"The Towering Inferno" blu ray review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 16 Old 08-26-09, 06:09 AM Thread Starter
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"The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

"The Towering Inferno" is identical to the earlier Special Edition DVD except that the added
pixel count makes the image sharper. I did notice that there was much more of a sub-woofer
kick to the explosions on this blu ray disc so it's probable that they enhanced them from the
standard edition. Remember that the subwoofer effect was originally developed as "Sensurround"
with "Earthquake". They they reformulated the six track stereo for 70mm to incorporate them
into the front left and right tracks for later movies like "Close Encounters" and "Star Wars". "2001"
were re-issued with a subwoofer effect for the final stargate sequence even though it wasn't
contained on the original release and many distributors are adding it to their older stereo releases
to enhance the audio sound field.

This is my favorite disaster film and there is a minimum of hokiness in the dialogue and
characterization. While every role is a stereotype, the cast is so good they are able to
get beyond their poster descriptions of 'the architect' and 'the fire Chief'.
What's impressive is that this was the first feature film to be financed and released by
two studios which was unheard of at the time. Also, despite the elaborate special effects
and stunt work, no one was injured. And no artifical CGE back in 1974. Those are real
stuntmen and women flying through the air on fire. Much more impressive and suspenseful.
The cast list is amusing if you know the story behind it. McQueen and Newman were two
superstars of equal status. So how could you list them without getting one offended with
a second billing. The compromise was to list McQueen first and Newman second but the latter's
name is higher in the credits and poster. It may seem silly to us but this was critical for the
movie stars of that era. Billing reflected on salary requirements in the industry.

If you have the original Special Edition DVD I suggest keeping it as a suppliment to this disc
because the blu ray did not have the miniature program book or stills.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 09-09-09 at 11:21 AM.
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post #2 of 16 Old 08-26-09, 09:23 AM
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

I saw this movie when it first aired on Television in 1978 and never forgot it. For a kid it was over the top and gave me nightmares of fires in our house and smoke filling my room through the vents for days after.
I bought the DVD a few years ago and still liked it allot for a movie of its time it still has lots to offer and even a decent plot and effects.

Home theater:
Onkyo 805, Yamaha YDP2006EQ, Samson Servo 600 amp
3 EV Sentry 500 monitors across the front, 4 Mission 762i's Surrounds, SVS PB13U sub, Panasonic BDT220, Harmony 1100, Nintendo WiiU
Panasonic PT-AE8000 on a 120" 2,35:1 fixed screen

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post #3 of 16 Old 08-26-09, 11:36 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

The version you saw on television was quite different than the theatrical
release. It originally was projected in 70mm and six track stereo. The
pan/scanned network version cut a lot of the fire footage and replaced
it with out-takes that are contained on the suppliments of the DVD. Nothing
important, just padding and you can see why it was cut. The TV version cut
the Robert Wagner and his secretary's death along with the swearing. It was
also quite murky for a pan/scanned big budget film for that era. The Special
Edition DVD and blu ray accurate replicate the Panavision/70mm widescreen
visuals as well as enhansing the 6 track audio with extra subwoofer explosions.

The only 'hokey' parts of the film is when Paul Newman saves the Brady Bunch
kid and his sister. Otherwise, the movie is played realistically with a great deal
of suspense. And there's nothing like real stuntmen and women in an action film.
I cannot get used to the digital CGE stunts in contemporary movies. They look so
artificial to me. Great John Williams score as always and I enjoyed the scene when
all the lights are turned on the tower which was spectacular even though I knew it
was an enormous miniature building. The CD of the expanded soundtrack goes for big
bucks on ebay since it's out of print.

I saw this movie in a very strange cinema back in 1974. The screen was tilted downwards
like a drive in screen except it was an indoor theater. At least for this movie, the illusion
that the screen was going to fall on the audience added to the impact. However, two hours
and forty five minutes without an intermission is a bit tough on the bladder for a kid guzzling
coke from the concession stand. Never the less, it was one of my favorite moviegoing experiences
as a teenager.

