Partly an extravaganza of fireballs, partly a modern interpretation of the biblical Tower of Babel and partly a coming together of one of cinema’s most random casts (Fred Astaire rubs shoulders with O.J. Simpson), The Towering Inferno has the can’t-look-away quality of a car wreck. To celebrate the completion of the world’s tallest skyscraper in San Francisco, an elaborate party is thrown in the penthouse ballroom about 130 floors up. When an electrical fire starts due to inadequate wiring (it seems the developer’s hubris operated on a tight budget), everyone up there becomes sitting, soon-to-be-fried ducks. The Towering Inferno inevitably takes on added resonance after 9/11, and indeed much of the movie plays like a salute to the firefighting profession. Steve McQueen actually lends the proceedings some low-key gravitas as the fire chief on the scene. Paul Newman doesn’t fare quite as well as the building’s architect, largely because he’s playing a joke of a character. At one point, someone offhandedly mentions that Newman’s Doug Roberts “used to wrestle grizzly bears in Montana.” For the most part, The Towering Inferno succumbs to such silliness, from Richard Chamberlain and Robert Wagner suffering operatically fiery deaths to Simpson, as the building’s security chief, blindingly punching a wall of flashing lights and buttons. The final, perfect touch, however, is John Williams’ score. I’ll be darned if it doesn’t resemble elevator music.