American based Federation World Airlines has just acquired a Concorde jet, which will make its inaugural commercial flight from Washington D.C. to Paris and then to Moscow as a goodwill ... See full summary »
This precursor to later "epic" 70's disaster films illustrates 12 hours in the lives of the personnel and passengers at the "Lincoln Airport." Endless problems, professional and personal, are thrown at the various personnel responsible for the safe and proper administration of air traffic, airline management and aviation at a major US airport. Take one severe snowstorm, add multiple schedules gone awry, one elderly Trans Global Airlines stowaway, shortages, an aging, meretricious pilot, unreasonable, peevish spouses, manpower issues, fuel problems, frozen runways and equipment malfunctions and you get just a sample of the obstacles faced by weary, disgruntled personnel and passengers at the Lincoln Airport. Toss in one long-suffering pilot's wife, several stubborn men, office politics and romance and one passenger with a bomb and you have the film "Airport" from 1970. Written by
When production costs spiraled over budget, Universal Chairman Lew Wasserman told producer Ross Hunter to shut it down. Hunter persisted, and finished the film. Universal execs predicted the film would be a flop and premiered it in many markets, hoping to recoup their loss before word of mouth killed it at the box office. The film turned out to be a hit, and brought in huge profits. Hunter publicly boasted that the film paid the salaries at Universal for several years, thus earning Wasserman's eternal enmity and resulting in Hunter's contract not being picked up for renewal. See more »
When Captain Demerest is reading off the plane's intended flight path to Rome, he refers to it passing over "Saint John, Newfoundland". The city in Newfoundland is actually called St. John's; Saint John is a city in nearby New Brunswick. See more »
If he tears this plane apart, I hope you've got eight million to pay for it.
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Unusually, the Universal Pictures logo animation is not shown at the beginning of this movie...it's instead shown at the end. The in-credit notice "UNIVERSAL presents" replaced the usual opening logo. See more »
Interesting for its parts, and players, not for the bloated plot
This has such a stellar cast, and such hype (left over from the day), it's hard to remember that this is also a over-the-top kind of polished production not so terribly different than "Ben Hur" and other big studio product.
But does it work? Yes, overall. It's fast, enjoyable, and not really serious, even though it's gripping at times. Don't confuse this with "Airplane," for sure, though the comedy gets part of its inspiration here, for sure.
When I say stellar cast, I don't just mean Burt Lancaster who is terrific (and who called it the biggest piece of junk ever made). He plays the determined leading man (running the airport) very well. Not just Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, and Jacqueline Bisset, either. These all play fairly thin roles, and very well, if you can play a thin role well. I'm thinking not even of every larger George Kennedy who is in charge of keeping the runways running (and that's the core of the crisis here, as a plane has turned too soon and gotten stuck in the snow), nor Helen Hayes, who plays a terrific batty old woman who sneaks onto planes (she won the Oscar for best supporting actress).
Maybe most impressive are the two actors playing a troubled couple, the man an actor I think is always underrated, Van Heflin. This is his last role, and he's still a master at subtle believability. His wife is played by the really impressive Maureen Stapleton, pouring out a small but moving performance as a worried, disenchanted, sad woman who suddenly realizes her husband is going to do something terrible. She won a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, well deserved.
The production? Glossy and sterile. The plot? Sterile, for sure, and predictable. Subplots (of which there are many)? Forced and absurd. (One exampleMartin and Bisset, playing pilot and stewardess, are having an affair. And she's pregnant. And they get serious in the aisles about what do to. But then she gets hurt in the big crisis in the air later on, and so on.)
I hate to admit I enjoyed this movie. It really is a big piece of junk. But all these actors are fascinating in some way or another. And the crappy plot is still exciting and interwoven in that way airport novels are. Yes, that kind of book you pick up to read on the place because it's distracting and not demanding. That's it, said and done.
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