Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Airport 1975 – A Film Begging to be Parodied

Written by Don Ingalls
Directed by Jack Smight

Charlton Heston as Alan Murdock
Karen Black as Nancy Pryor
George Kennedy as Joe Patroni
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Captain Stacy
Susan Clark as Helen Patroni
Helen Reddy as Sister Ruth
Linda Blair as Janice Abbott
Dana Andrews as Scott Freeman
Roy Thinnes as Urias
Sid Caesar as Barney
Myrna Loy as Mrs. Devaney
Ed Nelson as Major John Alexander
Nancy Olson as Mrs. Abbott
Larry Storch as Glenn Purcell
Martha Scott as Sister Beatrice
Jerry Stiller as Sam
Norman Fell as Bill
Conrad Janis as Arnie
Beverly Garland as Mrs. Scott Freeman
Linda Harrison as Winnie
Guy Stockwell as Colonel Moss
Erik Estrada as Julio
Sharon Gless as Sharon
Laurette Spang as Arlene
Gloria Swanson as Herself

I usually don’t feature a cast list in my reviews. I put it here to illustrate that sometimes, good actors make bad choices.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the movie Airport 1975 is not really a sequel to the movie Airport filmed in 1970. The credits do give the general credit to Arthur Hailey for his novel, but there really is nothing here that even remotely resembles the original film or novel. The only carryover from the original cast is George Kennedy.

This is also the film that the movie Airplane! is based on. The sad thing is, there are not many changes between the two movies. Pieces and characters are exaggerated a bit, but the story is largely the same.

The first half of the movie largely builds up toward the disaster at hand. You’d think with that amount of time, I’d actually end up caring about the characters, but I didn’t. There are too many of them and they are glossed over in such a hurry that they have no depth. We have the three drunk businessmen, the girl traveling to have a kidney transplant, the aging Hollywood legend, and the singing nun(!?) in full habit.

Of course, the crew of the plane has their own problems. Nancy is a stewardess and her boyfriend is Alan. She is getting ready to give him the heave-ho. Julio is a ladies’ man who seems to want to screw everyone in sight despite the fact that he is married. The sexist talk on the part of the crew and passengers to the stewardesses is also to be noted.

After all of this boring build-up, you’d think it would at least get good once the accident happens. After the cross-country flight from Dulles to Los Angeles is diverted to Salt Lake City due to fog, it collides with a small plane after the pilot of that plane has a heart attack. A large hole right above the co-pilot’s seat sucks him out and Julio is also killed. The pilot has been blinded by flying shrapnel.

You’d think after all this the plane would be flying erratically? Nope, it is basically on the same heading. You’d think when the stewardess goes into the cockpit, she’d immediately be sucked out as well? Nope, her hair hardly even blows around. Gotta love the 70’s hairspray…

So now we have the story of the cross-eyed stewardess trying to fly the plane while being talked down by the guy she was about to ditch. If that isn’t enough, Joe Patroni is the head of the airline and his wife is on board with their son.

Of course, the fog that had Los Angeles socked in so the flight couldn’t land doesn’t stop Joe and Alan from hopping on one of the company jets and heading up to Salt Lake. Of course, they arrive there in what seems like only a half-hour after the accident occurred. The plane is still flying – albeit on auto-pilot – with no concerns about the fuel running low.

The whole story is an insult to anyone’s intelligence. There are so many implausibilities occurring and the characters are so shallow that I couldn’t care less whether the plane landed successfully or not. The only part that’s interesting is when the planes collide and the five minutes of the film following that.

People think Hollywood has gone downhill, but this movie argues to me that our standards have actually gone up. I don’t think this film could get made today, even as a made-for-television flick, never mind making it to theaters. Airplane! is a much better flick, if only for the reason that it doesn’t expect the viewer to take the same story seriously.

Previous movie in series (link): Airport

Next movie in series (link): Airport ’77

10 replies »

  1. There were two main sources of parody-worthy material for the Z-A-Z film Airplane! Clearly, Airport ’75 was one, especially Karen Black’s story arc and the sick little girl in the back of the plane. The other one was a movie that one of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team watched (if I recall correctly) on late night TV. It was a 1957 film titled Zero Hour!