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Airport 1975

By Patrick Mondout

In this, the first (and best) of the sequels to 1970's Airport, the all-star cast of inebriated passengers (including Sid Caeser and Myrna Loy) get the scare of their lives when their flight to Los Angeles instead lands in Salt Lake City. (The drinkers on board dread the "dry" city - listen for the collective moan during the announcement.) Alcoholism is the least of the worries though: The reason for this unscheduled landing? A mid-air collision with a small airplane which kills two of the three pilots and leaves the other blinded! Who will fly and land the plane?

I am Woman - Hear Me Whimper!

Poor Karen Black. Watching her struggle to find alternative ways to say "I'm scared! I can't do this!" to set up the "strong-male-to-the-rescue scenes" can only make a modern viewer cringe. You almost hope someone from first class will slap her and say "Get a hold of yourself woman!" If there is a redeeming quality to this film, it is that the two cheating husbands in the cockpit both die (one of them is played to perfection by a pre-CHiPs Erik Estrada). As Woody Allen says in the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall, "If only life were like this!"

Given how sexist the film is, it shouldn't surprise you that the real-life former head of the National Rifle Association (Charlton Heston) climbs aboard - mid-flight - to save the day in a special effects sequence that serves to remind us how much Hollywood special effects have improved since 1974.

To add some extra drama to the movie, Linda Blair - in sharp contrast with her portrayal of Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist - plays a sweet girl who desperately needs to be flown to Los Angeles for a transplant operation. Will she make it in time or will Helen Reddy's music irritate her to death first?

As movie critic Pauline Kael says about the movie in her excellent book Reeling, "One can have a fairly good time laughing at it, but it doesn't sit too well as a joke, because the people on the screen are being humiliated."

Although the movie Airplane! parodies all four Airport movies, it parodies '75 the most. Next time you want a killer Super70s double feature, watch these two back-to-back! (And if your into that sort of thing, also try All the President's Men and Dick.)

See Also: Airport (1970), Airport '77 (1977), Concorde Airport '79, Disaster Movies of the Super70s.

Share Your Memories!

Is Airport 1975 one of your favorite movies? What do you remember about it? Share your stories (or your reviews) with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"Just recently I saw a 60s movie called "The Crowded Sky" where Zimbalist and Andrews had reversed roles; it was Zimbalist in a small fighter jet who hit a commercial jet piloted by Andrews, and I couldn't help thinking to myself "Airport 75 was payback"."

--Silver Eagle

"Of course it's sexist - by today's standards. But if you remember the seventies, like I do, people really talked that way. People were not nearly as sensitive then as they are today - sexual bantering was permissable. And if a strong woman didn't like it, she told the guy off; she didn't get a lawyer from ACLU. As for the movie, well, it's quite funny. And anyone who thinks that Karen Black comes off as helpless should remember that the audience is laughing much harder everytime Heston tries to lay on a smooth "baby" with her, or explodes with some really over-the-top expletive. Relax, everybody - that's what people did in the seventies!"

--Jimmyshine

"I remember seeing Airport 1975 at the drive-in. It was the second feature, the first being Earthquake. We (friends and relatives) used to put on plays about Airport 1975 and I ALWAYS had to be Urias. We put one on in the hayshed at my grandparents, the small beech baron was a piece of wood hurled at our lofty haybale cockpit. It was difficult to simulate being sucked out of a cockpit so I just fell between a couple of haystacks then returned as another character."

--Andy

"As lame as most of this film is I actually really liked it when I first saw it in 1975. The reason being is that the arial photography of the 747 in flight is fabulous. As a kid I was endlessly fascinated with aircraft, and the 747 was my all time favorite. When I saw the advertisement for this movie featuring the small plane colliding with the windsheild of the jumbo jet,... that was it!! I had to see this movie.

Simply for the coolness factor of seeing the big jumbo jet do its thing I was not disappointed. I thought the opening shot of the 747 cruising against the sunset sky was a really moody way to open the film. As you hear the roar of the jet engines over the Universal trademark then the screen fades into the big jet slowly cruising by. It was actually like a dream come true for a kid who loved planes. All of the photography of the 747 in the film is really well done.

The collision with the small plane was adequate though it is quite easy to tell that a process shot was used when you see the plane outside the 747s windshield. I always liked the part where the co pilot gets sucked out of his seat. For all its faults and stupid peripheral characters I will always watch this film if I see it on tv. It reminds me of being a kid and the fascination I had with aircraft,..still do."

