Concorde: Airport '79 (1979)

George Kennedy and Robert Wagner star in this utterly daft disaster movie. Universal UK boxset release.

The Film

The first Concorde is delivered to a US airline. Meanwhile, investigative journalist Maggie Whelan is contacted at her house by a man from the big Harrison Industries company - he claims to have evidence that the arms company has been illegally selling weapons to third world nations, but before he can tell her any more, he is shot and killed. Maggie talks to the company owner, her friend Dr. Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner) who assures her that it was all lies. After they part, Maggie leaves for Moscow on Concorde but before she boards is handed some documents which she discovers are proof of the Harrison Industries' illegal arms sales. Hoping to destroy the evidence, Harrison first targets an unmanned drone at the plane and then hires a mercenary jet fighter to shoot it down, but both fail after some creative piloting and the plane lands in Paris. Harrison lands in Paris to talk with Maggie but they cannot come to an agreement and as she boards to fly on to Moscow, he arranges for another sabotage attempt that will open the cargo bay doors in mid-flight...

The fourth, and unsurprisingly final film in the Airport series, Concorde: Airport '79 ranks as one of the most ridiculous 'disaster movies' ever filmed. While Aiport '77 had taken a rather over-the-top disaster, but played it very ernestly, Concorde pushes its story into absurdity. Logic seems to be completely absent throughout - Harrison seems to be terrified about some pieces of paper (could he not call them forgeries?) and not of the horrific PR that would result from his drones shooting down an airliner; he never considers killing Maggie in Paris when it would be much simpler and cleaner, and just where do you hire an F-4 jet fighter on short notice? However, once you see George Kennedy opening the window of Concorde mid-flight, it is clear that we have entered (unintentional) self-parody territory, and the film's plot holes stop being of concern.

The characters are a suitably daft mix as well, from a stoned Jazz musician to a panicky lady who sits in the toilet for most of the film, a random group of Russian athletes, and even a woman carrying an organ transplant for her son (but no Nuns this time). Don't expect much in the way of characterisation (although there are a couple of gratuitous love-stories hidden away in there). Somehow, the storyline does all come together and with its non-stop action, the film is never dull, building to an exciting climax.

Director David Lowell Rich had already directed a duo of Aiport inspired films, including the horror movie Terror at 37,000 Feet (1973) and the earlier Concorde television movie SST: Death Flight (1977), starring Doug McClure. He does some decent work here, although the primative computer-generated special effects look utterly daft (the occasional model shots look a lot better). Experienced Hollywood composer Lalo Schifrin gives the film a decent soundtrack.

Showing up the low budget the most is the complete absence of the all-star casts that boosted the first three films. American actor Robert Wagner plays the evil Harrison, but looks rather bored throughout, while French actor Alain Delon and disaster movie veteran Susan Blakely give adequate performances. Star of all four Airport movies, George Kennedy gets his most important role here as the plane's captain and really seems to be enjoying himself - indeed he seems to be the only actor who gets the absurd nature of the film.

Original Airport creator Arthur Hailey would doubtless be horrified, but Concorde: Airport '79 is a surprisingly enjoyable film. Packed full of dodgy special effects, and a myriad of plot holes big enough to fly the plane through, it somehow remains watchable and comes recommended to disaster movies fans looking for something bad. Regular film fans should stay far away! Amazingly the film inspired an even lower budget rip-off, the European Concorde Affair (1979) directed by Ruggero Deodato, that boasts an even more absurd plot.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? George Kennedy - star of all four movies, the Naked Gun series and cult horror film Brain Dead (1990)
Robert Wagner - an American actor, best known now as Number Two in the Austin Powers films.
Directed by anyone interesting? David Lowell Rich - a television director, who also shot airborne disaster movie SST: Death Flight (1977).
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Only recommended to fans of bad movies and cheesy disaster films.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is strong with good colours and only mild grain (although special effects shots are very grainy).
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. An alternate version was put together for television, not included here.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 9th February 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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