Written by Arthur Hailey, Michael Scheff, David Spector, H.A.L. Craig, & Charles Kuenstle
Directed by Jerry Jameson
Just read through a few of my reviews and you’ll know I have a great fondness for science fiction. In my experience, most science fiction out there requires some suspension of disbelief. Therefore, I am not adverse to a film which requires some suspension of disbelief to appreciate. However, every now and then a film comes along that flaunts such a flagrant disregard for reality that I just can’t do it.
Airport 77 is that such movie.
The premise of the movie is a brand new, state-of-the art aircraft being flown with all sorts of important people and great works of art to Florida for a special reception. Of course, someone gets wind of this and wants to cash in. Intending to steal the artwork, a plot is formulated. Something goes wrong, and the plane crashes into the ocean.
A fully intact plane crashes into the ocean without breaking up. Will it:
(a) sink like a rock
(b) slowly sink as air is forced out of higher openings and water fills lower areas
(c) totally float so all planes should be equipped with external motors to act as outboards in just such an emergency
If you answered a, then yes, you too can produce and write a movie.
However, most of the rest of the world (or at least those of us who had high school science) would probably choose b. If you’ve ever seen the depiction of a car going into a body of water, you know it takes a while to sink. Some even float for a while as a pocket of trapped air holds them up. Some flip over and end up under the water upside-down.
So how would a seemingly intact plane with only a few leaks on the bottom of the plane end up sinking to the ocean floor without flipping over? And yes, there is plenty of air for some time as the passengers are all breathing and hopping around (although running out is a bit of a concern).
The other big problem comes with how the powers that be decide to rescue the trapped passengers. They’re going to slip several wide bands around the bottom of the plane and attach floats to each end, thereby lifting the plane up to the surface.
A plane filled with air won’t float, but a few balloons filled with air will now force a plane half-filled with water (from the various small leaks and from the pilot’s opening a hatch to get out and signal their location) to the surface? Since when does the Navy – whom I would expect would be fairly knowledgeable in rescue efforts of planes in the oceans since they’ve probably had to do this a few times, albeit on a smaller scale – take orders form George Kennedy? For no reason that’s ever explained, Kennedy’s here again as Joe Patroni from the first two Airport films, something that makes no sense whatsoever. But here he comes, barking orders, and the Navy just falls into line behind him.
I can’t imagine what the actors and actresses who agreed to do this film were thinking, except that they must have been paid very good money for this travesty. Decent performances are turned in by the majority of the actors and actresses; the problem is the material they were given.
The writing was awful as the majority of the passengers failed to elicit any sympathy from me as to their predicament. There were a few exceptions, but that majority of them are nothing more than privileged socialites who seem to act as if this sort of thing should only happen to people who don’t have money.
Lee Grant is a prime example of this. She portrays Karen Wallace, a self-absorbed, narcissistic snob who’s only purpose in life seems to be to create more ill-will for her ever-suffering husband, Martin (portrayed by Christopher Lee). When Martin volunteers to try to help the pilot, Don Gallagher (Jack Lemmon) reach the surface and signal their location, I had the feeling he would have done anything to get away from his wife; even death is preferable than another moment with her.
Other names in the cast read as a who’s who of 70’s Hollywood: Brenda Vaccaro, Olivia de Havilland, Darren McGavin, Kathleen Quinlan, Gil Gerard, and James Stewart. It’s a shame that such a fabulous, talented cast is wasted in this effort.