Sunday, July 17, 2016

It's a fire, mister. And all fires are bad.

We don't have much in the dumpy, little town I live in. It's not tumbleweeds and hitchin' posts, but it's no burgeoning metropolis, either. In fact, the tallest building around is probably the old hotel in the city, which, built in 1925, tops out at a whopping eleven stories tall.

But what we do have? Well, among other oddities, we have a sign. And it's not just any sign (a billboard, really) that we pass every single day of our lives, this particlular sign tells all the citizens of our dumpy, little town the average wait time to be admitted into the emergency room. Just before I started this post, the sign said 7 minutes. But on a bad day? My son and I laughed endlessly when it read 48 minutes.

Almost an hour? For an emergency? That's f--king terrible. I mean...imagine just sitting around waiting to die...

That would be terrible. And occasionally, really, really funny, too.

In order to possibly contribute to last week's LAMBcast (episode #330), I needed to watch the 1974 action/thriller/unintentional comedic masterpiece, The Towering Inferno. Championed (repeatedly) by Jay Cluitt at Life Vs. Film, director  John Guillermin's epic disaster film is a shockingly star-studded affair. While contemporary films jam packed with famous people are silly and have two strangers fall in love in an elevator, this bad boy is all business and simply has people falling out of them.

Apparently, back in the seventies, people gave a shit about buildings. Big ones, especially (the buildings, not the...nevermind). And on the opening night of the world's tallest building, San Fransico's The Glass Tower, a very large party is to be held on the 138th floor. The guest list will include the upper crust of the City by the Bay, including the noble mayor and his lovely wife, and even a prominent senator. Oooh fancy. 

Anyway, as preparations are underway for the big evening, the architect of the building, Doug Roberts, inexplicably shows up after two years of wrestling grizzlies in Montana (not that there's anything wrong with that) to make sure things go smoothly. I always thought architects designed buildings, but apparently they frantically maintain them as well. Doug (Paul Newman, starting and stopping all kinds of fires), after rocking the casbah with his lady-friend Susan (the super-fine Faye Dunaway), immediately discovers the whole building is f--ked. See, it's readily apparent that one of the contractors skimped on the electrical wiring, and The Glass Tower should probably be renamed The Oily Rag.

While I'd hate to spoil a movie that came out forty-one Christmases ago, uh, f--k it. Judging by that poster, you should probably have figured it out by now, anyway (a point Jay rams up my ass in the podcast...that bastard). But if you stupid, or like me, very stupid, here's it is (first in an awesome picture, then in not-so-awesome words):

This has nothing to do with the fire.
This is how all women look after they've had sex with Paul Newman.
After (the aforementioned) fire breaks out on the 81st floor, it's painfully obvious, we've got to get everyone out of the building and cancel the f--king party. But, as these things go, like a certain shark ruining the Fourth of July, the overwhelming consensus maintains Don't panic. We're totally going to be fine.  But as the fire rages out of control faster than you can say random explosion!, it's up to Doug and quite possibly the most passively stern fire chief ever (Steve McQueen...awesomely out of his f--king mind) to save the day. Which, actually, won't be that difficult. You know, assuming no one in a room full of entitled rich people decides to get impossibly selfish as the worst possible time.

No lie, this is my favorite scene in the film. What started out as a heroic plan...
becomes the ultimate f--king disaster (less than 1.8 seconds later to boot).
Look, as you may or (likely) may not hear on Jay's f--king rad podcast, I was the only virgin entering this shiny, flaming tower, as everyone else had seen The Towering Inferno before. And while I was all set to have a five-alarm fire (in my pants) over the delightful absurdity of this film, most of the other gents (like the movie [in their eyes]) played it straight. It's certainly not a comedy, and of course people dying in fires isn't entirely hysterical (that's a joke, f--kers), but this might be the grandaddy of modern day disaster movies. And like your grandfather, sometimes, well...that f--king dude is hilarious because he handles his business an entirely different way that you do, you know?

