Here are two hilarious reviews by 2 film critics of that So-Bad-It's-Good aviation "disaster movie", "Airport, 1975". You MUST remember this one: Columbia Airlines, Flight 409, a B-747-100 enroute from Washington-Dulles to Denver, suffers a mid-air collision when a small private plane crashes into the cockpit, sucking out the First Officer and the Flight Engineer. The Captain is badly injured and out of commission, and so it's up to cross-eyed head Stew Karen Black to fly the plane to Denver (their alternate destination). An all-star cast of has-beens are on-board to fuel up the box office profits.
Personally, I love these disaster films. Get a huge bag of Cheetos (the cheese factor, but of course) and press "play" on your DVD or Video player.
I do hope you find these two reviews of the film as funny as I did.
NOTE: These are quite long.
"Airport, 1975" - Review #1
The Greenwich Voice
September 17, 1999
Dedicated filmgoers collect so many varied pleasures as the years go by. Who can forget the first time they saw Welles' Citizen Kane? Ozu's Tokyo Story? Antonioni's The Eclipse? What gems of insight and emotion have been mined from the works of Jean Renoir, of Max Ophuls and Fritz Lang, of Hitchcock and Mizoguchi? Yet, if I had to choose between saving all of their films or preserving Airport 75, I must admit that I would hesitate.
When it comes to a film as rich as Airport 75, where does one begin? Perhaps a drum roll of the cast that adorns this archetypal 1970's disaster epic is as good a way as any to get started: we have Charlton Heston and Karen Black as the leads, and, in a display of has-beens and never-was's that would make any Hollywood Squares devotee salivate, there's Susan Clark, Sid Caesar, Jerry Stiller, Norman Fell, Martha Scott, Beverly Garland, Sharon Gless, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Erik Estrada ("Goodbye, Mr. C.H.I.P.S") all on board.
And that's just for starters! Myrna Loy plays an elderly tippler, Helen Reddy is a singing nun (for crying out loud!), Linda Blair is a cheerful girl in need of a kidney transplant, and, in the pièce de résistance, Gloria Swanson is…Gloria Swanson. If you loved "Airplane!", which lampooned Airport 75 in particular, you should go straight back to the horse's mouth and rent this seminal entry in bad cinema.
In a lengthy opening tracking shot that invites comparison with Orson Welles' similar feat in Touch of Evil, we follow cross-eyed stewardess Black into an airport as the names of the guilty keep coming and coming via the credits, a veritable orgy of cut-rate players. When the names finally stop, Heston quickly propositions our heroine. “I can do wonders in thirty minutes,” he promises, but Black's having none of it. “Maybe I'm tired of one-night stands,” she whines, as we imagine, quite against our will, the alarming image of the two of them in the sack. After she leaves him, the credits begin again and inform us that Edith Head designed the clothing (only senility can possibly excuse the neckerchiefs she gave to the stewardesses.)
When asked the secret of her ageless appearance by adulatory reporters, Swanson explains, “I won't take poisoned food, I don't like it.” Nuns Martha Scott and Helen Reddy observe her impromptu press conference intently. “It's one of those Hollywood persons,” says Scott with disdain. “You mean an actress?” asks Reddy. “Or worse,” Scott replies, rolling her eyes to heaven.
(the rest of the cast are in Dantes Inferno on soundstage 15 at Universal studios) Black tries to shield a new blond stewardess from the lustful advances of Erik Estrada, but this novice can take care of herself. “I'm emancipated, liberated and highly skilled in Kung Fu,” she boasts. “Whatever happened to womanhood?” wonders a pilot in response.
As the cast from Hell shuttle over to their flight, Swanson just won't shut up. When Norman Fell doubts if the plane will fly, Gloria says, “In 1917 I was flying in something wilder than this. You know who the pilot was? Cecil B. DeMille!” Just about everybody in Airport 75 proves to be as ready for their close-up as Swanson, especially little Linda Blair; when she is wheeled onto the plane, bad film-going delight turns into purple junk food ecstasy. She smiles satanically at everyone and says, “It's so exciting! The people are so interesting!” to her mother Nancy Olsen, who once played the ingenue in Sunset Boulevard, making this her second film with Swanson in which she doesn't share a scene with the silent diva.
