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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

Airport ’77

Under the influence of I don’t know what, I recently found myself filled with a desire to watch all the movies in the 1970s “Airport” franchise, the first of which kicked off the 1970s disaster movie craze, which led to other box offices hits such as “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno,” and “Earthquake.” The first film in the series, “Airport” was released in 1970 and based upon a novel of the same name.

I suspect that the “adapted from a best-selling novel” approach is one reason it attracted a high-caliber, all-star cast featuring Dean Martin, Bert Lancaster, and George Kennedy, who appeared in all four films in the series. Thus a tentpole was born because Hollywood studios have always been chasing one another whenever one of them has a massive hit at the box office. The “Airport” films are interesting to watch, as though the first film is quite good, the rest of the films become an exercise in diminishing returns and unintentional camp.

Considering the proliferation of disaster moves during the decade, it’s easy to see why the genre was ripe for parody with the comedy classic “Airplane!” Hit theaters in 1980 and essentially put an end to the craze. But, to be fair, the last film in the “Airport” series, “The Concorde…Airport ’79,” does a pretty good job at closing the coffin shut and lowering itself in the ground. That movie is awful, hands down one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The movie isn’t a comedy, but I found myself often laughing out loud at the film.

Now when you want a “so bad it’s good” film, the movie that preceded “The Concorde,” “Airport ’77” is an absolute hoot and a half and one I had a ball with. First off, the film stars a mustachioed Jack Lemmon, and for added points for yours truly, it has also Darren McGavin, the actor best known for playing the dad in “A Christmas Story” but also beloved by thousands of cult TV fans as paranormal investigator Karl Kolchak.

In “Airport ’77” Universal managed to do something rather astounding. They not only gave us an airplane disaster movie, but they also decided to rip off “The Poseidon Adventure” at the same time by not only having the airplane crash in the Bermuda Triangle (remember when that was a thing?), but also sinking to the bottom of the ocean. So now we have passengers in peril by both air and sea! It’s a buy one, get one sale in a motion picture!

All the “Airport” movies have at least one big “get” name to really up the star value of the movies, to add to the delicious insanity of “Airport ’77” they managed to get James Stewart on board as the role of the owner of the airline that the crashed plane belongs to. I also love that instead of just coming up with new names for films in the series, they deiced to just stick the release year on the end.

This is a trend I’d like to see return. I’d be less confused with all these multi-verse, giant webs of things going on in movies if they just called them something like “Captain America ’23.” Either way, it’s been a fun summer watching the best and the brightest of the 1970s panic while on airplane sets on a soundstage at Universal Studios. They’re not a bad way to kill some time, especially if you’re looking for some crazy fun with the over-the-topness of “Airport ’77.” See you next week.


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