickford (Father Peyramale), Vincent Price (Prosecutor Vital Dutour), Lee J. Cobb (Dr. Dozous), Gladys Cooper (Sister Marie Therese Vauzous), Anne Revere (Louise Soubirous), Roman Bohnen (François Soubirous), Mary Anderson (Jeanne Abadie), Patricia Morison (Empress Eugenie), Aubrey Mather (Mayor Lacade), Charles Dingle (Jacomet), Edith Barrett (Croisine Bouhouhorts), Sig Ruman (Louis Bouriette), Blanche Yurka (Aunt Bernarde Casterot), Ermadean Walters (Marie Soubirous), Marcel Dalio (Callet), Pedro de Cordoba (Dr. LeCramps), Jerome Cowan (Emperor Louis Napoleon III).

Based on the popular novel by Franz Werfel, this drama focuses on Bernadette Soubirous (Jones), a young French woman who experiences vivid visions of the Virgin Mary. While many dismiss her claims, certain people, including the priest Dominique Peyramale (Bickford), slowly begin to believe her. Eventually, Bernadette is deemed a saint, and becomes a nun at a convent, where she must deal with jealousy from others who resent her revered status. An earnest adaptation that nails its colours to the mast from its prologue. The deeply religious tale is played out at great length, perhaps overlength. The production, however, is very strong with King’s direction giving encouragement for an exceptional cast to deliver consistently excellent performances. Jones’ wide-eyed innocence perfectly embodies Bernadette’s voyage of discovery. Revere as her mother conveys the emotional turmoil of a woman torn between her familial struggles and the love of her daughter. Price is restrained and almost sympathetic as the cynical politician, whilst Bickford is sturdy as the priest who is initially sceptical of Bernadette’s claims. Technical attributes are also top-notch with Miller’s photography making the most of the production design and Newman’s score evocatively complementing the unfolding drama. Linda Darnell appears uncredited as the Virgin Mary.

AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Arthur C. Miller); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (James Basevi, William S. Darling, Thomas Little)’; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Alfred Newman)
AAN: Best Picture; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Charles Bickford); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gladys Cooper); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere); Best Director (Henry King); Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton); Best Sound, Recording (Edmund H. Hansen (20th Century-Fox SSD)); Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean)