The Infernal Tower

The Towering Inferno ( The Towering Inferno ) is a disaster film American directed by John Guillermin and Irwin Allen , released in 1974 .

Devoting the genre film disaster after the triumph of Poseidon’s Adventure (1972), The Infernal Tower is the most striking example of its time, both by its colossal means (two major studios, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures being exceptionally associated) only by the realism of its special effects. To date, no more prestigious distribution has been gathered since the two main actors (then the highest paid in the world) Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, the film is joined by no less than twelve major stars, all in major roles. In addition, the film was the subject of a second dubbed in French a few years later.

Symbolically translating a sociological malaise peculiar to the 1970s , the film and the other similar works that followed, will constitute a valuable vein until Airport 80 Concorde(1979) and another production of Irwin Allen: The Day of the end of the world (1980) also with Paul Newman and William Holden . However, as the film industry is “cyclical”, disaster films are produced at different periods ( Daylight with Sylvester Stallone for example in 1996, etc.).


Douglas “Doug” Roberts, architect , returns to San Francisco for the inauguration of the largest skyscraper in the world ( 550 m ) that he himself designed. Following a short circuit of overheating resulting unshielded electrical cables in an equipment room at 81 th floor whose cause is an insufficiently sized electrical installation for such a building (saving money on building without take into account the recommendations of the architect); a fire broke out in this technical room just when the ceremony was in full swing at the 135 th floor of the building. As the fire spreads, destroying everything in its path, Michael O’Hallorhan, colonel of firemen, tries to save the three hundred guests who found themselves trapped by the flames.

Technical sheet

  • Title: The Infernal Tower
  • Original title: The Towering Inferno
  • Director: John Guillermin , assisted by Irwin Allen (sequences of actions) [ref. necessary]
  • Scenario: Stirling Silliphant after The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson
  • Sets: William J. Creber  (en)
  • Costumes: Paul Zastupnevich  (en)
  • Photograph: Fred J. Koenekamp , Joseph F. Biroc and Jim Freeman (uncredited)
  • Editing: Carl Kress and Harold F. Kress
  • Music: John Williams , Al Kasha  (en) and Joel Hirschhorn  (en)
  • Production: Irwin Allen and Sidney Marshall  (en)
  • Production Companies: Twentieth Century Fox , Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Distribution Companies: Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. Entertainment
  • Budget: $ 14 million
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Language: English
  • Format: Colors (De Luxe) – 35 mm (Panavision) – 2,35: 1 (Cinemascope) – magnetic stereo in a few rooms
  • Genre: disaster , action , drama
  • Duration: 165 minutes
  • Main shooting locations 1 :
    • Fox Ranch, Malibu Creek State Park  (en) (external), California ( United States )
    • Fox Studios (Interiors), Los Angeles , California ( United States )
  • Release dates:
    •  United States :(first in New York ), (national release)
    •  United Kingdom :
    •  France :


