The '70s disaster-movie canon kicked off proper with The Poseidon Adventure—the first and certainly the best, in spite of a piss-poor sequel, innumerable Shelley Winters parodies and Wolfgang Petersen's equally starry yet wholly unnecessary upcoming remake. We've got old Wolfie's redux to thank, however, for a spate of classic disaster movies being rereleased this week: Universal's kicking out a new disc of inferior Heston-starrer Earthquake, while Fox special-editions the original Poseidon as well as 1974's all-star Irwin Allen scorcher The Towering Inferno—itself probably impending fodder for a remake should the Petersen film do well, which is all the more reason to grok the real deal.
One thing's for certain: no matter what flavor-of-the-month hunk gets cast in any potential Inferno updates, no one is going to be able to hold a candle—or a burning stairwell, for that matter—to the dual smolder of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Their combined star presence—as the level-headed architect of the doomed San Francisco skyscraper and the no-bullshit fire chief who takes command when cheap wiring sets the sucker ablaze, respectively—is the film's anchor amid the occasionally lacking melodrama, oodles of polyester, some moments of genuine suspense and the definite sense that absolutely no one is safe. Not poor, sweet old Fred Astaire, or luminous Faye Dunaway, or smarmy Richard Chamberlain, or . . . oh, surely O.J. Simpson is going to burn. Wait, what?! Oh, right—rescuing cute, defenseless cats from raging fires is the kind of thing O.J. did in 1974. My, how times change.
A significant leap from previous bare-bones releases, The Towering Inferno special edition is crammed with special features including several featurettes, commentaries with crew members and with film historian and LA/OC Weekly contributor F.X. Feeney, and a ton of deleted/alternate scenes.
Editor's note—For the return of another Irwin Allen disaster flick, see the blurb on the Warner Grand's big-screen showing of The Poseidon Adventure in Greg Stacy's Special Screenings.
Also recommended this week: The 400 Blows (Criterion); Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist: Season 1; Masters of Horror, Vols. 3 & 4; Munich: Collector's Edition; Nanny McPhee; Northern Exposure: The Complete First & Second Seasons; The Poseidon Adventure: Special Edition; Scrubs: Season 3.
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