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!”



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.