Legend : Dubbing of 1975 / Redoubling of 2000

  • Steve McQueen (VF: Jacques Thébault / Herve Bellon ) : Michael O’Hallorhan, Colonel of the firefighters of the th Battalion of the San Francisco Fire Department
  • Paul Newman (VF: Marcel Bozzuffi / Patrick Floersheim ) : Douglas “Doug” Roberts, the architect of the skyscraper
  • William Holden (VF: Jean Martinelli / Bernard Woringer ) : Jim Duncan, the promoter
  • Faye Dunaway (VF: Perrette Pradier / Véronique Augereau ) : Susan Franklin, journalist and fiancée of Doug Roberts
  • Fred Astaire (VF: Claude Dauphin / Roger Carel ) : Harlee Claiborne, a little swindler
  • Susan Blakely (VF: Béatrice Delfe / Véronique Desmadryl ) : Patty Simmons, Jim Duncan’s daughter
  • Richard Chamberlain (VF: Dominique Paturel / Thierry Wermuth ) : Roger Simmons, electrical engineer and unfaithful husband of Patty
  • Jennifer Jones (VF: Monique Mélinand / Françoise Pavy ) : Lisolette Mueller, a rich widow
  • OJ Simpson (VF: Sady Rebbot / Adrien Antoine ) : Harry Jernigan, Chief of Security
  • Robert Vaughn ( Roger Rudel / Guy Chapellier ) : Senator Gary Parker
  • Robert Wagner (VF: Jean-Claude Michel / Jérôme Keen ) : Dan Bigelow, Public Relations Manager
  • Susan Flannery ( Marion Loran / Emmanuèle Bondeville ) : Lorrie, secretary and mistress of Bigelow
  • Sheila Mathews (FW: Jane Val / Nicole Evans ) : Paula Ramsay, Mayor’s wife
  • Norman Burton (VF: Jacques Deschamps / Richard Leblond ) : Will Giddings, Electrical Engineer
  • Jack Collins (VF: Georges Hubert / Gilles Brissac ) : Robert Ramsay, Mayor of San Francisco
  • Don Gordon (VF: Claude Joseph / Fabien Jacquelin ) : Kappy, fire captain
  • Felton Perry (SV: Serge Sauvion / Frédéric Popovic ) : Scott, the black firefighter
  • Gregory Sierra (VF: Éric Marchal ) : Carlos, the bartender
  • Ernie F. Orsatti FF Francis Lax / Lionel Tavera ) : Firefighter Mark Powers, colleague of Scott
  • Dabney Coleman (VF: Jean Berger ) : The First Deputy Chief
  • Norman Grabowski (VF: Michel Barbey / Pascal Casanova ) : Flaker, the Naval Air Officer
  • Ross Elliott : the second deputy chief
  • Olan Soule (VF: Gérard Férat) : Mr. Johnson
  • Carlena Gower (VF: Camille Donda ) : Angela Allbright
  • Mike Lookinland (VF: Jackie Berger ) : Phillip Allbright
  • Carol McEvoy : me Allbright, dumb and mother of Phillip and Angela
  • Scott Newman : the young firefighter caught acrophobia
  • Paul Comi : Tim, a firefighter
  • George Wallace (VF: Jean-Michel Farcy ) : Jack, the chief fire officer
  • John Crawford ( Roger Lumont / Thierry Murzeau ) : Callahan, electrical maintenance manager
  • Erik L. Nelson (VF: Philippe Dumond ) : Wes, maintenance officer
  • Patrick Culliton (VF: Jacques Richard ) : a maintenance technician
  • Elizabeth Rogers (VF: Paule Emanuele ) : The lady in the basket
  • Art Balinger (VF: Albert Augier ) : the speaker at the inauguration
  • William Bassett : the rental agent
  • Ann Leicester : a guest at the inauguration
  • William Traylor : Bill Harton, Security Officer, Harry’s colleague (uncredited)
  • Maureen McGovern : She’s the singer at the opening We’re Never Like Like Again ) (uncredited)



The script is the synthesis of two novels, The Tower by Richard Martin Stern , and The Glass Inferno , by Thomas N. Scotia and Frank M. Robinson , inspired by the construction of the World Trade Center in the early 1970s and by that could happen if a major fire broke out in a skyscraper like this. Following the success of The Poseidon Adventure , Warner bought the rights to The Tower for 390,000 US $ 2 . Eight weeks later, Irwin Allen of 20th Century Foxbuys those of The Glass Inferno forUS $ 400,000 2 . To prevent the two films from competing at the box office, the two production companies team up to make a single film and each pay half of the production costs. They sign a contract giving the Fox the proceeds of the film in the United States and the Warner those from the rest of the world.

Writer Stirling Silliphant merges the two novels to create the script. The name of the building, the “Glass Tower” , is a combination of the two titles of the novels.


Irwin Allen first wanted to give the role of the architect to Steve McQueen . He insisted on obtaining that of the fire chief. The role of Lisolette Mueller was first offered to Olivia de Havilland . It was Jennifer Jones who got it. This was her last film role: after her daughter’s suicide in 1976, she left the cinema to devote herself to psychology, creating the Jennifer Jones Simon Foundation for Mental Health and Education .

