“Hell in the tower”, the classic catastrophe film inspired by the construction of the Twin Towers

“Hell in the tower”, the most important catastrophe film in history. Report by Santiago Garcia.

The seventies was the decade of catastrophe cinema. Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and hell in the tower (1974) formed an essential quartet to understand the genre that dominated much of the decade’s box office. Big casts, huge budgets, shocking images, all the human fears of natural or man-made catastrophes. The catastrophe cinema was not born in those years, but it reached its highest point. hell in the tower chooses to tell the story of the most ambitious skyscraper in San Francisco and how a fire that seems impossible to control breaks out.


hell in the tower (The Towering Inferno) has from its origin the grandiloquence of these productions. For the first time, two studios came together to produce the same film: 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. It stars two great stars: steve mcqueen Y Paul Newman. It is run by two directors: John William and irvin allen, the latter concentrated on the action scenes. She had two cinematographers, each with a director. And finally it is based on two novels. “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern, and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. In reality, the rights to the second were acquired so that no one could develop a similar project.

The two novels mentioned were inspired by the construction of two towers that would become an emblem of New York: Las Twin Towers. Even so, the film takes place in San Francisco. Like any catastrophe film, the entire previous part plays with melodrama. Forbidden love stories, excessive ambitions, small miseries and great ambitions that will end up being set aside when disaster strikes. Before the inauguration of the tower, a party is held for the elite of the city. The place is the ballroom, located in the highest area of ​​the building.


But due to an act of corruption on the part of the builder’s son-in-law, a failure occurs that starts a fire. Failed alarms and empty floors mean that no one solves the problem in time. The constructor, played by William Holdendoesn’t want to panic, but the building’s architect, Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) discovers the coming catastrophe. When the firefighters arrive, led by Chief Michael O’Halloran (steve mcqueen) the fire has already progressed too far, in part because security facilities are not fully operational. They must rescue the people in the ballroom and the rest of the people in the building before all hell breaks loose.

To the three mentioned stars we must add to the cast Richard Chamberlain, Faye Dunaway, Susan Blakely, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner, OJ Simpson Y fred astaire, the latter the definitive luxury of casting. The film received 8 Oscar nominations, including one for Fred Astaire and Best Picture. In the end he won three of them, best photography, montage and song, We May Never Love Like This Again. The two big stars, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen had all kinds of poster discussions, but never clashes. They each received a million dollars for their role, plus 10% of the film’s takings. If you take into account that worldwide it received 203 million dollars, it can be said that everyone was happy. Steve McQueen went four years without making another film after this one and Paul Newman said that he would never do this kind of film again. He did not comply, because in 1980 he returned to work with producer Irvin Allen in At the edge of time.


Whether they did it for love or money, the two leads shine in their roles and the cast lives up to their names. Fred Astaire plays a con man who finally shows a big heart and his role is charming. The scenes of the fire are overwhelming and the people in the rooms were moved. It has all the commonplaces of the genre and that’s why it’s also liked so much, there are no surprises here, although in 1974 the concept of the burning skyscraper was much more innovative. There are several moments of tension that are still unforgettable today, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the story.

hell in the tower It was the highest grossing film of the year 1974. Without knowing it, it was the closing of an era. The following year it would be released Shark (1975) by Steven Spielberg and box office records would skyrocket. But ironically, Spielberg’s film is also classified as a film within the catastrophe genre, only that it cost much less and raised much more, and of course it has a much more personal visual style. A dozen stars would no longer be needed and the viewers would also change.

On the other hand, skyscrapers in the style of the one that appears in hell in the tower they would no longer be an exception, but a rule, and it would not be so funny to see them on fire. As for the Twin Towers that were the inspiration for the two novels and this title, they would be demolished in a terrorist attack that would mark the history of humanity. No screenwriter would have dared to think something so terrible. hell in the tower it denounces corruption and is dedicated to those who fight fire, but at the end of the day its aim is above all to create a great show for the big screen. That goal was more than achieved and that is why it became a classic.



Back to top button