Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Airport; disaster film, USA, 1970; D: George Seaton, S: Dean Martin, Burt Lancester, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton

Chicago is hit by the worst snow storm of the decade. This is especially troublesome for an airport, where the runaways have to constantly get cleaned from snow, which is a hassle for its manager Mel and TWA mechanic Joe. Another nuisance is an old lady who was caught being a stowaway for years now. As the next airplane takes off, heading for Rome, its pilot, Vernon, finds out that a man intends to blow up the plane with a bomb, to cash in on the insurance. The bomb explodes and causes a small hole in the back of the plane, wounding Gwen, the stewardess and Vernon extra martial affair. However, Vernon manages to turn the plane back and land safely in Chicago, where the doctors nurse the wounded.

A tiresome and overlong achievement, George Seaton's film is very dated by today's standards, and seems more as if it was made in the 50s, not in the 70s due to its cheesy dialogues and characters, yet it became very popular during its time, turning even into the 2nd highest grossing film of the year at the US box office. "Airport's" main problem is that in the first 100 minutes nothing is going on: it is just one long empty walk while it observes its melodramatic, stiff characters who are basically in a soap opera - the only episode that stands out is Helen Hayes as the old lady who uses her fragile and "helpless" look to constantly sneak in on board as a stowaway. Unfortunately, the dialogues are boring, conventional and shabby, whereas the style of the film is equally as ordinary and unmemorable.

The setting of a snow storm that seized the whole area is cozy, yet even that evaporates after a while since it cannot progress forward due to the stale storyline with unconvincing subplots (a man trying to blow himself on the plane to collect insurance) which were later spoofed deliciously by Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker's "Airplane!". The interest finally starts to grip a little bit in the last 40 minutes when the bomb explodes and causes a small hole in the back of the plane, forcing it to land as soon as possible, and a few comical moments manage to 'twitch' the film from its monotone constitution - in one moment, a nun in the plane drinks a whole bottle of alcohol from stress, whereas the always excellent George Kennedy manages to finally ignite some spark with some funny lines ("Are you out of your mind?" - "No, but I'm out of runaways", says a man who cannot sweep so much snow anymore from the airport). Unfortunately, it is all in the vein 'too little, too late', an the sole tangle on plane is never as suspenseful as it could have been since the film seems almost scared to go into any darker territory, instead preferring a 'pleasant' tone, though it had a tremendous influence on establishing the disaster film as a popular genre in the 70s, with Spielberg's "Jaws" reaching a peak of that movement.


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