The Towering Inferno

1974 film directed by John Guillermin

The Towering Inferno is a 1974 American disaster film about a massive fire that breaks out during the opening of the world's tallest building in San Francisco.

Directed by John Guillermin, Irwin Allen. Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant. Produced by Irwin Allen.
One Tiny Spark Becomes A Night Of Blazing Suspense. Taglines

Chief Michael O'Halloran edit

  • Now you know there's no sure way for us to fight a fire in any place above the seventh floor, but you guys just keep building them as high as you can.
  • For what it's worth, Architect, this is one building that I figured wouldn't burn.
  • When there's a fire, I outrank everybody here.
  • Oh they'll find some dumb son of a bitch to bring them up.

James Duncan edit

  • Now Doug, one piece of scorched wire from a burned-out circuit breaker is hardly conclusive.
  • (on the phone with Doug) Doug, I think you're overreacting. Now, I feel sorry for Will Giddings, but he'll be taken care of. But I am not going to concern myself with a fire in a storage room on 81, because it can't possibly affect us up here! Not in this building! Now, have someone call me when the fire department arrives. In the meantime, get in your dinner jacket and come up to join the party, now come on! (hangs up the phone)
  • Did you change any of Doug's electrical specifications?
  • For God sakes, why?!
  • We've got a fire, and if it was caused by anything you did I'm going to hang you out to dry, and then I'm going to hang you!
  • Ladies and gentlemen. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION? It seems that we have a small fire. In one of our storage rooms, 50 floors below. Now I assure you there's no danger. But in accordance with the fire department's orders, a purely precautionary procedure, we're going to have to move the party down to the lobby for a while and we'll be serving cocktails and champagne in our Continental Room. But I promise you - dinner will not be delayed. Now if we can all move to the elevators.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry. You'll have to move back into the Promenade Room, and we'll be taking you down by the scenic elevator. Now these express elevators can be activated by fire. And with the probability of short circuits, the cars might stop on the floor where the fire is. So please we'll use the scenic elevator, over there. (a panicked group of guests enter an express elevator anyway despite Duncan's warnings) FOR GOD'S SAKE, GET OUT OF THERE! (elevator door closes with the panicked guests in the elevator car, which would soon bring them to their firey doom) Please, back!! (pushes the elevator button to try to get the elevator car back up to cancel the trip down, but to no avail)
  • (on the security phone) Security, this is Duncan. Have the main breakers gone? (whispering to Senator Parker after getting the bad news) The whole system's failed.

Doug Roberts edit

  • Urgency? Hey Dunc, if that fire was caused by fluky wiring in this building, we could get fires breaking out EVERYWHERE!!!
  • I don't know. Maybe they just oughta leave it the way it is. Kind of a shrine to all the the bullshit in the world.

Dialogue edit

(Opening lines - Duncan and Roberts board an elevator from the roof to the 65th floor)
James Duncan: So, how was it?
Doug Roberts: Good.
James Duncan: You're gonna go ahead, huh?
Doug Roberts: Full steam.
James Duncan: Anything I can do to change your mind?
Doug Roberts: Nope, no way.
James Duncan: You know there's an old saying that, uh, 'No matter how hot it gets up there during the day, there's -'
Doug Roberts: '-not a damn thing to do in the night', right?
James Duncan: That's right. Now just what the hell are you gonna do at night in the middle of nowhere?
Doug Roberts: Sleep like a winner.
James Duncan: Doug, you're a city boy with a low threshold for boredom. You'll be back in two weeks. (The elevator arrives on the 65th floor) Can you come in the office for a minute?
Doug Roberts: I got people waiting upstairs.
James Duncan: Well what I wanted to tell you is that Senator Parker's flying in for the dedication tonight. And he's almost guaranteed the Urban Renewal contract. Now do you know what that means? Skyscrapers like this all over the country! You design 'em, I'll build 'em.
Doug Roberts: (Boarding an elevator for the 79th floor) Jim I think you suffer from an edifice complex.
James Duncan: You'll never leave.
Doug Roberts: Right after the party. Come on downstairs and watch me burn my black tie.

