It’s interesting to see modern technology wrap its tentacles around age-old elements, even when the “age old” element in question is just 35 years old. Case in point: The Towering Inferno, a 1974 classic starring Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Wagner and Fred Astaire that recently released on Blu-ray Disc with D-BOX Motion Code support. The Blu-ray high-definition visuals are surprisingly good, as is the audio, but it’s the D-BOX Motion Code that really brings the film into the 21st Century and provides the biggest “wow” factor for the film.
For those who haven’t yet seen The Towering Inferno, here’s the Cliff’s Notes recap: the world’s tallest skyscraper is on the eve of its grand opening celebration when faulty wiring causes a catastrophic fire that kills various residents and revelers while local authorities try frantically to save as many people as possible. The story is told by following the exploits of the rescuers, the would-be victims, the architect and the developer of the sky-high building, providing an interesting dynamic that shows not everything is black and white in (fictitious) cases such as this.
With a D-BOX platform attached to the chair or sofa, viewers can experience every corner turned by the fire engines, every swaying turn of the helicopters and every wall-shattering explosion of propane or other combustible materials. For anyone skeptical that a film in the mid-1970s could be action packed, much less a perfect candidate for D-BOX support, The Towering Inferno will change those minds immediately.
One of the most effective D-BOX scenes in The Towering Inferno is also one of the film’s longest: Paul Newman escorting three people down the stairs to safety. During their descent, a gas line ruptures in the stairwell, sending Newman careening down pipes and swinging precariously hundreds of feet above the ground. Much like the opening fight scene in 007: Quantum of Solace, the movements and swinging in this scene feel absolutely fantastic, and they are immersive a sensation as D-BOX has delivered.
Several scenes later in the film provide a similar sensation, but none is quite on par with Newman’s rescue attempt. One that’s surprisingly underwhelming is a scene in which four firemen repel down an elevator chute yet don’t generate nearly as much motion as one might expect. However, near the movie’s end viewers are treated to a scene that’s much better: a scenic elevator hanging perilously off the side of the building by a single cable. In this scene, the sensation of hanging in mid-air is really quite intense, as the swinging motions mesh with the effects of the wind 100 stories above the ground. Yet even with all the climactic emotions associated with this later scene, Newman’s still takes the cake.
Oddly enough, though, the most noticeable “feeling” is that of discomfort when one stops to consider the subject matter — particularly if re-watching this film near Sept. 11, as I did. Seeing firemen, even fictional ones, battling a blaze in a skyscraper while victims face their mortality 130 floors above the ground just hits a bit too close to home, even eight years after the tragedy of 9/11. Yet as if the subject matter weren’t creepy enough, at the 2-hour-and-40-minute mark, Steve McQueen makes a nigh-prophetic statement that “one of these days, thousands of people are going to die in one of these things” while firemen try to save their lives. Obviously neither McQueen nor the script writers had any idea the events of 9/11 would transpire, but hearing those words even uttered strikes a chord whose power cannot be denied.
If you can handle the discomfort of that statement, though, The Towering Inferno provides one of the most entertaining, holistic and surprising D-BOX experiences of the summer. Not only does the film provide great opportunities for Motion Code, but it proves that the D-BOX engineers can deliver compelling action even for films more than three decades old. Granted, The Towering Inferno gave the team incredible scenes and situations to work with, but the excellence of this Motion Code track simply can’t be denied.
Buy The Towering Inferno on Blu-ray from Amazon.
- Score: 9
— Jonas Allen