Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 1974. Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Don Ingalls, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey. Cinematography by Philip H. Lathrop. Produced by William Frye. Music by John Cacavas. Production Design by George C. Webb. Costume Design by Edith Head. Film Editing by J. Terry Williams. Podcast: Bad Gay Movies.
Although dismissed for their lack of quality when they were first released, the Airport movies have since taken on a quality of kitsch that makes them irresistible thirty years later. The first of three sequels to the Oscar-winning 1970 disaster movie stars Karen Black as a very helpful stewardess who ends up having to fly a plane solo after her jumbo jet collides with a two-seater plane (whose pilot, played by Dana Andrews, has a heart attack mid-air). The accident leaves two pilots dead and the third injured beyond usefulness, placing Black at the mercy of good luck and the radio connection with the folks down below. George Kennedy (the only constant in all four films) decides that the best thing to do to get the plane landed safely is to fly in a pilot and somehow drop him into the plane mid-flight, a job that master pilot Charlton Heston takes on in order to rescue the passengers, most especially Black who is his lady love.
Some fun action sequences are mixed in with super-cheese moments involving the myriad of passengers, which have the usual assortment of character actors and celebrity cameos that the series is known for, including Nancy Olson, Norman Fell, Myrna Loy (who is hilarious, intentionally), Sid Caesar, Susan Clark and, most appealingly, Gloria Swanson in her final film appearance. Helen Reddy has the film’s absolute worst scene as the nun who comforts a little girl in need of a kidney transplant (Linda Blair) by singing her a folk song (it’s no wonder the scene was mercilessly lampooned in Airplane! four years later, but it’s hard to say which scene is funnier).