Personally I think Steve McQueen kicks the *** of Paul Newman. I never though McQueen was
acting, he always seemed to become the role. I always knew Newman was play acting even
if he was effective in the part. McQueen is also much more rugged and tough looking than
Newman. He looks much older than he was because of a poor childhood which he was able
to utilize in his best roles. Too bad the two super stars couldn't come to terms to play opposite
each other in "Butch Cassidy". It would've been an interesting picture with this team.

It's certainly tragic that McQueen died only six years after this film was made at the age of
50. He's my personal favorite of the "Method" actors.
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post #4 of 16 Old 08-27-09, 01:10 PM
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

Great info as usual Richard. I bought this Spec Ed DVD when it came out not too many years ago. I love this movie! It's a real throwback to that 70s disaster epic they used to make.

One thing I notice those movies had in common possibly a result of being so star studded - the waning stars died first and the rising stars lived to the end.

I think this might have been my first movie ever seen at a theater. I saw it at Square One Mall movie theaters in Mississauga ON. I'll never forget going downstairs to see the movies then. They had Laurel and Hardy and Three Stooges shorts before the film began. That's something you don't see anymore!

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post #5 of 16 Old 08-27-09, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review


You're quite right. Stars either survived or died off based on their industry status
at the time.
I recall seeing some shorts too before the feature many years ago. Today there's
no time for them because they need to show the commericals first. The problem with
showing older shorts is that they usually projected them in 1.85 rather than the 1.33
format they were designed in.
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post #6 of 16 Old 08-27-09, 05:39 PM
andy summers
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

Hi Richard

I’m rather disappointed in the technical standards of bluray that it can’t replicate the original five-screen and single monaural surround since Sony owns (SDDS8) and they can’t even be asked to implement this into the home.

I remember seeing The Towering Inferno at ABC Bournemouth, screen 2 downstairs and during the intermission this where the floor blows–out! A few moments later a low defused rumbling is heard coming from somewhere overhead? I knew they had Earthquake in screen 1 Sensurround and couldn’t tell which part from the film I knew it wasn’t “The Big One” it must have been an aftershock!

I saw Earthquake a few days later and thou The Towering Inferno was mostly likely a 35mm print while upstairs has dual projection 35/70mm and its rather had to tell if Earthquake was 35mm Sensurround or 70mm magnetic? The screen was huge!

The could have had the ole Westrex sound system in screen 2.

Its sad that the Gumount got rid of the 70mm projectors during the early 1970’s because The Towering Inferno moved a up to what is now called Odeon and all they had was possible stereophonic at the time until Tommy played in Dolby stereo optical twin track A type (Dolby CP50) followed years later by Star Wars which got the attention of the audience!

Earthquake sub bass impacted into my chest! The cinema sounded like the ceiling was going to collapse any moment soon!

The Towering Inferno was blast of fun back then and again today it’s a blast of listen fun on region 2 DVD Dolby 2.0 where I have to tell the AVR or switch it to Dolby stereo matrix.

I like the dialogue panning half/pans and full hard pans. Looks good on the LCD video projector at 6 feet 2” wide which dwarfs previous televised broadcasts with its dreadful pan & scan!

The matte paintings still to this day look marvellous I mean spectacular!

This is wetting my appetite for the film since Warner is too lazy to issue a six-track version on region 2. I’m sure I’ll be seeing this side of the shores soon and now that bluray is cheap as chips at throw away prices I’ll add this to the one of many/first in line to pick-up, maybe, first I have to buy a throw away bluray at less than £200 pounds and £200 is a lot of money!

Here’s a simple thing that bluray encoding can do and for those who have the savvy to figure it out?

Encode 1left 2centre 3right onto the fronts and 4left-centre 5right-centre onto surrounds and use the LFE.1 as surround. Now you have the film the way it was heard back in 1974 all is required is some re-plugging and extra matching fronts.