Speaking of being antiquated (and okay with it), here are the Yays and Boos. We've thankfully never been in a fire, but holy shit have we seen Backdraft a million times. And yes, that was before we noticed we were standing in a lake of gasoline...

Dammit, Nordberg. Not that switch. I told you...
Two down, thirty-SEVEN over.
  • This movie is dedicated to firemen...before the movie starts. That's the most gracious f--king major spoiler ever!
  • Um, a cab ride for less than a dollar? Tell me more about this magical past that once existed (two nights ago, our Uber was 30 dollars...for three miles).
  • Faye Dunaway? So hot. Fine, technically, all the women are hot, I get it. Dick.
  • You guys! You guys! Hey! Young Robert Wagner is in this (uh..a young version of Number 2, except not Rob Lowe, the real one) and he's fantastic!! His romantic scene with his secretary is likely the best thing I have ever scene ever. And that includes the birth of each of my two kids. Yeah. Sorry, kiddos. But it's true.
  • This should be a Boo, but the bad guy, Lord Von Douchenstein...or something, is so perfectly deplorable, he may have to be seen to be believed. Think of the worst person you know, right? Make him (or her) British. Make their face entirely punchable (was that redundant?). Times it by a million. And then, you're halfway to the tasty deliciousness of Richard Chamberlain's world champion of assholery, Roger Simmons. I dare you to show me a bigger dick from a movie. Wait...about that...
  • Oh, and you also have to see Mr. Simmons defiantly the the allegedly broken stairs. Oh, he'll show them!
  • Hey, guys. This building is going to go up like an old Christmas if we don't cut the lights making the tower visible from space. Well, yeah, I hear you....but we've got this party going on....
  • We've got it under control. Holy shit...that line made me almost spit out my drink.
  • Steve McQueen is f--king awesome in this. Truly. He's so badass, I can hardly even stand it. And even better, I don't think he really gives a shit about anything. Chief O'Hallorhan doesn't have time for emotion. It might get in the way of him talking everything out super methodically...during a RAGING FIRE 9,000 FEET IN THE SKY.
  • The effects are shockingly, pretty f--king cool. Seriously, all the exterior shots of the building sporadically erupting? Still impressive.
  • Remember, we've got a top floor of the upper crust, right? Imagine Madonna in the Material Girl video surrounded by fifty different versions of the Monopoly Man. Anyway, these folks, totally keep their shit together, when they're told to evacuate one elevator full at a time. But when the car arrives back up and ejects a flaming man? Well, that'll make doing the backstroke in your money bin just a little less relaxing.
  • O.J., playing the only person in the history of the world to be named Jernigan. And what does head of security do in times of major f--king catastrophe? He saves a kitty cat. Aww.
  • There's a moment where people are looking down the elevator shaft, only to narrowly avoid a falling firefighter...completely engulfed in flames. What this represents? Horrible. How it's executed on film? Hilarious.
  • Personal Note: my wife hung around for 100 minutes. I shit you not. And I started it at almost midnight.
  • When shit gets really, really bad, a lottery is devised, determining the order of who gets to leave. This is fantastic.
  • As is, when anyone actually tries to leave, something totally f--king explodes. BECAUSE IT CAN.
  • Breeches Buoy. Look it up. It's awesome. Don't look up just breeches, though. Not as awesome.
  • We lose a fairly important character at one point, and it's handled so unceremoniously, I actually laughed out loud. Holy shit, I don't think anyone cared about that woman. Not even the people who were riding in the scenic elevator with her. Welp, she gone.
  • This one guy is completely devastated by the loss of the newfound love of his (pathetic) life. His consolation? Someone hands him her cat (you know, the one O.J. rescued). You know, it sucks that your girlfriend died on your first date. But, dude. You totally got that pussy.
  • And finally, you pretty much have to see the final thirty minutes of this badboy, if only to see the master plan to escape the fire. It's so entirely ridiculous, I'm still excited about it a week later. It's not exactly the plan that's so funny...but the part with the ropes., none of that worked at all. Ah...
