I watch almost everything alone, so calling out at the screen is of limited utility. The 2009 version also suffers if you watch it minus a 3D screen so that the gimmick shots stand out as what they are.
The Towering Inferno. Why the hell did I watch this? Disaster movies aren't my favorite, and Irwin Allen specialized in this kind of thing.
Okay, setup. A gigantic skyscraper - the tallest building in the world as of 1974 - is undergoing its inaugural gala tonight in San Francisco. Lots of people will be there, but something's wrong on the 81st floor - it seems a wire from an electric connector came loose and sparked a collection of oily rags inside an isolated room. What will happen?
Before we continue, let's meet just some of our cast!
Steve McQueen IS the Chief of the Fire Department in San Francisco who doesn't appear until 43 minutes in!
Paul Newman IS the architect who designed the building and is not happy about the shortcuts taken in its construction!
William Holden IS the business magnate who funded the enterprise, and whose son-in-law made the electric system happen!
Faye Dunaway IS Paul Newman's partner! Want more character traits? You're in the wrong movie.
Fred Astaire IS a guy who takes a woman to the gala for some reason!
O.J. Simpson IS the chief of the building's security!
Robert Vaughn IS a US Senator!
Plenty of others here too, don't worry!
Like so many disaster movies, there are just too damn many characters. Some of them are completely useless, and others just serve to pad the running time to the outlandish length of 2:40. That's Transformers-movie timesink level, people. Not to say this is on the level of those helpings of garbage, it's just way way too long. Trimming an hour would have been easy. It's nice to see the shots of fire engines zipping through the streets of San Francisco, but they're unnecessary. Entire characters are unnecessary, come to that. More snipping could eliminate the option of a drinking game whenever an exterior shot of the tower in flames appears. There are a lot of those shots, but the movie is so long that lots of space between them still happens.
I can praise the work of numerous stunt men, several of whom are on fire for long periods of time. Effects are mostly good, though the rear projection is pretty obvious often. The script is stupid though and the whole thing is way too long. For being the only time a lot of these people shared the screen, it's a lousy way to go. Fans of 70s disaster movies probably still like it.