--Anonymous

"I was only 11 years old when I first saw "Airport '75", but MAN, I was overwhelmed at how charming/pretty Karen Black was in the film."

--Rockstar4

"Currently my favorite movie of all time. Love Helen Reddy singing I'm a Best Friend to Myself to Linda Blair. Does anyone know where I can find a film still of Karen Black flying the plane? [Editor's note: Check our eBay links below and to the right (above). They show up once in a while.]"

--misspetunia

"Karen Black as flight attendant "Nancy Pryor" rocks the world. I wish I could look that good after explosive decompression, and a full meal service. Airport 1975 was a cinamatic work of art."

--sacrich1

"I remember seeing this film when it was released in 1974. My older brother took me to see it after constant begging (I was a Super70s disaster film freak, "The Poseidon Adventure" being my all time favorite). I was (and am) a commercial aviation nut, and was spellbound by the premise of "Airport 1975".
Upon my first viewing of the film, I thought it was just the coolest, action packed tense drama I had ever laid my eyes on! I thought the acting and cast were fantastic! Of course, years went by, and in 1991, friends and I rented "Airport '75" on video, and proceeded to watch it. Well, I cannot remember laughing so hard at the idiotic script and the cheesy, fantastically bad performances (however, they were only working with the script provided them).

A lot of the film simply does not make any sense whatsoever. But that does mean it is not an enjoyable film to watch...it IS! And I have to say I am impressed by the fact that the producers used real air-to-air shots, utilizing an American Airlines B-747-100 (American Airlines) for the film.

The following are a few things I found vastly amusing about "Airport 1975". Does anyone agree with me on the following? The following is merely poking fun at the film, after all, HOW can anyone take this film seriously!!?

1. If flight 409 was impacted roughly an hour prior to landing, then WHY were the flight attendants distributing coats and other belongings to the passengers in preparation for landing? And why could flight 409 NOT land at a closer alternative airport?
2. The ambulance bringing Linda Blair and mom to Flight 409 approached the left side of the B-747. YET...Helen Reddy and Martha Scott were viewing it from their seats on the RIGHT side of the aircraft!! Martha Scott: "Oh! Look sister! An Ambulance"!
Helen Reddy: "Oh, I hope it's nothing serious"! (makes the sign of the cross).


Yeah, nothin serious, sisters, it's ONLY an AMBULANCE!

Linda Blair's Mom: "Sweety, you have to relax and try and get some sleep".
Linda: "But mother, I can't! Everything is so exciting! The people are so interesting"!


Apparently Kidney girl knew something the rest of them didn't... they were a group of nut-bars assembled on that aluminum tube! And by the way, don't Linda.

3. The scene where Linda Blair's doctor is on the phone to Columbia Airlines always cracks me up, it's SO bad!

Doctor: "I don't think I need to emphasize the URGENCY of this situation"? (Linda (devil girl) needs to get to L.A. PRONTO fer that spankin new kidney! Every time I see this scene, I'm reminded of the parody in "Airplane!" where a rubber kidney is bouncing up and down the doctor's desk.

4. Why oh Why oh WHY does Karen Black stick out her tongue as the air force tries to lower the pilot into Flight 409 through the hole in the cockpit? This shot, accompanied by her crossed eyes and wind blown coiffure, makes for great wide screen Panavision viewing!! And while we're in the cockpit, can anyone explain just HOW Nancy Prior could possibly HEAR any radio transmissions over that ever lovin 500mph headwind screaming past and through the hole on the flight deck! And wasn't it a miracle that none of the sensitive flight instruments were destroyed. Also, I LOVE the line uttered by Charlton Heston from the air force helicopter as Karen Black manages to pull up the aircraft as it's approaching the mountains: Murdoch (Heston): "Climb, baby.......CLIMB!!!"

5. Helen Reddy singing that &^%$# song to Linda Devil-Girl Blair, to cheer the little sicko up! Need I say more?.... Nah. Cheese Cheese Cheese. Karen Black and plane smile those sickening sweet smiles at Helen's singing. Yah. Hey! Shouldn't Karen been up in First Class, serving Gloria? This babe was ALL over the plane, apparently not knowing which cabin she was assigned to!

