Airport 1975 (1974)

Charlton Heston and George Kennedy star in this rather unimpressive disaster movie. Universal boxset DVD.

The Film

Washington Airport, Alan Murdock (Charlton Heston) meets his girlfriend Nancy Pryor (Karen Black), an airline head stewardess - he is flying out to Los Angeles during the afternoon, while she is set to work the overnight flight and unsucessfully urges him to delay his trip so that they can have some time together. The Columbia Airlines flight eventually leaves that night with a variety of characters on board, including Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson (as herself), some Nuns, and a very ill young girl (Linda Blair) who is flying out to have an organ transplant. Due to bad weather, the flight has to land early at Salt Lake City, but on approach the airliner is hit by a light aircraft, killing the crew and leaving Nancy Pryor alone at the controls. Airline manager Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) hears about the disaster (his wife and son are aboard), and picks up Alan Murdock (who happened to be a Boeing 747 instructor) to fly out to Salt Lake City and talk her down - but when they realise that the plane is almost unflyable, they decide that someone will have to be winched aboard...

Following the amazing success of the original Airport (1970), Airport 1975 was inspired by Airport novelist Arthur Hailey's original airplane disaster script - for the Canadian television production Flight into Danger - which sees a crew disabled by food poisoning, leaving a light aircraft pilot at the controls - however the mid-1970s was the era of the big disaster movies, and so Airport 1975's script adds a plane collision and a mid-air winching to up the stakes. Unfortunately, any links to Arthur Hailey's carefully researched original books are lost here, in what becomes nothing more than a cliché disaster movie. Realism is the first thing to take a dive, and we get an absurdly convoluted plot that makes little sense (how did a light aircraft coming in to land end up ahead of the airliner? Did none of the radar operators notice the planes about to collide? Did none of them notice the collision? Just how does it change from night to broad daylight so fast?).

While Airport gave us over an hour pre-flight to learn about the characters and their motivations, Airport 1975 gives us just 15 minutes - of which most of the time is given over to Charlton Heston, the rest of the cast are just generic disaster movie stereotypes, from the comic bunch of drunks, the posh actress, the sick little girl and even some nuns (?!) and we neither know or care much about them - a few really random scenes attempt to build character, notably a nervous man who tries to point out his appeance in the on flight movie, only for the print to break half-way through, and simply come off as gratuitous - the addition of an obnoxious media scrum is also rather pointless and annoying. In what has to be one of the worst scenes ever filmed, one of the nuns, played by musician Helen Reddy, gives us a three minute song (a scene expertly parodied in Airplane! (1980). It is very clear, from the endless string of problems besetting the passengers, that the story would not have held up on characters alone like the previous film did. Ultimately this approach destroys any real tension in the predictable climax and even the ending is rather too brisk and unsatisfactory.

If Airport 1975 is good for one thing, it is the mid-air photography - shot for real, it gives the film a sense of authenticity that model work never could - unfortunately accuracy is never noted too much and the plane and weather seem to keep changing in altitude between shots (for added excitement it seems to frequently fly between hills, an amazing co-incidence for a plane on auto-pilot). Most annoyingly - despite taking pride of place on the poster-art for the film, the collision between the planes is not actually shown. The rest of the film is routinely directed with a generic orchestral soundtrack that does little to raise tension.

King of the epics, Charlton Heston takes the lead role here in what is a largely dialogue based role and he never really seems to get into the film. George Kennedy returns as Joe Patroni in a larger role here and looks very impressive, while silent movie actress Gloria Swanson has an amusing extended cameo as herself. Karen Black is relatively unimpressive as the female lead while Linda Blair (the world's most famous possessed child) doesn't get much to as a sick little girl. The rest of the cast seem fine, but their underwritten characters don't give much chance for acting.

Airport 1975 is probably the worst of the series, falling inbetween the very impressive first film, and the sequels which although absurd are open and enjoyable for it. Trying to be a serious disaster film, it completely misses out on characterisation and in trying to compensate with over-the-top action, just becomes completely implausible. Fans of the cheesy 1970s disaster movies might enjoy this, but anyone else is recommended to watch Airport (1970) and give this a wide berth - even Charlton Heston fans can surely find a better film with him in to watch. Not recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Charlton Heston - the original king of the epics, including classics Ben-Hur (1959) and El Cid (1961).
Directed by anyone interesting? Jack Smight - also directed Heston in the war film Midway (1976), and shot the interesting TV movie Frankenstein the True Story (1973).
Any gore or violence ? Some blood.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Of interest to fans of the cheesy 1970s disaster films, and Charlton Heston, but not recommended.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is strong with good colours and only mild grain.
Audio English stereo - sounds fine.
French, German, Italian, Spanish and Russian stereo dub tracks.
Subtitles English HOH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Czeck, Hungarian, Polish and Greek.
Extras None
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Availability Only available in the Airport Terminal Pack boxset.
Other regions? There is a near-identical US boxset release, the US disc includes trailers but has no alternate language options.
Cuts? The film is believed to be uncut. The print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 1st February 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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