Remembering the Master of Disaster: Irwin Allen

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jun 12, 2009 in Cinema, Television |

Towering Inferno film poster

On this day in 1916 film and TV producer Irwin Allen was born in New York City — in his career of over thirty years he created a slew of amazing show like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. In the 70s he turned his talents to disaster film, producing such classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno.

I grew up watching Allen’s TV shows in re-runs but for me the haunting film in a post 9/11 world is The Towering Inferno. Produced in 1974 the film was typical of disaster flicks of that era, any star who wasn’t doing anything that week seemed to be in the cast. And the Inferno cast included some amazing A+ talent like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden and Faye Dunaway. Although you’ve got other odd casting choices like Fred Astaire playing a con man and O.J. Simpson as a security guard. The film looks campy now but it tapped into a feeling of insecurity in the 70s and also owed a great deal to the opening of the Trade Towers. Here’s and interview with Allen from this era:

And here’s a promo for the film which features Allen in a vintage polyester suit (which was in style at that point in time):

Of course no story on The Towering Inferno would be complete without a trailer:

This is recent footage of actors and other Hollywood types reminiscing about Allen:

Lastly something that should be noted is that The Towering Inferno had a good shelf long after it came out. It was an early gem of cable TV and later could be found as a movie of the week on broadcast TV for eons. In fact in 1982 well over a decade later a videogame for the Atari 2600 came out based on the film:

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