A two disc set that will give viewers the complete experience of making this movie.
I think they should have cut the 30 deleted/extended scenes into the movie regardless of the condition of the assets.
All I can say is that I had heard about The Towering Inferno all my life, but I had not seen it until I was given the DVD to review. Having been a fan of other things produced by Irwin Allen (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and the Time Tunnel among others), I had the idea that this movie was going to be very well done. In no way, shape or form did this movie ever disappoint. In fact, clocking in at 164 minutes, this is a solidly layered film that manages to introduce and make us care about a wide assortment of characters.
From the beginning of the film we know something is off when Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) seemingly wants nothing to do with the new building he's helped create. Then a small fire starts and we see how this escalates but the building is so high, and there is a huge party happening to commemorate it, that the powers that be don't see it as anything that should stop the festivities. Well, as you can guess things get much worse and we are treated to many moments of hand wringing suspense before the films final, fantastic denouement.
There are basically three commentary tracks for The Towering Inferno. One covers the entire film by film historian F.X. Feeney. When Feeney discusses the actually history of the movie, providing anecdotes and stories about the scenes, he is perfect. When he is trying to describe the film (especially what we are seeing on screen), I found myself looking for the fast forward button.
The other commentary tracks are scene specific and they are done separately by Mike Vezina (Special Effects director on X-Men: The Last Stand) and Branko Racki (Stunt Coordinator on The Day After Tomorrow). They will take a scene of someone getting burned and falling to their death, and very simply break down how the effect was achieved. All in all pretty interesting stuff and since this movie is a good mix of effects and exposition, I don't mind that the commentary's only scene specific.
With titles like "Inside the Tower: We Remember" and "Running On Fire" these nine featurettes, in my opinion, only represent about half of what this richly filled special edition has to offer. We find out about many aspects of the film's production, how effects were pulled off and their is even a featurette devoted to the screenwriter Stirling Silliphant. Some very top notch stuff here that never seems redundant.
30 Extended and Deleted Scenes
It is almost as if there is a whole other film they could have released that further extrapolates on all the characters. These scenes are culled from a TV broadcast, I guess the original negative wasn't good enough quality wise, so they seem to have been blown up and letterboxed to have the look of the locked picture. Honestly, I think they should have bit the bullet and left these in the film as is.
AMC Backstory: The Towering Inferno
These "AMC Backstory" pieces are some of the most well done featurettes I have ever seen. Put together in an almost MTV-like way, they are at once historical, entertaining and highly engaging. We find out the film's origins but we also come to understand what it was like making this movie. This isn't a puff piece where everyone sits around saying how great everyone else is and because of that it's nothing short of fascinating.
Storyboard to Film Comparisons
There are six comparisons on this disc. Rather than show the footage of the film side by side with the storyboards, we see the footage of the film mixed in with the storyboard. I like this approach better as I think it's more fluid and lets you actually compare the shots, but I don't know how necessary this is on any DVD.
Vintage Promo Materials
This section of the DVD is a treasure trove all by itself. It not only has old featurettes but it also features a NATO featurette on the making of the film, as well as an insightful and full bodied interview with the great Irwin Allen. This man was literally the James Cameron of his day and this interview is broken up into subjects pertaining to the film. Very good stuff that doesn't overlap with the other material, I found.
3 Articles from American Cinematographer
Okay, why do they put these on here? Does anybody really read articles from a magazine on their TV screen? Even if I would have had a bigger screen to view these articles on, I still don't think I would have read them on my TV screen. Also, it seems like if someone was interested in reading them, they could very simply go online and print them of their computer.
These are still photo galleries covering shot composition, publicity, behind the scenes, conceptual sketches and costumes. I skipped around through these mainly because there are so many and there is such a wealth of pictures to look at. I am a huge fan of the look from that time and I really got into what these designers achieved with these sketches and photos.
2.35:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen. I am assuming this movie was shot in Technicolor or some form of it. Who knows? Maybe a solid transfer is what accounts for how terrific the print of this movie looks on DVD. There is no aspect of this film that doesn't look top notch. In addition to that, yes this is a movie from 1974 but I really think that the effects are incredible. This film could go head to head with anything coming from the studios today.
Dolby Digital - English 4.0 Dolby Surround - Spanish Mono - Subtitled in English and Spanish. Close Captioned. As much of a disaster movie as this is, I never found the sound to be so big and large that it was intrusive. Maybe in a movie theater I would have noticed more of the audio components, but I really liked that everything seemed to know it's place. This is a very ambitious film but everything that was done (both with the audio and the visuals), seems like it was done in the service of the story and not just because it could be done.
The case of this DVD is housed in an artfully done front cover which gives us a downward shot of the building as it blazes to it's demise. The back features shots of all the main cast members with both their real names and what their character does. There is a description of what this movie is about, a "Special Features" listing for both discs in this two disc set and a technical specs list all laid out over a shot of the burning building. The only difference that the DVD case has is that I think the front cover contains the original poster for when this movie came out theatrically.
Having not watched that many movies with Steve McQueen, I was very impressed by his portrayal as Fire Chief O' Hallorhan. In fact, there is such an aura of believability with all the characters in this movie, that I was astounded at how much time the filmmakers devoted to developing all of this. In fact, the movie starts off and for a few minutes I was wondering where it was going and how they were going to weave all the characters with the main thread of the film. However, just like a fire itself, this film creeps along, building and building until you don't realize just how deep into the situation you are. This is a disaster film in it's finest hour.
The Towering Inferno Special Edition DVD is the only version in this format that you need to own.
The Towering Inferno was released December 14, 1974.