“Jokes” drop like potato pancake batter into deep-frying fat. “I'll take you into the lion's den,” says Black to her blond Kung Fu-fighting co- stewardess. “Who's afraid of the lion's den, I'm Jewish!” quips blondie. Later, she calls the horny Estrada a “disgrace to your race,” and truer words were never spoken. Two old ladies cluck over a book called Epicurean Sexual Delights, and another woman anxiously hides her dog. People keep saying, “You've gotta see Gloria Swanson—she looks terrific!” Yet the camp high point, of course, is the now legendary scene where Sister Helen sings a jaw-dropping song to ailing Blair about how “you best friend is yourself.” You want so much for Blair to projectile vomit pea soup all over the plucky nun, but, alas, she just keeps smiling. The plane is filled with all kinds of weird goings-on and bizarre talk, but, as far as appalling remarks go, Fell takes the cake. “I once had a girlfriend who was half French and half Chinese,” he says. “I came home one night and she ate my laundry!”
Airport 75 exhibits a deliciously crummy television aesthetic. When the plane is hit, most of the pilots (including, thankfully, Estrada) are sucked out into space. As Black, The Cross Eyed Stewardess Who Has To Fly The Plane!, takes over the controls, the fact that she is traveling at airplane speed and is sitting right next to a massive hole in the cockpit is represented visually by her cast-iron hairdo blowing gently in the breeze! (The answer, my friends, is blowin in the wind....the answer is blowin in the tailwind). The way that Heston talks her through her ordeal is purely sexist, with all kinds of, “Baby, calm down honey,” stuff. It's as if all the controls were phallic—there's constant hilarious innuendo about nose dives and “keeping it up.” My personal fav line of Heston's is when he nervously wonders if Karen Black will manage fly the crippled 747 over an approaching mountain top. "Climb, baby.....CLIMB!!", Heston snarls into the camera. Oh, the drama and suspense of it all.
My personal favorite scene is when the mid-air collision occurs. Pan to the passenger cabin and watch the actors chew up the fuselage walls with their over the top reaction. (okay okay, so it IS
a collision, but please!) Sid Ceasar looks as if he is being dis-emboweled; an old female extra actually stands up in her seat and screams loudly, her wide open mouth resembling a baby bird in a nest awaiting mama bird to regurgitate food into its mouth.
As for Black, who really carries the whole movie, this is an immortal performance. With her dueling lazy eyes, she is able to keep watch over all the buttons and switches at once; she flares her nostrils, bugs her freaky orbs, and even sticks out her tongue when trying to get a pilot into the plane. God only knows how this dame can handle serving meals and drinks to the passengers with those screwed up eyes of hers. As a matter of fact, how in the hell was she hired by Columbia Airlines in the first place? When Heston, in an atrocious yellow turtleneck, manages to get aboard, Black tells the passengers that they'll have to shut down one engine. I adore the voice of one of the extras who pipes in, “We're gonna die!” in a dry, matter-of-fact voice. Baby, the audience died 20 minutes into this film. Join the mile high club.
They do land the plane without a hitch (surprise, surprise) and the ending, appropriately, belongs to Swanson. When she slides down the emergency landing shute, La Swanson's body double flashes us a glimpse of white panties (definitely the funniest image in the movie.) When her assistant murmurs that it's a beautiful morning, Gloria says rather touchingly, “Every morning is beautiful, you're just too young to know.” Oh, the pathos of it all. This demonstrates that Airport 75 is, finally, a contemplative film about life and its finish—or at least the finish of many show biz careers.
Though Airport 75 is the height of the Airport oeuvre, Airport 77 is worth checking out for Lee Grant's astoundingly bad performance as an alcoholic (on television there is also an extra hour of flashbacks to the passenger's lives!) And Airport 79: The Concorde has pilot / airline manager extraordinaire George Kennedy wrapping it all up with the line, “They don't call it the cockpit for nothing sweetheart!” as stewardess Sylvia Kristal recoils in horror. Kennedy appears in all four Airport movies as the same character, Petroni. Why anyone let this guy near an airport after a while is up for debate—it's like continuing to invite Jessica Fletcher to your parties: you know someone's going to get killed.
