Monday, 9 July 2018

Movie Review: Airport 1975 (1974)


An in-flight disaster movie, Airport 1975 is cheap, cheesy, and the birth ground for countless classic cliches.

Columbia Air Lines Flight 409 is a red eye from Washington to Los Angeles on board a Boeing 747. The head flight attendant is Nancy Pryor (Karen Black), who has a troubled relationship with her non-committal boyfriend Captain Alan Murdock (Charlton Heston), the airline's Chief Flight Instructor.

Captain Stacy (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) is in charge of the flight. The passengers include Mrs. Patroni (Susan Clark), who is the wife of the airline's Vice President for Operations Joe Patroni (George Kennedy), a couple of nuns (Helen Reddy and Martha Scott), a young girl being transferred for a kidney transplant (Linda Blair), a retired movie star (Gloria Swanson, playing herself), a trio of drinking buddies, and a heavy drinking older woman (Myrna Loy).

Meanwhile, businessman Scott Freeman (Dana Andrews) takes off in his small Beechcraft plane to fly to a meeting. Due to severe fog both flights are diverted to Salt Lake City. Freeman suffers a massive in-flight heart attack, and his out of control small plane strikes the cockpit of the 747. The flight deck crew are all incapacitated, and Nancy has to take over the controls. Over patchy radio communications, Murdock and Joe Patroni have to keep Nancy calm and find a way to help her.

Directed by Jack Smight, Airport 1975 is the first sequel to 1970's Airport. Featuring a large cast of mostly fading star names packed into the plane with really nothing to do, the film is most famous for giving life to most of the stereotypes later mercilessly exploited in 1980's Airplane!. The singing nun, the sick child, the drunk guys, the token black dudes, the fading movie diva: they are all here. As are the macho Charlton Heston and George Kennedy, barking away in loud voices at no one in particular and bumbling about trying to shout and shove their way to a solution.

The special effects are low quality, the characters are cardboard cutouts, the dialogue is laughably bad, and the female flight attendants are subjected to rampant sexism. And for a disaster movie the film is remarkably devoid of any sort of excitement, action or suspense. The mid-air collision literally takes place in the blink of an eye. What precedes the mishap is boring, and what follows mainly consists of Karen Black sitting in the Captain's chair, looking particularly cross-eyed as she follows mundane instructions over the radio.

Back in the passenger compartments the actors are up to nothing in particular, and even Linda Blair as the young transplant patient does not appear unduly concerned. Just when you need the devil to show up and add some head-spinning carnage and turbulence-induced vomit to a movie, he is nowhere to be found.






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