Set in England, rather than California, the story follows Raymond Chandler's book fairly closely otherwise. Philip Marlowe is asked by the elderly (and near death) General Sternwood to ... See full summary »
When a trio of ex-convicts led by Mattie Appleyard is released from prison, they hope to open a general store using money Mattie has saved during his 40-year sentence. This attempt is met ... See full summary »
A 707 aircraft jetliner on its way from Athens to Rome and then to New York City is hijacked by Lebanese terrorists. The terrorists demand that the pilot take them to Beirut. What the ... See full summary »
A luxury 747 carrying valuable art work is hijacked and lands in the ocean, submerged in shallow water. Will the crew and passengers make it off before the plane floods with water? Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
Joan Crawford was approached to play the role of Emily Livingston but declined, later saying, "I wanted Joel McCrea to play opposite me, and anyway, they actually asked me to fly out there with only one week's notice! Why, that is hardly enough time for makeup tests or rehearsals... and when I asked about costume fittings, they said they wanted me to wear my own clothes!" See more »
When Capt. Gallagher is explaining the need to get the raft to the surface to the group on the plane, he explains that it is designed automatically to trigger its SOS beacon when it reaches the surface. After Gallagher hauls himself aboard the raft, however, the first thing he must do it extend the antenna and switch on the beacon. See more »
How do you get a 747 widebody to the ocean floor without filling it completely with water? Modern jets will float for a half-hour or more, but once they start flooding, they don't stop until the cabin is uninhabitable. The intricate solution to this problem is just the first in a long series of hoops the producers had to jump through after saying, `Let's do a film about a jumbo jet that sinks in the Bermuda Triangle with the passengers still alive inside!'
Airport '77 is the gloomy response to this challenge. Art thieves hijack a specially equipped and highly luxurious private 747 to loot her expensive cargo. In the process of flying stealthily below radar, the copilot/thief (Meredith) strikes an oil drilling platform and loses control of the airplane. After a brief struggle to stay aloft, the jetliner settles onto the surface of the water, but not before a massive storage container tears loose and punches a fatal hole in the forward cargo compartment.
And therein lies the solution to the first problem. Like the customization of a conversion van from the same era, this private jet has been modified to contain a series of individually pressurized cargo holds. When the forward cargo compartment floods, the rest of the plane is left dry. Within minutes, however, the weight of the water pulls the plane to the floor of the ocean, with most of the passengers still alive and plenty of doors and windows leaking ominously.
Airport '77 starts with heavy-handed drama and never lets up. There's not much room for humor in a 747 several hundred feet under the water, but Airport '77 doesn't even attempt to lighten the mood occasionally. Better disaster movies pull the audience from one emotional extreme to another, but on this plane, the dialogue is suffocating even before the oxygen starts to run low. There isn't anyone in charge of bringing hope to the survivors (and the audience).
And despite their occasional humanitarian efforts, this group of super-rich, mostly white passengers does little to elicit sympathy from the audience. Only the head flight attendant (Vaccaro) invites compassion. Her romance with the pilot (a mustache-laden Lemmon) isn't adequately explored, particularly when he volunteers to leave the plane in a risky maneuver that might easily kill him. Meanwhile, virtually the entire support staff of the plane magically disappears so that the drama can focus on the wealthiest and presumably most interesting group aboard.
The tone of this film is gloomy right from the start, and bad cinematography doesn't help. Every room (on the plane or elsewhere) is dark, and every cast member seems to be covered with a thin layer of reflective slime even before the plane sinks! It's as though good lighting and decent makeup were dispensed with just to darken the mood.
The sun-drenched rescue operations offer the possibility of relief from the closed quarters of the plane, but instead we receive an abundance of stock Naval rescue footage. Generous thanks are paid to the men and women of the armed services who assisted in the production of this movie, and we know this to be true because the final third of the movie is so boring.
Airport '77 has the most elaborate special effects of any Airport movie, and they are enjoyable to watch. All of the external effects are clear, and the flooding inside the plane is done as well as can be expected. Aside from the abundance of dark brown furniture (and carpet, and paint, and wallpaper) it's the relentlessly dim lighting that clinches the claustrophobia. Though possibly necessitated by the depth of the plane underwater, the resultant sense of suffocation only disengages the viewer further. The cheap special effects of The Concorde: Airport '79 indicate that the lesson was learned that good effects won't save a mediocre film.
In short, Airport '77 just isn't fun enough. It's a clever premise and the producers went to great lengths to get the plane underwater in a satisfactory manner. But if it's not the weighty dialogue, it's the unengaging Naval training footage, and so the audience quickly discovers that there's really not that much to enjoy here after all. Airport '77 is fun to watch for the crash and flooding sequences (as well as Darren McGavin's dependable character acting), but seat-of-your-pants thrills are best found elsewhere.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?