Airport 1975

AIRPORT 1975 came out in 1974, joining destruction derby titans The Towering Inferno and Earthquake in the top tier of the year’s hits, its unintentional giggles contesting air space occupied by the intended laughs from Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Critics needed a gift set of those tiny bottles of booze to make it through without using barf bags, while the worldwide gross soared to $103,000,000, the rarified Ocomeonasphere.

When the pilot of a private Beechcraft has a heart attack and slams into the nose of a 747, maiming or killing the cockpit officers, head stewardess ‘Nancy Pryor’ (Karen Black) has to try and steer the jumbo away from the Wasatch Mountains. But when instructions won’t suffice, daring must do; a jet helicopter will mid-air tether a pilot through the gash. Since Charlton Heston (as Nancy’s boyfriend, ace dude ‘Al Murdock’) and legendary George Kennedy (returning from the 1970’s Airport as ‘Joe Patroni’) are tasked with the job, we know it’ll work. The only question is how goofy will it look and can we stop smirking at Black’s closeups?

Directed for a proficient $3,000,000 by Jack Smight (Harper, Midway), who apparently instructed the cast to keep straight faces even if the daft, cliche-cluttered script by Don Ingall’s (a former test pilot) threatened to black them out for lack of oxygen. Heston does his sturdy duty with brisk elan, and Big Bear George is salty. Though the effects are cheesy (those 140mph winds in the kisser being incidental), at least the copious footage of the aircraft flying over and past the mountain scenery is easy on the eyes. Meanwhile, when not continually reminding the audience what a great plane the 747 is, the turf war of guest spots in First and Coach is waged by a kid who needs dialysis (Linda Blair, looking as creepy when smiling as when she was possessed); a guitar-playing, singing nun (Helen Reddy, feature debut); a pest who wants to chatter to everyone, constantly (Sid Caesar); a brash lady who fuels herself with ‘boilermakers’ (Myrna Loy, slumming); and, in her final role, done for fun, Gloria Swanson, 75, playing herself (pleasantly).

Plus there’s Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Dana Andrews (the fated small plane pilot—apparently no one ever saw him in Zero Hour! or The Crowded Sky), Susan Clark, Larry Storch (as a sleazy newsman), Ed Nelson, Nancy Olson, Martha Scott, Norman Fell, Roy Thinnes, Erik Estrada (thankfully dispatched early, courtesy of Andrews), Jerry Stiller, Conrad Janis, Beverly Garland, Christopher Norris, Irene Tsu, Guy Stockwell (barely used), Linda Harrison (Heston’s Planet Of The Apes playmate, for some reason under the name Augusta Summerland), John Lupton, Sharon Gless, Bob Hastings, the Wasatch Mountains…

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