Doug Roberts: Can I talk at all?
Susan Franklin: No. It's my lunch hour.
Doug Roberts: Well I'm not a cheeseburger, you know.
Susan Franklin: You're better - all protein, no bread. All I need to go with you is about eight glasses of water.
Doug Roberts: All I need to go with you is in that suitcase over there.
Susan Franklin: What's in that suitcase over there?
Doug Roberts: I got about $140 worth of vulgar underwear for ya.
Susan Franklin: First things first. (Susan opens a door to a private room)
Doug Roberts: That's nice.
Susan Franklin: Years from now when they talk about this and they will, remember to tell them that it was my idea.
Doug Roberts: Yeah, right.

(Doug and Will stride into Jim Duncan's office with the burned-out wire from the basement)
James Duncan: I know, I know. Callahan called me. Now just how bad is it?
Doug Roberts: Depends on how good your imagination is. (Roberts drops the burned wire on Duncan's desk) Jesus Christ. Specs called for Conduit safety covering!
James Duncan: How many fuse terminals did you check?
Doug Roberts: How many do I have to?
(Intercom buzzes)
James Duncan: Yes?
Duncan's Secretary: Mr. Bigelow's here, sir.
James Duncan: Ok, send him in. Now Doug, one piece of scorched wire from a burned-out circuit breaker is hardly conclusive.
Doug Roberts: Maybe not. But after that I'm worried about what other shocks we're in for!
(Dan Bigelow walks into the office)
Dan Bigelow: Will, Doug, J.D., wait 'til you see this. (Bigelow opens a box containing golden scissors for the Tower's dedication but the men do not react) What happened? Somebody hang the wallpaper upside down?
James Duncan: We have an equipment problem.
Dan Bigelow: No problem in the Tower is there?
Doug Roberts: Could be.
James Duncan: Oh now come on Doug. You're just guessing!
Doug Roberts: Alright I'm just guessing. But I wanna talk to that son-in-law of yours and I wanna talk to him right away.
James Duncan: Ok. (Talking to his secretary on the intercom) Get me Roger Simmons.
Duncan's Secretary: Yes, sir.
Will Giddings: We're going to check this thing out Mr. Duncan, I guarantee you.
James Duncan: Sure, sure, we're all going to check it out.
Dan Bigelow: (clearly confused) I'm missing something.
Doug Roberts: We damn near had a fire.
(Bigelow shoots a look of genuine surprise at Doug)
Doug Roberts: Yeah. A fire.
Dan Bigelow: In this building? Come on.
Will Giddings: You know we haven't even finished installing the safety equipment? The party should have been put off for at least another month...
James Duncan: (Duncan cuts Giddings off) Now hold it Will, hold it! Everybody's overreacting! (Intercom buzzes) Yes?
Duncan's Secretary: Mr. Simmons is out, sir.
James Duncan: (clearly frustrated at this development) Out where?
Duncan's Secretary: They don't know, sir, but I left word for him to call.
James Duncan: (to his secretary) Ok. (pauses before speaking to Doug) We'll talk to Roger tomorrow. And then we'll decide what to do, that's ok isn't it?
Doug Roberts: No, it won't wait! (Roberts and Giddings leave)