Here's another one for ya:
"Airport, 1975" - Review #2
by Kevin Hennessey
Greenwich Arthouse Review - New York
Two nuns watch as silent screen diva Gloria Swanson makes her way through an airport, surrounded by the press. "I believe it's one of those Hollywood persons," observes Sister Martha Scott. "You mean an actress?" asks Sister Helen Reddy. Scott shudders, rolls her eyes and replies, "Or worse." Airport 1975 is proof that nothing's worse than "those Hollywood persons" who grace the bonanza of Bad Movies We Love known as "disaster films," of which this is the funniest example. You simply have to love it, throw all logic out of the airplane door, and sit back and prepare for departure. As the parade of passengers continues--Myrna Loy, Susan Clark, Sid Caesar, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Roy Thinnes, Erik Estrada and Karen Black, just for starters--you keep thinking, it can't get any more cut-rate than this. Then Linda Blair rolls on in a wheelchair! (Lick it, mommy, lick it!) No green barf from Linda's mouth in this film, although, halfway through this airborne turkey, you'll be wretching up some of that green goo yourself.
Once the big bird takes off, the laughs soar too: Sister Reddy takes guitar in hand to serenade the ailing Blair in a high camp sing-along that's even hootier than the scene in "Airplane!" which was meant to spoof it. Funny how the entire 747 can hear the screeching of Ms. Reddy. What ever happened to the noise inside an airplane, where you can't even hear the person sitting next to you? And dear lord, someone ought to have slapped legendary costume designer Edith Head across the face for coming up with the horrendous excuses for costumes (even if this was 1974). Swanson looks like a jaded nun whose face displays the pain of constant constipation; Myrna Loy resembles a used and shrivelled condom with a scratchy voice to match. She spends the entire flight begging the stewardesses for a whiskey and a beer chaser. Perhaps Ms. Loy realized what a piece of crap she signed on for, and resigned to get through this movie smashed out of her brains. And those stewardess uniforms!
Though "Airport 1975" makes a hopeless attempt to appear updated--when a man calls a novice stewardess "a teenager," she shoots back, "It's Ms. Teenager, please. I'm emancipated and highly skilled in kung fu"--it's really just Arthur Hailey's old chestnut about the plane that must be piloted back to earth by--you guessed it--Someone Who Doesn't Know How to Fly! Clearly desperate to give the tired old plot device some added suspense, the geniuses here decided to turn the controls over to Karen Black, who not only has no clue about piloting a jet, she's also cross-eyed. (In a delirious in-joke, it's Dana Andrews who turns up as the pilot of the tiny plane that crashes into our heroine's 747 to set this plot into motion. In "The Crowded Sky", Andrews played the pilot whose jet was struck; then, in Zero Hour, he played Black's role.)
When the passengers hear that Black's flying the plane, they prepare to die. (The script died on page 2) Swanson tosses diamonds out of her jewelry case and stuffs the taped notes for her autobiography into it instead, explaining, "It's bomb-proofed, the insurance people insisted upon it." (It's the only "bomb-proof" thing in this movie.) As Black's troubles mount, her boyfriend back on earth, pilot Charlton Heston, knows that someone's gotta go up there and bring that plane down. "You mean to tell me you're going to try to transfer a pilot into a 747 in flight?" asks an incredulous extra. "It's going to be like trying to put a raw egg back into its shell!" Heston, however, seems to know that he's nothing if not a raw egg. And quite the stinker, too. Note to Heston: Get gun. Aim gun at cameraman. Shoot. Put cast, crew and audience out of their misery.
When Heston helicopters by and prepares to, literally, drop in, Black acts and acts as she reaches out her arms to help pull him aboard (amazing how she is not sucked out of the cockpit of the 747, what with the large gaping hole blowing in wind, then again, the entire cast of this film is blowin wind, big time)--and then makes one of those actor's choices that distinguishes her from all the others who've played this part: She sticks out her tongue! Then she tops even that by taking a bullhorn to run amok in the aisles shouting, "There's nothing to be alarmed about, nothing! Captain Murdoch IS
flying this plane! (cheers from the passengers who haven't even had the pleasure of a second drink service) Then, our cross-eyed stew announces, "We have had to shut down one engine" (screams and collective moans from the passenger cabin). Now, I ask you, WHY would a qualified air stewardess actually announce this to a plane load of already freaked out Tinsletown "C" list celebrities? The plane cannot fly on 3 operating engines? You think, it can't get any goofier than this, but it can, and it does. The grand finale? The sight of 69-year-old Myrna Loy hurtling down the emergency slide exit, a high point of unintentional hilarity. Too good to be true, it's exceeded by 77-year-old Gloria Swanson shooting down at warp speed, her dress hiking up high enough to show a tantalizing flash of white undies. Dear God......Dear God.