6. Gloria Swanson!!!! Yeah! I have to say, if the producers were going for "over the top" they sure as hell succeeded by adding this great legend to the cast. she is priceless by her constant rantings and dramatized speeches into her tape recorder...even when she thinks the end is at hand!

Reporter (At Dulles Airport, where Gloria arrives For Flight 409):
"Miss Swanson? Tell us, what is the secret of your eternal youth".
Gloria: Why, Darling, I simply will NOT eat poison Foods!"
Apparently, it didn't stop Gloria from selecting a poison script!

7. Don't ya think the passengers over reacted just a TAD when the collision occurred? Sid Caesar screaming like a banshee and thrashing back and forth in his seat....LOL I was waiting for the camera to pan over and we'd see Imogene Coco sitting beside him. Mryna Loy zonked out of her ever lovin mind on Whiskeys with Beer Chasers!

8. Now, when Charlton Heston was safely on board 409, and ready for landing, he had Karen Black go down to the main deck passenger cabin with a megaphone, and inform this already stressed out and freaked out group of people that Murdoch (Heston) had to shut down an engine!!?? Hello? Was this a smart thing to do? Sure, let's REALLY freak out the passengers now! WHY did they have to be told this??

9. The scene where Christopher Norris (blonde junior flight attendant), is bending over the seats of Susan Clark and son (wife and kid of Joe Patroni). they are looking at the Air Force jet flying beside the B-747. Christopher Norris asks Susan, in a scared, trembling voice: "Do you think we're going to be alright??". UhI don't know about you, but would you want THIS flight attendant on YOUR flight?? Aye yi yi yi...Columbia Airlines sure knew how to pick em!!

10. The ending, where Flight 409 comes to a stop. The cabin doors are thrown open, the emergency slides are deployed, Flight Attendants pushing passengers on to the slides, screaming for them to evacuate. Ahhhh, Gloria Swanson screaming down a slide!! LOL. The background music is tense, dramatic...OH! Will Flight 409 EXPLODE?????...... THEN.....what do we see? Charlton Heston and Karen Black exiting the aircraft on AIRSTAIRS!? (where did these stairs come from?) They do a dramatic pause at the top of the airstairs, then, arm in arm, slowly stroll down the steps, away from the aircraft, accompanied by soft, romantic ending music. HELLO? Then what the hell was the big damn hurry to get everyone ELSE off by the emergency slides!!?? LOL.

Ahhhhhh, whether you love or loathe this film (I personally treasure it as part of the 70's great disaster cheesy genre), ya gotta admit, they had STYLE baby....they had STYLE!!"

--Johnnie Rotten

"OK, so it's a bad movie. Saw the TV commercials when I was but 6 years old, back in '74, and it's one of my earliest memories. BEGGED my folks to take me to see it, but we were on a limited budget (what does a kid know about a limited budget?!) They said wait till it comes on TV, and lo and behold, I first saw it on CBS a few years later. Made sure I saw it again when they re-ran it, and scanned the TV guide relentlessly to see when it would air again on "The Late Show" on CBS. (that was before CBS had Letterman. )

Karen Black, cross-eyed as she was, still holds a special place in my heart. Charlton Heston was mere window dressing for her character. She inspired me to become a pilot. (which I'm not, I'm a physical therapist, but maybe I'll get there someday. )

OK, so it's a bad movie. It doesn't really hold-up 30 years later (leisure suits and all. ) But, who cares?! When I was 8, after first seeing it, I thought it was timeless. . . the best film I'd ever seen. Know what? Can't explain it to friends or family, but it's STILL my favorite. I've seen it about 50 times or more, and I still enjoy every minute. When the DVD came out in widescreen, I was in heaven.

So, that's my confession. Thanks for indulging me. [Editor's note: One of my earliest childhood memories was going to see this movie with my mother and sister. I LOVED it.]"

--Steve

"Love this movie. . . . have it on DVD, Video, Press Book, Poster, Made a replica of it from a model 747 kit. I always will love Karen Black.
FYI: Ambulance came from the right side of the plane but it looked as if the sisters could see inside First Class from Coach even though there was a partition."

--Anonymous

 

FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Jack Smight

Stars: Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Susan Clark, Helen Reddy, Gloria Swanson, Linda Blair, Dana Andrews, Roy Thinnes, Martha Scott, Sid Caesar, Myrna Loy, Nancy Olson

Released: October 18, 1974

Availability: DVD VHS


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