Roger Simmons: Hi Doug. Honey.
Patty Duncan Simmons: Hello.
Roger Simmons: What are you drinking these days?
Doug Roberts: Nothing right now.
Roger Simmons: Well, welcome back from the wilderness. To what do we owe the pleasure?
Doug Roberts: Callahan was testing a backup generator. There was a power surge and a systems failure.
Roger Simmons: How can that be?
Doug Roberts: Well it can't be, theoretically. Unless you've been screwing around with the electrical specifications.
Roger Simmons: That's being rather blunt, isn't it?
Doug Roberts: You betcha.
Roger Simmons: Well then you'll understand my being equally blunt. What the hell business is it of yours anyway?
Doug Roberts: Well I'm just wondering what kind of kickbacks were involved.
Roger Simmons: I don't have to take crap from you.
Doug Roberts: Now listen. We had an electrical flare-up in the main utility room. It looked to me like some of that wiring wasn't exactly what I asked for.
Roger Simmons: Every piece of wire I put in that building is strictly up to code, inspected and approved.
Doug Roberts: The code's not enough for that building. And you know it. That's why I asked for installations that were way, way above standard!
Roger Simmons: Buddy you live in a dream world. I deal in realities.
Doug Roberts: I want your wiring diagrams and copies of your work orders.
Roger Simmons: It would take weeks to get that all together and someone with a lot more clout than you to make me do it!
Doug Roberts: In my office, tomorrow, 9:00. (Roberts leaves)
Patty Duncan Simmons: They say he used to wrestle grizzly bears in Montana. Of course he was younger then, probably in better condition.
Roger Simmons: You must have enjoyed all this immensely.
Patty Duncan Simmons: No, I didn't. Actually, I'm depressed for both of us.
Roger Simmons: What did you expect me do - punch him in the nose?
Patty Duncan Simmons: Roger, if you've done anything to Dad's building, God help you!
Roger Simmons: Baby I don't need God's help, or your old man's, not anymore. So don't expect me to shake everytime Daddy barks, even if that's what you want me to do.
Patty Duncan Simmons: All I want is the man I thought I married! But I guess we're running out of reasons to stay married, aren't we?
Roger Simmons: It's getting late. We mustn't miss the party.

(Roberts emerges from the elevator into his office)
Will Giddings: Did you find Simmons?
Doug Roberts: Yeah, I found him......
Will Giddings: Well did he or didn’t he change your specs?
Doug Roberts: He didn’t admit it, but two bucks will get you ten he did.
Will Giddings: Payoffs and kickbacks, that’s the only way he could have swung it (assembles a pile of plans with the electrical specifications). Well, here you are. It's your original specs. Zone one only, but we gotta start somewhere.
(Roberts shuffles the plans angrily)
Doug Roberts: Son of a bitch gave us an impossible job.

(Duncan and Simmons meet after having been introduced at the dedication ceremony)
James Duncan: Where were you all day?
Roger Simmons: I wasn't aware the leash was that tight.
James Duncan: When I get the time I'll be asking you a few questions, and I expect some straight answers!

Doug Roberts: (on the phone to security) Hello, this is 81, we've had an accident up here, a man's been burned, get an ambulance! Yes, right away!
Security Chief Harry Jernigan: (as he and another man drag the badly injured Will Giddings to safety) Roberts, call Duncan in the tower! They got a lot of people there!
(Roberts phones the Promenade Room)
James Duncan: Yeah Doug, we were getting worried about you. Susan's here, Senator Parker, the Mayor and his wife. Everybody wants to know why the world's greatest architect isn't here.
Doug Roberts: Never mind about that. Will Giddings has been pretty badly burned.
James Duncan: (surprised) Will Giddings burned? How?!
Doug Roberts: Look, I've already got an ambulance coming but you better think about getting those people upstairs down on the ground floor. (pause as Duncan asks why) What for? WE'VE GOT A FIRE HERE! (pause as Duncan asks the severity of the fire) Well, I think it's under control but....
James Duncan: Well then, uh, why the urgency?
Doug Roberts: Urgency?! Hey Dunc if that fire was caused by fluky wiring in the building we could get fires breaking out everywhere!
James Duncan: Doug, I think you're overreacting. Now I feel sorry for Will Giddings but he'll be taken care of. (Duncan covers the speaker on the phone) But I am not going to concern myself with a fire in a storage room on 81 because it can't possibly affect us up here. Not in this building! Now have someone call me when the fire department arrives. In the meantime, get in your dinner jacket and come on up here and join the party. Now come on! (Duncan hangs up)
Doug Roberts: I mean-(Roberts angrily hangs up)