Steve McQueen and Paul Newman , while maintaining a friendly rivalry, had always considered making a film together without achieving it until then. After the failure of their collaboration with Butch Cassidy and the Kid in 1969 ( Robert Redford will eventually play the role of McQueen), reaching out to them in this big-budget disaster movie took a long time to negotiate.

Steve McQueen , who still had the memory of Paul Newman , the 1956 star of Marked by Hate , while he was a modest figure, made no concessions. He demanded to have the same number of lines of dialogue in the scenario and that his name is most prominently on the poster.

For his role as Chief O’Halloran, Steve McQueen is following a two-week training course with real professionals. In May 1974, there was a fire at the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios and McQueen was the only civilian to volunteer to help a hundred firefighters who participated in the intervention.

McQueen finds former partners in his films such as Faye Dunaway (in The Thomas Crown Affair ), Robert Vaughn (in The Seven Mercenaries and Bullitt ), Robert Wagner (in The Man Who Loved War ) and Don Gordon (in Bullitt and Butterfly ).


The shooting took place from May 9 to September 11, 1974. The building used in the film is actually a series of models in miniature. Only the sections of the building used by the actors are real. The Tower Lift at The Infernal Tower is one of those at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco .

Steve McQueen and Paul Newman do most of their stunts in the movie. It is notably Newman, among others, who goes down and climbs himself the staircase torn by the explosion.

Between takes, the actors receive visits from the public. If Steve McQueen forbids people to approach him, Faye Dunaway hosts, on the other hand, an army of fans.

The producers thanked the fire departments, the fire brigades and their reciprocal leaders Keith P.Calden and Raymond M.Hill of the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles for the following credits: ” To those who give their lives that other might live, to the fire fighters of the world, this picture is gratefully dedicated . » 3


Box office

With $ 116 million in revenue, the film is the second success of the year 1974 in the United States , and remained in 2013 ranked 54 th place of the greatest American success of all time, taking into account the inflation (constant dollars, or ” adjusted “), with a revenue of $ 494,074,000. In France , it’s the biggest hit of 1975, with a total of 4,466,376 entries, including 765,477 in Paris and its suburbs (162 494 entries in the st week in Paris) 4 .

Influences of the film

Before their famous Is there a pilot on the plane? (1980), which will defeat all the cliches of the disaster film, the trio Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker had already made a first parody more directly aimed at The Infernal Tower : it is the sketch ” This is Armagedon ” from from their comic anthology Hamburger film sandwich , made in 1977 by John Landis . George Lazenby was ironically “in the role of the architect” and Donald Sutherland “in that of the clumsy waiter”.



  • Oscars 1975 :
    • Best photography for Fred J. Koenekamp
    • Best Editing for Carl Kress and Harold F. Kress
    • Best Song Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn ( We May Never Love Like This Again )
  • Golden Globes 1975 :
    • Best Supporting Actor for Fred Astaire
    • Female Revelation of the Year for Susan Flannery
  • BAFTA Awards 1976 :
    • Best Actor in a Secondary Role for Fred Astaire
    • Best Movie Music for John Williams
  • David di Donatello of the best foreign film in 1975
  • Kinema Junpo Awards 1976: Best foreign film award


  • Oscars 1975 :
    • Best movie for Irwin Allen
    • Best Supporting Actor for Fred Astaire
    • Best Artistic Director for William J. Creber, Ward Preston and Raphael Bretton.
    • Best Movie Music for John Williams
    • Best sound for Theodore Soderberg and Herman Lewis

Notes and references

  1. ↑  [ archive ]
  2. ↑ a and b Trivia ”  [ archive ] , on TCMMDB (accessed November 10, 2013 )
  3. ↑ “To those who offer their lives so that others can live, to the fighters of the fire of the world, this film is dedicated with gratitude”.
  4. ↑ ” The Infernal Tower ”  [ archive ] , on JP’s Box-Office  [ archive ]

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