40 Years of “Airport”: “Airport 1975” (1974)

40 Years of “Airport”: “Airport 1975” (1974) (photo)

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In 1970, one movie invented the modern disaster film. After grossing more than $100 million at the domestic box office (adjusted for inflation, it made more than any of the “Lord of the Rings”), it spawned three sequels that stretched through the entire decade. But this landmark series is now almost totally forgotten, long eclipsed by the film that so brilliantly spoofed the genre tropes it helped define. In honor of its 40th anniversary, we’re looking back at the “Airport” franchise this week, one film at a time. Today, the first sequel, which is called “Airport 1975” even though it was released in 1974.

Airport 1975 (1974)
Directed by Jack Smight

Nature of Air Emergency: A pilot suffers a heart attack and loses control of his private plane, sending it into the path of Columbia Airlines Flight 409. The jet survives the collision, but the captain, co-pilot, and navigator are all killed or maimed. A disaster that implausible deserves an equally implausible solution, so it’s up to Chief Flight Attendant Nancy Pryor (Karen Black) to keep Columbia 409 in the air until her pilot boyfriend Alan Murdock (Charlton Heston) can fly to the plane and then lower himself into the hole in the cockpit via tether.

George Kennedy Plays: Joe Patroni, Vice President of Operations, Columbia Airlines.

11092010_airport75_4.jpgMost Surprising Subplot: ’70s disaster movie casts are littered with old stars. So the appearance of somebody like Gloria Swanson in “Airport 1975” is par for the course; the film also features golden oldies like Sid Caesar, Larry Storch and Dana Andrews. What’s weird is that Swanson is playing herself, and playing herself as a sort of weird corrective to Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard,” who is such a monster, and who everyone assumes is heavily based on the real life Gloria Swanson. But this Swanson is so cartoonishly cheery — even in the midst of a plane crash — that she becomes an absurd self-parody. Is she taking a flight to Los Angeles or campaigning for a humanitarian award? Maybe she was just happy that Hollywood had finally taken her advice and made the pictures big again.

“Airport” Makes No Sense: Columbia 409 is a red eye flight from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, California. That’s fine except for one little problem: red eye flights travel from the west to the east, not vice versa. If you left for the west coast at 11:00 PM eastern time, you’d land around 2:00 AM local time. So how come when the flight lands after its harrowing ordeal it’s a bright sunny day? Because “Airport” makes no sense.

11092010_airport75_2.jpgCharacter You Kind of Want To Die: Charlton Heston’s Alan Murdock. Sure, he’s the big hero and he does risk his life to save the day. But the whole time he’s talking to Nancy from the ground, he keeps condescendingly calling her honey. “That’s right honey, now check your altimeter.” “You’re doing fine, honey.” “I’ll be there just as fast as I can, honey.” Every line oozes with male chauvinism; Heston had more respect for Nova in “Planet of the Apes” and she was basically a cavewoman (Maybe he preferred the fact that she didn’t talk back). What I wouldn’t have given to hear Nancy sarcastically call to him as he’s suspended from that tether, “Hurry up, honey. What, are your arms tired or something, honey?”

Line That Makes You Wonder Whether The Whole Film Wasn’t Just An Informercial Paid For By The Air Travel Industry: “Oh and Mom, remember: the 747 is the best aircraft ever made. Remember? It can almost fly by itself. Dad calls it the big pussycat!” — Joey Patroni (Brian Morrison)

Parodied in “Airplane!”: Not only does Linda Blair play a little girl in desperate need of a kidney transplant like the one in “Airplane!” she’s even got a nun (Helen Reddy) that sings to her to make her feel better just like the one in “Airplane!” (Of course in “Airplane!” the little girl dies because the nun is too wrapped up in her song to notice her distress). Though Linda Blair is very sweet in the role, every time I watch those scenes between her and Reddy, I keep waiting for her to lean in and whisper “Hey, this is a swell song and all, but y’know what would really make me feel better? A kidney. Either give me one or shut up.”

11092010_airport75_3.jpgHow Does It Hold Up? Not nearly as well as the original. The first “Airport” had its share of outlandish moments, but it was grounded in a recognizable reality. “Airport 1975” only makes sense by the twisted logic of disaster movies, where horrible tragedy strikes swiftly and stupidly. All the genre’s cliches are here: improbable life-or-death scenarios, shameless audience pandering, and deranged cast lists — Gloria Swanson and Erik Estrada, together at last! The budget’s definitely bigger than the last time; now instead of a toy plane, we’ve got shots of a real jet in flight. But it’s hard not to notice the fact that the camera always shoots the side of the plane that wasn’t struck by the prop. And in the very brief exterior shots of the starboard side, the damage is minimal to non-existant.

Also, maybe this is me nitpicking, but shouldn’t a movie called “Airport” be about, y’know, an airport? The original “Airport” was; it had Lancaster and Kennedy as middle managers dealing with crummy weather and bad bosses amidst an emergency. They interacted with what looked to be real-life air traffic controllers playing themselves. “Airport 1975” is about a plane that has a mid-air collision. It’s as much about an airport as “Psycho” is about a bank in Phoenix.

Strange But True: Dana Andrews, the guy who saves the plane in “Zero Hour!” (the film that directly inspired “Airplane!”) turns up in “Airport 1975” as the guy whose unfortunately timed heart attack causes the disaster.

Monday: “Airport”
Today: “Airport 1975”
Wednesday: “Airport ’77”
Thursday: “The Concorde… Airport ’79”
Friday: “Airplane!”

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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