Friday, July 20, 2018

No, this isn't the 74th sequel

Part of my last batch of DVD and Blu-ray purchases at Amazon was a four-disc set of the Airport movies. I'd already seen the first of the Airport movies, so last night I popped in the disc of the second, Airport '75 (which actually premiered in theaters in October 1974).

The movie starts off with a lengthy list of stars in the opening credits, some near the top of their career, some who were old enough to retire if they had wanted to, and a few names who became famous later. As for the actual action of the movie, flight attendant Nancy (Karen Black) meeting her boyfriend, pilot instructor Alan (Charlton Heston), at Dulles International Airport just outside Washington DC. Nancy apparently has some Big Issue she wants to discuss with Alan, but he has to get the next plane out to LAX in Los Angeles while Nancy is on the red-eye several hours later.

This being a disaster movie, we then get to see the famous names you should already be watching out for if you paid close attention to the opening credits. In no particular order, there's Mrs. Patroni (Susan Clark), wife of George Kennedy's character from the first Airport movie, a role Kennedy reprises here. There's older nun Martha Scott traveling with more modern nun Helen Reddy(!); little old lady Myrna Loy getting harassed at the airport bar by Jerry Stiller, Norman Fell, and Conrad Janis; Sid Caesar is a bit-part actor who hits on Loy during the flight; and Linda Blair as a kidney transplant patient traveling with her mother (Nancy Olson). Oh, and there's Gloria Swanson playing herself. As for the crew, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is the pilot, Roy Thinnes the co-pilot, and a young Erik Estrada(!) the navigator.

Now for the disaster. There's thunderstorms and fog all up and west coast meaning that our jet is going to have to land in Salt Lake City while the weather clears. Meanwhile, traveling in a small plane from Albuquerque to his home in Boise is Dana Andrews, who's actually a veteran of air disaster movies, having made Zero Hour! and The Crowded Sky many years earlier. He's desperate to get home because he's got a huge business deal to conclude in Boise the next day, one that's going to fall through if he doesn't get home. He's never going to get home. He suffers a hilariously overacted heart attack, causing him to lose control of his plane and crash into the cockpit of the 747. That crash sucks out Thinnes and Estrada, and leaves Zimbalist with cuts that because of the bleeding, temporarily blind him. Poor Karen Black is going to have to land the plane with help from her boyfriend telling her over the radio what to do. And when that doesn't work, they're going to have to rappel a pilot through that hole into the cockpit to land the plane himself!

To be honest, I find Airport '75 to be a difficult film to give any sort of a grade to. The plot strains credulity to the point that I found myself laughing at the idiocy of it. Most of the characters' story lines don't get any fleshing out because there are just way too many of them. And the characters are pretty much archetypes from all the all-star disaster movies that had preceded it.

Yet I found Airport '75 immensely entertaining. A lot of the characters get terrible dialog, but it's hilariously funny, and not even in a "so bad it's good" way. I suppose Dana Andrews' heart attack isn't dialogue, but that's one good example. The elder nun's distaste of Gloria Swanson, along with Swanson's constant name-dropping about old Hollywood, are another. And then there's Helen Reddy's having to sing an awful song about how you are your own best friend to Linda Blair. Myrna Loy by comparison doesn't acquit herself any worse than her character in From the Terrace, with the exception that this one likes to drink boilermakers, only she doesn't call it that.

Airport '75 may not be as good as the original Airport, but it's a hell of a lot better than things like The Swarm or Beyond the Poseidon Adventure.

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