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 CONCORDE…AIRPORT ’79 (1979)

THE CONCORDE … AIRPORT ’79 (1979, USA, 113m, PG)
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. David Lowell Rich; w. Eric Roth (based on a story by Jenning Lang); pr. Jennings Lang; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 1.85:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Dorothy Spencer; pd. Henry Bumstead.
cast: Alain Delon (Capt. Paul Metrand), Susan Blakely (Maggie Whelan), Robert Wagner (Dr. Kevin Harrison), Sylvia Kristel (Isabelle), George Kennedy (Capt. Joe Patroni), Eddie Albert (Eli Sands), Bibi Andersson (Francine), Charo (Margarita), John Davidson (Robert Palmer), Andrea Marcovicci (Alicia Rogov), Martha Raye (Loretta), Cicely Tyson (Elaine), Jimmie Walker (Boisie), David Warner (Peter O’Neill), Mercedes McCambridge (Nelli), Avery Schreiber (Coach Markov), Sybil Danning (Amy), Monica Lewis (Gretchen), Nicolas Coster (Dr. Stone), Robin Gammell (William Halpern).
Based on a story by Jennings Lang read the titles. Lang executive produced the previous films in the series and this is his only writing credit during his long movie career. It would be interesting to know at what point screenplay writer Roth and director Lowell Rich realised they had signed on to such a turkey. Journalist Blakely discovers that her married boyfriend, Wagner, heads a company that is involved in illegal arms sales. To stop her from going public, Wagner decides to bring down the Concorde she is taking from Washington to Moscow via Paris. Pilots Delon and Kennedy, this time in a starring role returning as Joe Patroni, to keep the plane in the air. The preposterous premise plays out even more ludicrously on screen with appalling dialogue and it is hard to determine the unintended from any intended laughs. The earlier entries in the series may have been hokey at times but each had its moments of suspense and drama. This fourth film is poorly assembled and an embarrassment for many of the actors. All this said the film is never boring, as you find yourself laughing at it too much, and therefore not totally wretched. Raye’s final feature film. TV versions run to 132m and incredibly 176m.

Film Review – THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (TV) (1972)

The Streets of San Francisco: The Pilot | Not The Baseball PitcherTHE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (TV) (1972, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery
dist. American Broadcasting Company (ABC); pr co. Quinn Martin Productions (QM) / Warner Bros. Television; d. Walter Grauman; w. Edward Hume (based on the novel “Poor, Poor Ophelia” by Carolyn Weston); exec pr. Quinn Martin; pr. Arthur Fellows, Adrian Samish; ass pr. Howard P. Alston; ph. William W. Spencer (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Patrick Williams; m sup. John Elizalde; ed. Richard K. Brockway; ad. Richard Y. Haman; set d. Hoyle Barrett; cos. Edward McDermott, Paula Giokaris; m/up. Don Schoenfeld, Annabell Levy; sd. Ray Barons, Bill Phillips (Mono); rel. 16 September 1972 (USA), 19 November 1973 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Karl Malden (Detective Lt. Mike Stone), Robert Wagner (David J. Farr), Michael Douglas (Inspector Steve Keller), Andrew Duggan (Capt. A.R. Malone), Tom Bosley (Saretti), John Rubinstein (Lindy), Carmen Mathews (Sally Caswell), Edward Andrews (Joe Caswell), Lawrence Dobkin (Gregory Praxas), Kim Darby (Holly Jean Berry), Brad David (Del Berry), Mako (Kenji), Naomi Stevens (Mrs. Saretti), Lou Frizzell (Lou), Bill Quinn (Medical Examiner), Richard Brian Harris (Auto Mechanic), William Swan (Larry Pyle), Victor Millan (Tony – Detective), June Vincent (Diana), Robert Mandan (Dockmaster).

SFPD Detective Lieutenant Michael Stone (Malden) is partnered with a young college-educated Inspector, Steven Keller (Douglas), as they investigate a girl found dead in the water with a lawyer (Wagner) she knew as the primary suspect. Introductory film for the TV series that ran for five seasons from 1972-7. The film benefits from extensive location work and the instant chemistry between leads Malden and Douglas. The mystery is adapted from a novel by Carolyn Weston, which featured different lead characters. Wagner is the chief suspect as the slimy lawyer who became involved with the dead girl (played in flashback by Darby). Dobkin also gives a notable performance as an eccentric former movie star. The material is handled a little flatly by Graumann but is tightly edited and contains a memorable theme from composer Williams. Followed twenty years later by BACK TO THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO (1992).

