The Tower & The Glass Inferno

Roads not taken – unmade Science Fiction films &  television…

The Towering Inferno

The Competing Film Showdown that never happened.  The early 70s was the peak period for the disaster film, so there’s little surprised that rights to the novels “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson were purchased by competing studios.


The success of the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure for 20th Century Fox and director Irwin Allen led Warner Brothers to buy the rights to the skyscraper fire disaster novel “The Two Tower.”  Eight weeks later Allen brought the rights to the similar “The Glass Inferno” to make with Twentieth Century Fox.


The TowerDuring the construction of the World Trade Building (1527ft/125 stories) is being built near the World Trade Center, and Will Giddings, the owner’s onsite representative receives instructions that reduce costs for Paul Simmons (the electrical contractor and son-inlaw of Bretrand McGraw, general contractor) and make the wiring sub-standard.  Upon completion a party is held on the 125 to celebrate the building’s opening with politicians (congress and Mayoral), Hollywood celebrities and UN officials attending, but John Connors, a disgruntled sheet metal worker sets off a bomb in the transformer room to disrupt the event.  A voltage surge caused by the substandard wiring and the explosion electrocutes Connors, causes fires to breakout throughout the building and shuts down the elevators.  Fire doors are found to be blocked by heavy crates.  The elevators are restarted, but the occupants killed by the heat of the “flue effect” of the fires.  A breeches buoy to the North Tower of the World Trade is used to some evacuate people, but many are killed by the effects of the fire.


The Glass InfernoThe 66 story National Curtainwall Building (or “the Glass Tower”) has just opened, but only meets the absolute minimum safety requirements.  The Building’s architect, Craig Barton, and his wife Jenny meet the buildings owner Wyndom Leroux for dinner in the building about the alternations for his original plans and possible consequences.  When they are informed of a fire in a store room on the 17th floor, Barton is sent to deal with it.  Meanwhile a TV reporter called Quantrell is investigating a disgruntled former employees claims about building code violations.  Fire division chief Mario Infantino, a friend of Barton’s and expert of fight fires in skyscrapers arrives and takes control of the situation.  The book includes the successful and unsuccessful attempts of residents (including one called Lisolette) to escape the fire.  Many end up in the restaurant and are rescued by helicopters landing on the roof of the building.  The fire is then put out buy blowing up tanks on upper floors which drown the fire.


Rather then releasing two competing films, as often happens, the two companies made the unprecedented (for two major studios) to work together and create a single film, each paying for half the costs and with Fox getting the US Box Office, and Warner the Foreign.  Stirling Silliphant wrote a script combining the two novels, and the names creating The Towering Inferno.


Elements From “The Tower”:  Will Giddings appears in the film as an electrical engineer who is concerned about the short cuts in the electrical systems an becomes the fire’s first victim.  Roger (not Paul) Simmons is the electrical contractor who cut corners.  The opening party is held on a floor near the top and includes a Senator and the Mayor.  A fire door is blocked by a cement spill.  A elevator opens on the floor of the fire, killing the occupants and a breeches buoy is used to rescue a small number of survivors to a nearby (but much shorter) building.

Elements From “The Glass Inferno”:  The fire starts in a small room on a lower floor.  The architect is concerned about the cut corners and is involved in initial attempts to put out the fire, replaced by a fire chief.  There is a character called Lisolette.  Character end up in the restaurant near the top of the building.  An attempt is made to evacuate the survivors using helicopters (but it fails in the movie) and the fire is put out by blowing up water tanks on upper floors (although people are still on floors below the tanks).


~ DUG.

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Steve McQueen - The Towering Inferno

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