(Roberts and O'Halloran meet outside the building as the fire department arrives)
Kappy: Chief, this is Roberts, the architect.
Chief O'Halloran: What do we got here Kappy?
Kappy: Fire started, 81st floor, storage room. This is a bad one. Smoke is so thick we can't tell how far it's spread.
Chief O'Halloran: What about your exhaust system?
Doug Roberts: Well it should have reversed automatically. It must have been a motor burn-out or something.
Chief O'Halloran: Sprinklers?
Doug Roberts: They're not working on 81.
Chief O'Halloran: Why not?
Doug Roberts: I don't know.
(Roberts, O'Halloran & Kappy enter the lobby)
Chief O'Halloran: Jim?
Firefighter: Yes sir.
Chief O'Halloran: Alright, give us a quick refresher on your standpipe system.
Doug Roberts: Well, we got outlets on every floor, both 3 1/2" inch.
Chief O'Halloran: GPM?
Doug Roberts: 1500 from Ground to 68, 1000 from 68 to 100 and 500 from there to the roof.
Chief O'Halloran: Alright, you sure these elevators are programmed for emergency service?
Doug Roberts: These two are.
Chief O'Halloran: What floor do you keep your plans on?
Doug Roberts: 79, my office.
Chief O'Halloran: That's good, that's 2 floors below the fire. Alright, that'll be our Forward Command. Alright men, take up the equipment. Alright, let's go. (Roberts, O'Halloran, Kappy and a fireman board the elevator for the 79th floor)
Chief O'Halloran: Ok. Phew...architects.
Doug Roberts: Yeah, it's all our fault.
Chief O'Halloran: Now you know there's no sure way for us to fight a fire in anything over the 7th floor. But you guys just keep building them as high as you can.
Doug Roberts: Hey, are you here to take me on, or the fire?

(Jernigan is on a security phone just outside Doug Roberts' office)
Harry Jernigan Okay, what about the Eighty-First floor, you got everybody out of there?
(Jernigan glances to the elevator and sees Doug and firemen O'Halloran and Kappy enter)
Chief O'Halloran: (to Doug) I want to see all your floor plans, 81 to 85.
Doug Roberts: Gotcha.
(as Doug gathers his floor plans, O'Halloran points to the windows)
Chief O'Halloran: This is what I'm worried about, all those beams and glass.

(Roberts is explaining the fire situation to O' Hallorhan)
Doug Roberts: And they're celebrating... a party.
Chief O'Halloran: Party? What party? Where?
Doug Roberts: In the Promenade Room. 300 people.
Chief O'Halloran: Well, why didn't you get them the hell out of there?
Doug Roberts: Why don't you go upstairs and talk to Duncan? He ain't exactly listening to me.
Chief O'Halloran: I will.

James Duncan: You looking for me, Chief?
Chief O'Halloran: If you're Duncan, yeah.
James Duncan: I am. Everything under control?
Chief O'Halloran: We gotta move all these people outta here.
James Duncan: Oh now just how bad is it?
Chief O'Halloran: It's a fire, mister. And all fires are bad.
James Duncan: Well, uh, I don't believe you're familiar with the many modern safety systems we have designed into this building. We've got 'em all.
Chief O'Halloran: All right. It's your building, but it's our fire. Now let's get these people the hell out of here.
James Duncan: Now I don't think you're listening, Chief. There's no way for a fire on 81 to reach up here, not in this building!
Chief O'Halloran: Okay. I'll do it.
James Duncan: Hold it, hold it. The mayor's out there. Do you want me to pull rank on you?
Chief O'Halloran: When there's a fire, I outrank everybody here. Now one thing we don't want is a panic. Now I could tell them, but you oughta do it. Just make a nice cool announcement to all your guests and tell them the party's being moved down below the fire floor. Right now.

James Duncan: Patty - you and Susan stay right here where I can find you. Now don't leave this table. (Pointing to Roger) You I wanna talk to. (Duncan & Simmons walk away from the table) Did you change any of Doug's electrical specifications?
Roger Simmons: I most certainly did.
James Duncan: For God's sakes why?
Roger Simmons: The reason should be obvious - especially to you!
James Duncan: We've got a fire. And if it was caused by anything you did I'm going to hang you out to dry, and then I'm going to hang you!
(After the evacuation has begun)
Roger Simmons: I don't like the way you talk to me.
James Duncan: You drunk?
Roger Simmons: Not yet.
James Duncan: Well then get out of my way!
Roger Simmons: You didn't talk like this 2 years ago, did you? Running over budget and out of money. Did you ask me then how I could shave $2 million dollars off our electrical costs?
James Duncan: Shut up and help me with these people!
Roger Simmons: And let me ask you my dear father-in-law: am I the only subcontractor you encouraged to cut corners? Where did you save the other $4 million in Doug's original budget?!