If that’s too hard for some then matrix deciding of the (left centre) (right centre) with two Y leads and two matching Dolby stereo decoders and bingo now you have inner left and inner right fronts!

So have they made the surrounds on this split-surround since that process idea wouldn’t have even been an idea back then and would be very disappointing thou if done well it can be an added bonus if there are two alternative soundtracks to choice from.

Also the projectionist would turn up the heating in the auditorium I wonder why?

Last edited by Andysu; 08-27-09 at 05:51 PM.
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post #7 of 16 Old 08-28-09, 06:42 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review


70mm prints and screens were very selective in the seventies and there weren't
too many cinemas capable of playing them. Then after "Star Wars", the format
gained in popularity to increase the number of 70mm screens here in the US. Then
after "Titanic" in the late nineties the newly built megaplexes intentionally phased out
the format because you needed qualified projectionists to show the large format and
they didn't want to deal with anything except automated 35mm projection on platters.
"Earthquake" was 35mm but had a mag track on the print that contained the subwoofer
sensurround effects. Did you say "The Towering Inferno" had an intermission in England.
It didn't here even though it was 2 hours and 45 minutes. Most films that were 2 1/2 hours
automatically had intermissions in the US but there were some exceptions.
Remember that the six track stereo used in 70mm is different than today's 5.1 format
for films made before 1977. 5 front channels containing dialogue, music and effects spread
across the wide screen and a single mono rear channel (but not surround) used very selectively.
The only problem with the magnetic stereo tracks was that you could hear some hiss when
there wasn't any sound coming out of the speakers. Later they added Dolby noise reduction
to the magnetic tracks which helped reduce track hiss.
The most interesting magnetic format was Cinerama. They actually had multiple mikes
on set so you could hear the actor move from one speaker to the next. By the sixties they
just used a single mike on set and panned it across the channels in the mix but it didn't sound
the same.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 08-28-09 at 06:54 AM.
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post #8 of 16 Old 08-28-09, 09:58 AM
andy summers
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

Hey Richard

That’s right it had an intermission just when Newman says its busted pipe get back! KABOOM! KABOOM! Intermission!

A few moments later I heard the deep rumble of Earthquake. I think the intermission lasted for 5 to 7 minutes.

A ticket was 79p for child and adult around or less than £2 pounds I think.

I think Logan’s Run used Dolby A type on the six-track magnetic it was the Todd-AO format I think?

It didn’t sound the same I’m guessing and its only a guess that the sound in the same space would have something unnatural about it or maybe a Doppler shift is needed to make it sound more real.

The mixing boards aren’t like the ones of today or what I read that music mixing boards was later used and modified into a movie mixing counsel.

So how does The Towering Inferno sound you do have it don’t you?

As for the surround channel not being active this has carried onto other films like in no order…

Forest Gump (1994) 35mm Dolby SR-D
Black Rain (1989) 70mm Dolby SR
Far and Away (1992) 70mm Dolby SR

That’s just some I can think of, off the top of my head! I sometimes mute the LCR/LFE.1 and listen to the surrounds.
Today the surround remain fairly active throughout the running time.

Going back to Forest Gump the jungle scene when it starts raining is mostly covered by LCR surrounds remain muted at this time until all hell breaks loss and the gunfire mortars etc, etc.

If you want to make the surrounds active all the time its easy. You’ll need to take some of the left and right signal and pass it into Dolby stereo matrix decoder and send the surround output to the surround though a second like preamp or mixer and bland the signals together with tiny sprinkle of ambiance.

Then the rain will be all around you, don’t worry you’ll still be impressed with the split-surrounds.

