Saturday, May 12, 2018
DISASTER MOVIES MONTH: Airport '77 (1977)
Airport '77” has the somewhat dubious distinction of being one of the better reviewed films in the series. While critics were actively scornful of the first two, a handful admitted to sort of liking this one. While less popular than the 1970 and 1975 editions of the series, it was still a sizable hit. Weirdly, it seems to have made the least impact on pop culture out of the four films.
Millionaire art collector Philip Stevens has sent a private jet to transport the latest additions to his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Aboard the luxury jumbo jet are a number of people, including Stevens' daughter and grandson, who are enjoying the highlight. This glee is interrupted by the co-pilot, who has plotted a high-jacking. They knock the crew unconscious with sleeping gas and intend to hold Stevens' artwork hostage. Instead, they accidentally strike an oil platform. The plane crashes into the Bermuda triangle, sinking beneath the sea. The reawaken crew struggle to escape the waterlogged plane before it totally fills full of water.
I'd say the film has the strongest ensemble of any “Airport” movie. But I might be slightly bias. Jack Lemmon, Christopher Lee, and Darren McGaven are all performers I love. Lemmon's sad-sack everyman qualities are well utilized as a pilot down on his luck. Lee is perfectly cast as a man who seems gruff on the outside but hides a caring, courageous heart. McGavin plays a chatty smart-ass, which is something he's exceedingly good at. Lee Grant is amusing as Lee's alcoholic wife. Jimmy Stewart smiles warmly. M. Emmett Walsh is solid as a veterinarian called upon to serve as the team doctor. And, of course, George Kennedy shows up as Joe Patroni, though his part's much smaller this time. Joseph Cotten and Olivia de Halivand are somewhere in there too.
the techniques the Navy use in the film are real. And it makes for a pretty neat ending, the drowned plane being plucked out of the sea.
“Airport '77” is the film in the series that probably comes the closest to being anything more than a goofy pop corn movie. That's still basically what it is, and I don't consider that an insult. The dull pace of the first and the campy humor of the second are ejected. In their place is a really strong cast and some actual solid suspense. The film would, surprisingly, receive two Oscars nominations. Not for Best Song, though the film includes a sappy ballad clearly in the hopes of grabbing one. Instead, it got nominated for Costume Design and Art Direction. Art Direction I can sort of see, as the inside of the jet is pretty swanky. Costume Design seems like a somewhat random nod. I guess what I'm saying is: If you see one “Airport” movies, see this one. [7/10]
[THE DISASTER MOVIE CHECKLIST: 7 outta 10]
[X] Awards Bait Ballad
 Corrupt or Incompetent Authority Figures
 Destruction of Famous Landmarks
 Grim Predictions
[X] Group In-Fighting
[X] Heroic Sacrifices
[X] Massive Collateral Damage or Explosions
[X] Pets or Kids are Imperiled but Survive
[X] Romantic Couple Resolves Problems
[X] Star-Studded Cast