(Doug gets a call for Harry Jernigan from the building's security station)
Doug Roberts: Harry?
Harry Jernigan: (picking up the phone) Jernigan.
(Jernigan learns that Lisolette Mueller is trapped on the 87th floor trying to rescue the Allbright family)
Jernigan: What? Dammit man, you should have sent a man up there!
(told the security station tried to telephone Mrs. Allbright)
Jernigan: How do you expect her to hear a phone call? She's deaf!
(asked if her two children can hear)
Jernigan: Sure the kids can hear!
(why they didn't respond to the phone)
Jernigan: I don't know, maybe they were in the shower or something when you called!
Kappy: (in background, speaking into his radio) Forward Command!
Jernigan: (still on the security phone) No, you stay where you are, I'll get them down!

Lorrie: There never were any firemen, were there?
Dan Bigelow: I said that to make it easier for you. I switched off the phones. There's no way to call out. Nobody knows we're up here.
Lorrie: Well, I always did want to die in bed.
Dan Bigelow: Nobody's going to die.
Lorrie: One thing - at least they'll never find out about us, will they?
(Dan soaks a towel in water, wraps it around his head and decides to make a run for help)
Dan Bigelow: I used to run the 100 in 10 flat.
Lorrie: Don't go.
Dan Bigelow: I'll be back with the whole fire department. On your mark...

Senator Parker: At this rate, it's going to take a couple of hours to get everyone down. So I would suggest that those of us with stout hearts and trim waistlines start using the stairs.
James Duncan: That's 135 floors.
Senator Parker: All downhill.

(Simmons returns to the Promenade Room after his failed attempt to escape down the stairs)
Roger Simmons: Pretty ridiculous spectacle, right? There's no way down.
Patty Duncan Simmons: Oh, thank God you're all right! Oh Roger, what are we going to do?
Roger Simmons: I know what I'm going to do. Get quietly drunk.
Patty Duncan Simmons: If you're responsible for all this, I know...what you must be feeling.
Roger Simmons: You don't even know the meaning of the word.
Patty Duncan Simmons: What, "Responsible"?
Roger Simmons: "Feeling"! Oh, you know a lot about responsibility; it's a family trait. The Duncans are very big in the responsibility department - at least on the surface!
Patty Duncan Simmons: That's not fair! I don't think it's wrong to feel a, a sense of, of duty!
Roger Simmons: Sometimes, when you turn the exact same phrase, lift an eyebrow the exact same way, I see and I hear your father. The two of you, one! Like a great big tree and a little baby tree in its shade where the acorn fell.
Patty Duncan Simmons: Roger, I came over here to you because I-I thought you might need me!
Roger Simmons: Right now, what I need most, is this. (grabs the glass and bottle of vodka)

Harlee Claiborne: I promised myself if I every saw you again I'd make a full confession-
Lisolette Mueller: No, but thank you.
Harlee Claiborne: But, you don't know anything about me.
Lisolette Mueller: But I do. You're penniless. You have no villa in the south of France. No antiques coming, no paintings. But Harlee, I don't care.
Harlee Claiborne: I'm a cheap tin horn. A two-bit con-man.
Lisolette Mueller: Not cheap. Maybe unsuccessful. But don't you see your heart isn't it? How can you cheat people effectively if you don't really enjoy cheating?
Harlee Claiborne: I brought you up here tonight to see you a thousand shares of Greater Anaheim Power & Light!
Lisolette Mueller: Is it a good investment?
Harlee Claiborne: There is no Greater Anaheim Power & Light! Only the certificate I had printed. I must say I think you would've admired the artwork...beautiful engraving.
Lisolette Mueller: I'd like to see it.
Harlee Claiborne: It's in my jacket. I-I took the jacket off - it was "needed elsewhere". You see what I mean? I can't even deliver a phony stock certificate. Did you hear what I said?
Lisolette Mueller: Every word.
Harlee Claiborne: Well then tell me you're shocked, or at least disappointed.
Lisolette Mueller: But I'm not.
Harlee Claiborne: You must be!
Lisolette Mueller: Harlee, I'm not.

