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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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