Airport ’77 (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Art Direction (George Webb, Mickey S. Michaels) and Costume Design (Edith Head, Buron Miller).
Watched November 1, 2012.
I have heard tales of these films, the popular series that began with a study of the chaos at airports and gradually made its way to basic blockbuster adventure stories involving airplanes. If any of you have seen the popular comedy Airplane and did not know, it is a parody of the Airport movies of the seventies. After watching Airport ’77, I want to watch the rest, not because it was a brilliant feat, but because of the hilarious parodies of Airplane that I noticed while watching the film.
Airport ’77 is about a group of privileged people who are taking the first flight ever on a new luxury 747. The owner has invited them all to his place in Florida to view his art collection. Among the passengers are his daughter and grandson, whom he has not seen in years. The adventure and suspense in this film starts from almost the very beginning, when we are introduced to men wearing disguises and sneaking suspiciously through the airplane. Really what they are doing is hijacking the plane.
The copilot and his fellow theifs are stealing the art pieces in the cargo. They knock everyone out with gas and are intending on getting the pieces off the plane before anyone knows what has gone down, but inevitably, during the copilot’s maneuvers to stay below the radar in the Bermuda Triangle, they hit an oil rig and crash land in the ocean, sinking beneath the surface and settling on the edge of an underwater cliff. There is plenty of panic, death, and cut away shots to the Navy’s control room where they orchestrate the search and rescue. There is, of course, a doctor on board the plane (isn’t there always in the movies?), but they at least add a little twist in that he is a veterinarian. The film even ends in an epic attempt to raise the plane in the same manner that the Navy would raise a distressed submarine.
Apparently they had a stacked cast for this film, among them Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Olivia de Havilland, and Christopher Lee to name a few. Despite their talent pool, the demand of the characters was limited and there was very little study of how individuals might react if they suddenly awoke to find their plane at the bottom of the ocean. The storytelling was typical and predictable. How many times can you show water leaking into the plane and expect the suspense to build? There are a few sequences that are exciting and interesting, although it reminded me drastically of other unlikely stories such as Poseidon.
To be honest I am curious how the film earned itself its nominations. Looking at the art direction and costume design by themselves I am thoroughly unimpressed by their mediocrity. This may be a matter of societal distance, as the criteria of films in the 70s and films in the 21st century are quite different.
Airport ’77 has become one of those bad movies you might watch part of on TV, but beyond that it is nothing impressive. If you like unrealistic disaster movies like Poseidon you might want to look up this film, but otherwise it is not something I would advise for your list.