Doug Roberts: Will Giddings is dead. He died 20 minutes ago. Oh boy. Oh, I wonder how many more will be dead by tomorrow. I thought we were building something, where people could work and live and be SAFE! If you had to cut costs, why didn't you cut floors instead of corners?
James Duncan: Now listen, any decisions that were made, for the use of alternate building materials, were made because I as a builder have a right to make those decisions. If I remain within the building code and goddammit I did!
Doug Roberts: Building code, Jesus. Building code, c'mon now Dunc I mean that's a standard cop-out when you're in trouble. I was crawling around up there. I mean duct holes weren't fire-stopped! Corridors without fire doors in them, sprinklers won't work, and an electrical system that's good for what? I mean it's good for starting fires! Phew, boy where was I when all this was going on? Because I'm just as guilty as you and that goddamn son-in-law of yours! What do they call it when you kill people?

Roger Simmons: The women are gone. We are going next. (Simmons tears up a bunch of breeches buoy tickets)
James Duncan: (punches Simmons in his stomach) You've all got numbers, and you're going to take your turn! And if it's any consolation, I'm going to be the last one out of here, along with my son-in-law!

Chief O'Halloran: It's out of control. And it's coming your way. You've got about 15 minutes. Now they wanna try something. They wanna blow those water tanks 2 floors above you - they think it might kill the fire.
Doug Roberts: How are they gonna get the explosives up here?
Chief O'Halloran: Oh they'll find some dumb son of a bitch to bring 'em up.
Doug Roberts: Hang on, I'll tell 'em. (Roberts goes to tell the remaining guests) They wanna try to put out the fire by blowing up the water tanks above us. It's gonna mean a lot of water and steel and concrete but if they don't try it...we're all gonna burn. The fire's out of control below us. They think we got maybe 15 minutes. This way, some of us might survive. We've got no options. (the fire breaks into the Promenade Room, the guests panic and make a run for the Breeches Buoy. Simmons gets there first, and fights his way on, and a fight breaks out among the men to get him off. An explosion destroys the ropes sending Simmons, Senator Parker and several others to their deaths)
Chief O'Halloran: Yeah?
Doug Roberts (returning to the phone) Well, we just lost the Breeches Buoy, there was a panic up here. It's under control now.
Chief O'Halloran: Ok, now I'm going to try and set down on the roof, I'm gonna need you up there.
Doug Roberts: Well I know how where to place the charges, but I don't know how.
Chief O'Halloran: I know how.
Doug Roberts: Ok. See you up there.

(James Duncan and Patty Duncan Simmons meet and embrace for the first time since being rescued, presumably after Patty has identified Roger Simmons' body)
James Duncan: I didn't want you to see him.
(Patty sobs uncontrollably and embraces her father)
James Duncan: You know, there's nothing any of us can do to bring back the dead but.....(pauses and gazes back up at the smoking tower)..all I can do now is pray to God, that I can stop this from ever happening again.

(last lines)
Chief O'Halloran: You know we were lucky tonight. Body count's less than 200. You know, one of these days you're gonna kill 10,000 in one of these firetraps, and I'm gonna keep eating smoke and bringing out bodies until somebody asks us... how to build them.
Doug Roberts: (turns to look at the scorched upper floors of the Tower and then back to O'Halloran) Okay, I'm asking.
Chief O'Halloran: You know where to reach me. So long, architect.

Taglines edit

  • One Tiny Spark Becomes A Night Of Blazing Suspense.
  • The tallest building in the world is on fire. You are there with 294 other guests... There's no way down. There's no way out.
  • “The Towering Inferno” Is Not Just The Story Of The World' Tallest Building In Flames, It's The Story Of People...
  • One minute you're attending a party atop the world's tallest skyscraper. The next... you're trapped with 294 other guests in the middle of a fiery hell.
  • You are there on the 135th floor, no way down, no way out.
  • The world's tallest building is on fire. You are there on the 135th floor... no way down... no way out.

Cast edit

External links edit

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