Film Review – BROKEN LANCE (1954)

Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, and Jean Peters in Broken Lance (1954)BROKEN LANCE (USA, 1954) ****
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: 20th Century Fox; Release Date: 29 July 1954 (USA), 11 November 1954 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 March 1954 –1 May 1954; Running Time: 96m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (35 mm optical prints) | 4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Edward Dmytryk; Writer: Richard Murphy (based on a story by Philip Yordan); Executive Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (uncredited); Producer: Sol C. Siegel; Director of Photography: Joseph MacDonald; Music Composer: Leigh Harline; Film Editor: Dorothy Spencer; Art Director: Maurice Ransford, Lyle R. Wheeler; Set Decorator: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Travilla; Make-up: Ben Nye, Helen Turpin; Sound: W.D. Flick, Roger Heman Sr.
      Cast: Spencer Tracy (Matt Devereaux), Robert Wagner (Joe Devereaux), Jean Peters (Barbara), Richard Widmark (Ben Devereaux), Katy Jurado (Señora Devereaux), Hugh O’Brian (Mike Devereaux), Eduard Franz (Two Moons), Earl Holliman (Denny Devereaux), E.G. Marshall (Horace – The Governor), Carl Benton Reid (Clem Lawton), Philip Ober (Van Cleve), Robert Burton (Mac Andrews).
      Synopsis: The saga of the Devereaux rancher family, set in 1880’s Arizona.
      Comment: A well-made Western that is buoyed by a strong cast and a story that, whilst a familiar tale of familial rivalry, remains absorbing throughout. Tracy is superb as the patriarch rancher tough on his sons and those who seek to profit from his land. Jurado gives a subtle supporting performance as his Indian wife, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Wagner and Widmark slug it out with gusto. It’s all captured in vivid cinemascope by MacDonald with a sympathetic score by Harline. Notable for its plot similarities to King Lear amongst other work. It is the second of three movies written by screenwriter Yordan (who won an Oscar here for Best Story), based on the novel, “I’ll Never Go Home Again,” by Jerome Weidman. The other two were HOUSE OF STRANGERS (1949), with Edward G. Robinson, and THE BIG SHOW(1961) with Esther Williams and Cliff Robertson.

Film Review – HARPER (1966)

Image result for harper 1966HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
      Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
      Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
      Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.

Film Review – THE LONGEST DAY (1962)

Image result for the longest day 1962Longest Day, The (1962; USA; B&W; 178m) ****½  d. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki; w. Cornelius Ryan, Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon; ph. Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz; m. Maurice Jarre.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Curt Jurgens, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Richard Todd, Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Edmond O’Brien, Gert Frobe, Kenneth More, Red Buttons, Steve Forrest, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Leslie Phillips, George Segal, Peter van Eyck, Stuart Whitman, Frank Finlay, Jack Hedley. The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view. Like the event itself this is a triumph of logistics in its attempt to recreate the seminal invasion of 6 June 1944. Crisply photographed in black and white this may have its fair share of genre cliches, but its strive for authenticity is admirable. It proved to be the inspiration for a number of similar WWII recreations during the 1960s and 1970s., but none bettered this efficiently marshalled all-star movie. Won Oscars for Cinematography and Special Effects (Robert MacDonald, Jacques Maumont). Todd was himself in Normandy on D-Day Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. There is also a digitally remastered colourised version of the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979)

Image result for airport 79Concorde … Airport ’79, The (1979; USA; Technicolor; 113m) *  d. David Lowell Rich; w. Eric Roth, Jennings Lang; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Alain Delon, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, George Kennedy, Sylvia Kristel, Eddie Albert, Bibi Andersson, Charo, Martha Raye, Cicely Tyson, John Davidson, Andrea Marcovicci, Jimmie Walker, David Warner, Mercedes McCambridge. This film is the last of the AIRPORT genre which stars Kennedy who has to contend with nuclear missiles, the French Air Force and the threat of the plane splitting in two over the Alps! Nonsensical final entry in the series is dragged down by preposterous scenario, risible and often embarrassing dialogue and wooden performances. The series was laid to rest with this one. The film reached UK theatres a year later, and was renamed upon its release there. Raye’s final feature film. [PG]