The Towering Inferno Blu-ray Review
'The Towering Inferno' blazes on to Blu-ray with a very good Region A locked, 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer that faithfully reproduces the movie's widescreen 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio. The film is pin sharp throughout but there's no evidence of the over zealous application of the sharpening tool. The film was shot with a shallow depth of field and this has not been lost in the transfer as the focus is firmly on the stars. Colours are richly saturated, with skin tones benefiting from a slightly rosy hue on occasion, but in general they have that Hollywood tan look. Contrast is very good throughout although occasionally blacks aren't as black as they could be, which in some scenes is down to the smoke in the air and not the transfer. Here we have a very filmic image complete with a fine veil of grain to remind us of its source. Don't be put off by the opening title sequence of the helicopter in flight as the optical title compositing has added to the grain. Once you're out of the main titles it soon settles down. In general, a transfer that's pleasing to the eye.
'The Towering Inferno' crackles alight with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 channel mix which isn't so enveloping as a modern day Special Effects laden extravaganza, but it's still very good indeed. A great deal of the sonic action is front weighted with nice, clear dialogue being delivered among the devastation. Strangely for a movie of this type, the rears come to life with John Williams' Oscar-nominated score and the occasional ambient effect like the sound of Fire Engine sirens. The subwoofer is fed some bass rumble to add threat to the proceedings but apart from that there's not much for it to do. This may well be due to the age and quality of the original elements but I suspect that it may have had more to do with the dubbing mixer wishing to maintain a faithful representation of the original sound.
- Audio Commentaries
The disc includes three commentary tracks that focus on different aspects of the production. It would have been nice to have had someone who actually worked on the picture do a comm. track, but as it was made 35 years ago they'll be thin on the ground. The main movie commentary comes from film historian F. X. Feeney who spends a great deal of time telling us exactly what we're seeing on-screen, which becomes somewhat mind numbing fairly quickly. Any useful information he does impart can also be found in the featurettes on the disc. Modern day movie effects coordinator Mike Vezina (X-men:The Last Stand) supplies commentary for eight sequences from the film with impressive fire or water effects and takes his best guess at how they might have been accomplished while also describing what we're seeing on-screen. Stunt coordinator Branko Racki (The Day After Tomorrow) chooses nine stunt-intensive scenes to explain his views of the difficulty and suggesting how each might have been accomplished.
- 'Inside the Tower: We Remember' (SD, 8 mins)
This featurette has co-stars Susan Blakely, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Vaughn, and Susan Flannery speaking about their experiences making the movie.
- 'Innovating Tower: The SPFX of an Inferno' (SD, 7 mins)
This short featurette contains interviews with the special effects craftsmen who contributed to the film's impressive effects work while Mike Vezina provides links and tributes to the work of Bill Abbott, the movie's Special Effects Cameraman.
- 'The Art of Towering' (SD, 5 mins)
This short has the movie's three production illustrators explaining the storyboarding process by showing production sketches and storyboards for the film together with final footage.
- 'Irwin Allen: The Great Producer' (SD, 6 mins)
Here we have a very nice, albeit short, tribute to the movie's producer featuring stars from both 'The Towering Inferno' and 'The Poseidon Adventure ' who all have good things to say about him, but not his hairstyle.
- 'Directing the Inferno' (SD, 4 mins)
This short piece focuses on the extent of each of the two directors' input on the final product. Basically Irwin Allen's action sequence direction accounted for 45% of the film while John Guillermin directed the 'acting' balance.
- 'Putting Out Fire' (SD, 5 mins)
This mini-featurette consists of an interview with technical advisor Peter Lucarelli about the safety precautions used during the filming of the fire sequences.
- 'Running on Fire' (SD, 6 mins)
Here we find out just how much of the stunt work was done by the stars (not a lot really) and their doubles (quite a lot) as well as the wide range of stunts involved.
- 'Still the World's Tallest Building' (SD, 8 mins)
Architects from around the world discuss construction techniques, the tallest real life structures and compare them to The Glass Tower in the movie.
- 'The Writer: Stirling Silliphant' (SD, 9 mins)
Here we have a short biography on the life and career of the film's Oscar-winning screenwriter.
- 'AMC Back story: The Towering Inferno' (SD, 22 mins)
This is a fairly comprehensive, well made documentary from 2001 for the American Movie Classics channel offering some background information as well as interviews with the cast and crew of the film.
It's the closest we get to a chunky production featurette and is probably the most interesting.
- Deleted/Extended scenes (SD, 44 mins)
Here we have 33 (count 'em) deleted/extended scenes which may be viewed individually or as one 'play all' group. The movie was long enough at 165 mins, so let's not go adding to its length.
The kind of moviegoer articles that would have hooked you at the time can be stepped through complete with illustrations and sidebar interviews: “The Towering Inferno and How It Was Filmed,” “Photographing the Dramatic Sequences for The Towering Inferno,” and “Action Unit Lives Up to Its Name While Shooting The Towering Inferno.”
We also get another five step through galleries with shot composition, publicity, behind-the-scenes, concept sketches, and costume designs as the five areas covered by photos and drawings.
There are also six storyboard comparisons with action scenes from the movie shown in adjacent windows.
- Vintage Promotion
As if we haven't had enough extras already, we're presented with two theatrical trailers for 'The Towering Inferno' and one for 'The Poseidon Adventure', a NATO Presentation Reel (11 minutes) that showcases the upcoming blockbuster release, an interview from 1977 with producer Irwin Allen in which he answers a raft of journo's questions, and two 1974 featurettes on the movie showing behind-the-scenes footage and brief clips from some of the action sequences.
Winner of 3 Academy Awards, 'The Towering Inferno' explodes on to Blu-ray with a very good 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer that's framed handsomely at 2.35:1. It's sharp throughout with great colour saturation and there's no visible ringing or DNR side effects to worry about in this truly filmic presentation. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track might not be up to the same immersive standards as a recent movie, but the centre channel locked dialogue is crisp and clear while ambient effects as well as the John Williams score enliven the surrounds. We have extras by the fire truck load including 9 featurettes, to gladden the hearts of movie buffs. The movie itself is an effects laden extravaganza in the old school tradition that leaves the audience feeling satisfied with their star studded rollercoaster ride.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.69
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.
- Audio Commentaries