As for Cinerama it had 7-track mix wow would like to hear what that was like for better or worse doesn’t matter. I guess this pre-curses Sony SDDS8 minus .1
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post #9 of 16 Old 08-28-09, 11:27 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

Interesting that they had an intermission at that point. "The Wild Bunch" British release also
had an intermission. The image faded out as the Gang was riding away to rob the train. Then
there was a rustic intermission card and an entre' acte with Mexican music. The second part
of the film started with a fade in of the train coming around the bend. The American version
dissolves the two shots and there wasn't any intermission. So the distributors created different
versions for some countries.

I thought the blu ray version of "The Towering Inferno" sounded fine and better than the original
mix of the film.

For some titles they do include both 5.1 mix and original 4 channel magnetic mix as they did
on the blu ray of "The Sand Pebbles" so you can compare the two audio versions of the picture.

Cinerama sounded very interesting and quite different than contemporary mixes. Not only the
dialogue was directional with multiple mikes on the set but also the sound effects. In fact one
of the things I recall about seeing "How the West Was Won" in real three panel Cinerama and
7 track magnetic stereo was this dog run around George Pepard's house in one scene. You could
hear it yelping from speaker to speaker. Unfortunately, this type of nuance was lost in the 5.1
adaptation which sounds good but quite different than the original 7 channel version. The
Cinerama Dome in Hollywood made new three panel Cinerama prints of "How the West Was Won"
and "This is Cinerama" and plays them occasionally so those who live near LA can check out what
they looked and sounded like back in the fifties and sixties.

I guess this is really a separate discussion. Stereo sound mixing and sound design from 1952
through 2009. Different aesthetics over the decades. The earliest stereo was rather gimmicky
and everything was directional from the dialogue to the sound effects based on the person
or objects position on the wide screen. They don't do that as often any more since the
image area is ultimately 16:9 for the long run rather than 2.76 x 1 or 2:35 x 1. Making the
dialogue spread out directionally doesn't work unless the screen is very wide.
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post #10 of 16 Old 08-28-09, 01:14 PM
andy summers
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Re: "The Towering Inferno" blu ray review

Hey Richard

Wouldnít you like to see The Towering Inferno (1974) projected again in 70mm and in really good THX cinema so that it delivers a hard punch! I wonder if there are any still decent prints of it left?

I just dislike remixes where you read the excuses that some mixers are trying to cover-up something!?

2001: A Space Odyssey 2001 edition is sheer botched up mess to listen too! All the tender crazy dialogue panning has been ether placed in the centre channel! Or mucked up so much, its enough to use it for dinner plate for my cat to eat off!

The laserdisc late edition matrix version before the yet again re-release Dolby AC-3 which Iím sure is the same as the region 1 DVD from what Iíve been told is the original mix with all the crazy dialogue panning going on!

Itís like being aware of counterfeits and thatís putting it mild. Iím not going to pay for rubbish DVD again, if mixers are going to take the Mickey, it doesnít do any justice what so ever to the films soundtrack and please no LFE.1 it didnít exist around that time, of the films release.

Sorry mate, Iím just getting senile now in my early age.

I donít know? Maybe I got out of the wrong side of bed this morning?

Is it true that the bluary has smiley version of How The West Was Won?

I was talking to guy over at Lansing Heritage about a possible DIY Cinerama with three video projectors and some customized aperture plates for each projector.

Left for right image has 1/3 cut-off so that only that portion is projected onto the DIY curved screen
Centre has the left and right field of image cut-off so that only that portion is projected onto the DIY curved screen
Right for left image has 1/3 cut-off so that only that portion is projected onto the DIY curved screen.

It would work but you need matching projectors and preferable placed behind a wall with port windows due to fan noise!

The image will be sent equally so to keep the image in sync.

I did have the idea of three versions of the film on DVD/bluay but what if, one of the players layer change wasnít perfect then the image will be out of sync!

Only a few handful Cinerama films made or a few three-stripe ones that is. I was reading information about it a few days ago.

Do you have any idea on what type of lens you, can use to stretch it wider for (Cinerama look) as possible for home use without costing no more than £$200! I know that is wishful thinking but that is the challenge less than!
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