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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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