On the occasion of the dedication of the world's tallest skyscraper (which I for one would never consider building in earthquake-prone San Francisco, by the way), an A-list party is planned for the top floor. This way to the glass-enclosed elevator, please. Architect Doug Roberts (Newman) and builder Jim Duncan (William Holden) are proud, but they don't know that Duncan's cost-cutting son-in-law (Richard Chamberlain) has compromised safety for profit. Sure enough, when a small fire breaks out, things go really bad really fast, and firemen Michael O'Halloran (McQueen) and Harry Jernigan (Simpson) arrive on the scene holding their hoses.
Several action threads unspool. Newman has to save some kids in a stairwell, a crowd is trapped in one of the glass elevators, the partygoers begin to panic, O.J. saves the cat, and the bad guy has to be exposed. With so much going on, the whole enterprise might descend into chaos (which is what happens to Earthquake), but here the plots weave nicely. All the drama eventually points to McQueen and Newman as they devise a daring plan involving two million gallons of water as their last chance to save the lives of everyone left in the building.
In fact, it's that climax that, like the capsizing scene in The Poseidon Adventure, is a quintessential moment of '70s pop culture. Irwin Allen clearly loved to mastermind and supervise these moments of epic Hollywood special effects showmanship. The cool thing is that what you're watching isn't computer-generated. Those are real flames, and that really is two million gallons of water rushing through a Hollywood sound stage. Heck, the making-of featurette is probably more exciting than the film itself.
So break out the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy a galaxy of stars picking up their fat paychecks and having a great time. They absolutely don't make 'em like this anymore.
You're tearing me apart!
Run time: 165 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th December 1974
Box Office Worldwide: $116M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Warner Bros. Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: John Guillerman, Irwin Allen
Producer: Irwin Allen
Screenwriter: Sterling Silliphant
Starring: Steve McQueen as Chief Michael O'Hallorhan, Paul Newman as Doug Roberts, Faye Dunaway as Susan Franklin, Robert Vaughn as Gary Parker, William Holden as James Duncan, O.J. Simpson as Jernigan, Fred Astaire as Harlee Claiborne, Susan Blakely as Patty, Richard Chamberlain as Simmons, Jennifer Jones as Lisolette, Robert Wagner as Bigelow, Susan Flannery as Lorrie, Sheila Allen as Paula Ramsay, Norman Burton as Giddings, Jack Collins as Mayor Ramsay
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...
With a spectacular setting and two solid actors on-screen, this thriller builds enough solid suspense...
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...