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When the pilot of a small aircraft has a heart attack and crashes his plane into the cockpit of a Boeing 747, several members of the flight crew are killed and the pilot is blinded. Miraculously, the 747 stays in the air on auto-pilot with flight attendant Nancy Prior at the controls. Ground controllers, including her boyfriend Alan Murdock, try to teach her the basics but they soon realize they will have to get a trained pilot into the cockpit. Their first attempt fails and Murdock realizes he will have to do it. Meanwhile, various passengers have their own problems including a young girl who is destined to a life saving operation. Written by
When I was ten I dragged my poor mother along to see this dreadful movie, because at the time I was a bit of a fan of Helen Reddy (c'mon "Delta Dawn"'s still pretty cool!). I remember finding it rivetting. Now it is not only laughably bad, it's also pretty boring. In 1975 I had no idea who Gloria Swanson or Myrna Loy were - let alone Martha Scott or Nancy Olson. Now I mourn their presence in the film - why do they all have absolutely nothing to do!? Once the film gets going the only thing the writer and director seem to know to do with all this great talent is flash occasionally to them looking worried. I wonder what these great actors thought when they read the script - okay for fifty pages now all I say is "I'm sure we'll all be fine"!?! How on earth did Helen Reddy win the most promising newcomer award at the Golden Globes? For the last hour of the film her only line is "yes, dear"! And why was Linda Blair clutching a guitar desperately to her bosom if she couldn't play it? Obviously just in case a singing nun should happen to be passing by!
One of the funniest stories about this film is that the producers approached Greta Garbo to play the Gloria Swanson role. Can you imagine Garbo breaking her long retirement for this! Poor Gloria, playing herself in her final film, comes across as a pontificating know-it-all, boring her poor secretary senseless with stories of the "good old days". Myrna Loy has an occasional gleam in her eye when working with Sid Caesar, shame they couldn't think of any lines for her to say.
So, ignoring the true talent on board, most of the lines go to Charlton Heston at his teeth-gritting worst. Full marks to Karen Black for keeping a straight face, and allowing later film-makers so much to parody "Does anyone here know how to fly a plane?" (Airplane!). If you get a chance read the MAD send-up in which Linda Blair is flying "without a heart" and Helen Reddy sings a song called "We're all going to die and go to hell someday".
Did the Universal executives add the joke of naming the airline "Columbia"?
One final point - why do all those ugly old men have such beautiful young wives and girlfriends? Another film executive fantasy?
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