Easily one of my favorite Alicia Keys songs.
  • This movie is nearly three hours long. Or, exactly half the time it would take me climb to the top of the building/complete this post.
  • Oh, Sexy Deaf Lady. Why must you live here? And what's with your son, Antenna Kid, and your daughter, Girl Who's Entirely Okay Talking About Her Dead Father? These two are a strange pair.
  • Man, it's a good thing we store all those old paint cans and oily rags on the 81st floor! God forbid we, you know, not have a massive stockpile of them in the middle of the building.
  • Coughcough. Lot of smoke in here. You know what would help? I should open a window. 
  • Uh, the firefighters, and well, most of the authorities...well, these dudes got a lot of time for chitchat, you know? No, no, fellas. Talk that shit out. The fire will wait. I'm sure of it.
  • Aw, two firefighters get it when the ceiling caves in. Or, as it's known around middle school English teachers, they got it Johnny Cade-style. Stay golden, firefighters. Stay golden.
  • The express elevator, as it's explained to us, will get you to the ground faster. Well, it should. Unless it stops on a floor that's on fire...AS IT'S PROGRAMMED TO DO.
  • Too many happy reunions take place in the building. The one that's still on fire.
  • There's an extended scene where five people have to navigate over a sure fall to their grisly death. It's like...twenty minutes long. You'd think someone would die, right? Right? It was kind of like when there's a car accident on the highway and you're stuck in traffic. If we're going to spend all this time, somebody better be f--ked up.
  • One of the plans involves shooting this massive cable into the promenade on the top floor and every single man up there instantly knows how to secure it. Honestly, in a fire, I'd be lucky to be able to secure my pants, let alone a massive cable that will soon be responsible for holding my body's weight (plus the pants, which honestly would be shit-filled, right? Though...I guess that wouldn't make you weigh any more, being that the fecal matter was moments prior....oh, nevermind).
  • When the final plan is put in place, it slowly dawns over the chief that they're only two people capable of pulling off what amounts to a suicide mission. One of them isn't around. The other...wait for the chief. His totally-visible irritation at this fact isn't exactly heroic. McQueen's character reacts like how your Dad did when someone clogged the toilet. Really? Don't we have someone*rolls up sleeves, sighs dejectedly*
  • Carlos, co-mvp of the top floor, gets it. Not cool.
  • And finally, as much as my fellow panelists (?) wanted to argue to the contrary, I never thought the stakes were all that high. Outside of one shocking casualty, or three, if you want to be a dick about it (fine...maybe four...or five, for f--k's sake), nobody too important gets it. Hell, the poster has 900 names and faces on it. Down three...ish? Eh. I wasn't too concerned. And the people who did die? Almost all of them deserved it anyway. 
I guess it's fitting than an overly long disaster movie, that isn't supposed to be funny, is primarily responsible for this overly long, disaster of a post (that was supposed to be funny). Oh, well. It's late as shit and I should call it a night. Hopefully I can get to sleep in: 10 minutes.

On the other hand, though, it's summer, isn't it? As a teacher, I've got nothing but time. Unfortunately, tomorrow is supposed to be hot as Hell.

Shit. Where could I go and sit in a cold room and kill an hour or two? Oh, right. As a movie blogger, the answer's f--king obvious...

The emergency room.


  1. 48 minutes isn't bad, the town I grew up in had a wait time of around 2-4 hours every single day it seemed. Basically if you're breathing and don't have a head or stomach issue, you're waiting.

    You had me on this movie for morbid curiosity until you mentioned it was almost 3 hours long. Nope lol.

    Great review!

    1. Two to three HOURS? Good God, where did you grow up? Mayberry? (you're probably too young for that [ultra lame] reference)/

      It's a f--king epic, I can guarantee you that. Three hours is waaay outtta my wheelhouse, but honestly, it was pretty entertaining. It didn't feel long, at least, that long.