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40 Years of “Airport”: “The Concorde… Airport ’79” (1979)

40 Years of “Airport”: “The Concorde… Airport ’79” (1979) (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 Concorde… Airport ’79,” the rare movie with an ellipsis in the title.

The Concorde… Airport ’79
Directed by David Lowell Rich

Nature of Air Emergency: A journalist (Susan Blakely) boards Federation World Airlines’ new Concorde plane with documents implicating weapons manufacturer Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner) in illegal arms deals with America’s enemies. He tries to shoot down the Concorde and fails. He tries to shoot it down again and fails. Then he tries to make it crash and fails. Let this be a lesson to all of us: just because you make weapons doesn’t mean you’re any good at using them.

George Kennedy Plays: Joe Patroni, captain of the Federation Concorde flight from Washington D.C. to Moscow.

11112010_concorde4.jpgMost Surprising Subplot: Sometime after “Airport 1975,” where she was one of the passengers in distress, Patroni’s wife died in a car accident. Now a widower, Patroni’s back on the dating scene. During a stopover in Paris — after the Concorde’s been attacked by missiles and jets, but before it suffers explosive decompression over the Swiss Alps — his new co-pilot Paul Metrand (Alain Delon) sets him up on a date. It goes incredibly well and Patroni gets laid. The next morning, he begins to regale Metrand with stories of his conquest. Amused, Metrand confesses that Patroni’s “date” was actually a hooker that he’d paid to sleep with his lonely co-worker.

Metrand’s known Patroni for about 36 hours at this point and he’s already buying him hookers? Think about the co-worker you’ve known longest at your job. Maybe you’ve worked with them for years. Would you surprise them with a prostitute if they were feeling lonely? I think Federation World Airlines needs to reevaluate its sexual harassment training seminars.

“Airport” Makes No Sense: George Kennedy stars in all four “Airport” movies as the same guy, Joe Patroni, but he’s got a different job in each movie. So far he’s been a mechanic, an airline’s vice president, and a private contractor working for a billionaire. Obviously the guy knows airplanes, but suddenly in “Airport ’79” he knows how to fly them too. Now it’s unlikely but not impossible that Patroni was studying to be a pilot on his days off. But when Metrand asks Patroni how long he’s been flying he replies, “I stopped counting after 30 years. I’ve flown just about every aircraft there is through three wars and 40 pounds.” So he’s been moonlighting from his three other jobs at a forth job? For 30 years? Then again, Patroni also talks regretting the fact that he and his wife only ever had one child, but in previous movies he’d talked about having five kids. So maybe Patroni’s not a workaholic. Maybe he’s just a pathological liar.

11112010_concorde2.jpgCharacter You Kind of Want To Die: Jimmie Walker (J.J. from “Good TImes”) plays Boisie, a jazz musician who walks up and down the aisles of the Concorde playing his saxophone. He’s a talented guy, but what gives him the right to blast a sax in the middle of a crowded airplane? I’m sorry Boisie: you interrupt my Robert Ludlum novel, you have to die.

Lines That Makes You Wonder Whether The Whole Film Wasn’t Just An Informercial Paid For By The Air Travel Industry: “There’s nothing like her in the skies. She can maneuver with a military jet. Go just as fast. And a lot farther.”
“I think I’m falling in love.” — Metrand and Patroni admire the Concorde.

Should Have Been Parodied in “Airplane!”: Amongst the passengers on the Concorde is a Russian gymnastics coach named Markov, played by Avery Schreiber, and his deaf daughter, played by Stacy Heather Tolkin. The whole movie these two wander around the Concorde while the daughter asks questions and the father, who looks like the love child of Béla Károlyi and Gene Shalit, signs the answers back to her. The only reason these two, particularly the gregarious, big haired coach evaded the Zuckers’ aim is the fact that they were already readying “Airplane!” by the time this movie came out.

How Does It Hold Up? By 1979, “Airport” had lasted four films and nearly a decade. It wasn’t a only a matter of months before “Airplane!” came along and killed the disaster genre dead by so brilliantly making fun of its cliches and stupidity. But the fact of the matter is “The Concorde… Airport ’79” was already a self-parody of a disaster movie. The first “Airport” had Helen Hayes. The last “Airport” has Charo.

11112010_concorde3.jpgAs self-parody, “Airport ’79” is pretty funny stuff. This movie is here to do two things: show off how awesome the Concorde is and relish every chance it gets to make D-list stars uncomfortable. It’s almost a low-level torture porn, inviting us to get off on the sight of Eddie Albert, Susan Blakely, John Davidson, Jimmie Walker and the rest get blasted by wind machines and flying debris and paper.

The degree to which the film violates basic rules of physics and logic is so daring it’s almost ballsy. It presents totally unbelievable scenarios and dares you to call bullshit. For instance, The Concorde makes an emergency landing in Paris after it comes under assault from a military drone plane gone rogue. The plane depressurizes and nearly crashes on the runway at de Gaulle. If this happened in real life it would be one of the biggest news stories of the year and the incident would spark an enormous law enforcement investigation. The plane would be grounded for days or even weeks to ensure the police were able to gather all the evidence they needed, and to ensure the safety of the aircraft. But not only does the Concorde take off for Moscow as planned a day after the incident, saboteurs are able to sneak onboard and place an explosive device on its cargo door. This plane was just involved in one of the craziest mid-air dogfights in history. Nobody is around to watch it get broken into?

You could argue the laughs are intentional, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Clearly the series had run its course and was totally out of ideas. The guys who made “Airport ’79” couldn’t end the movie quick enough. The credits roll immediately after the Concorde makes a desperate emergency landing on a ski slope, and the crew and passengers evacuate just before the jet explodes. There is no resolution for any of the subplots. You don’t find out whether the sick passengers will survive, or whether the weapons manufacturer will get busted, or whether Patroni will sleep with his hooker girlfriend again. All you get is a shot of the Concorde — and the “Airport” series — flying off into the sunset. Of course, since the plane just crashed, even that shot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Strange But True: The Concorde is supposedly flying to Moscow as a sign of goodwill in anticipation of the Olympic games there in 1980. But the United States and many of its allies boycotted the 1980 games because of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. So way to go, “Airport ’79,” there’s another thing you screwed up.

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

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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