Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Concorde...Airport '79 (1979)

New Year's Eve at our house means watching a disaster movie, and this year's selection was the enjoyably awful THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 (1979). This movie won't win any prizes for logic or acting, but that made the movie even better. Like ZERO HOUR! (1957) a couple decades earlier, the actors play it straight but the audience watches a gloriously funny unintentional comedy.

George Kennedy is back as Joe Patroni, the unluckiest airline employee in the world. Crew members should run when they see him coming! Although perhaps in a strange way he could be considered lucky, given that he survives every disaster he encounters.

This time around Joe's a widower -- in fact, he's entirely too cheery announcing his wife's death on multiple occasions, especially given all he did to save her life in AIRPORT '75! -- and he and Captain Metrand (Alain Delon) are piloting a brand-new American-owned Concorde on its inaugural goodwill flight, first from Washington, D.C., to Paris and then on to the Soviet Union. Their navigator is Peter O'Neill (David Warner).

Newscaster Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely), having survived a hitman in her home the prior evening which left her barely hanging on to her roof, boards the plane after having just been handed documents proving that her lover, Dr. Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner), has been selling illegal arms overseas.

Dr. Harrison, a weapons manufacturer, of course concludes the only thing to do is tamper with his company's missile test and use a missile to take out the Concorde! Joe and Captain Metrand take successful evasive action, so Dr. Harrison goes for Round 2: a fighter jet pilot is hired to down the Concorde when it reaches France. In the midst of evasive barrel rolls Joe jokes "I'd love to see what my horoscope says for today!"

One of the movie's many inexplicable plot angles is that after surviving attacks by missiles and a fighter jet, the crew and passengers simply walk away from the Concorde. There's some mumbling about an investigation, but clearly no one undergoes any serious debriefing. The plane is tidied up and then, without the attacks on the plane having been solved, everyone gets right back on the plane for round 3!

In fact, the captains don't even seem stressed despite having piloted their way out of near-death experiences on two separate occasions. They don't get much sleep that night -- Joe later learns the woman (Bibi Andersson) he spent the night with was actually a hooker hired by the other pilot! -- and then they're ready to get right back to piloting the Concorde to its final destination.

For this flight Dr. Harrison arranges for the Concorde's cargo door to pop open. The plane begins to tear apart, but fortunately a ski patrol can lay out a landing runway high in the snowy Swiss Alps...

This one has to be seen to be believed. After surviving the initial missile attack, complete with oxygen masks popping out and storage compartments emptying, do the pilots land at the nearest airport to check the plane over? Nope, they announce hey, everything's fine, we're going on to Paris!

There are so many actresses with blonde Farrah Fawcett hairstyles that we couldn't tell them apart. It took us a bit to realize that Eddie Albert's trophy wife (who refreshingly actually loves him) and Maggie (Blakely) were not the same character!

This being an AIRPORT film, you've of course got the urgent medical case on board (Nicolas Coster and Cicely Tyson are transporting a heart to France for a transplant), some musicians (Jimmie Walker and Monica Lewis), and young lovers (John Davidson and Andrea Marcovicci). Charo makes an inexplicable couple-minute cameo, trying to board the plane in Paris but kicked off because she's carrying a little chihuahua.

I might have muttered something about how low an Oscar winner fell when Mercedes McCambridge popped in for a couple of scenes as a Russian gymnastics coach. And poor Martha Raye fares even worse, playing a character whose sole function is to keep using the bathroom. Perhaps the ladies needed the income?

THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 runs 113 minutes. It was directed by longtime TV director David Lowell Rich from a script by Eric Roth, based on a story by producer Jennings Lang. It was filmed by Philip Lathrop.

THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 is available on DVD. It can be rented from DVD on Netflix.

It also had a release on VHS. It can currently be streamed via Amazon Instant.

The trailer is on YouTube. It gives a great overview of the numerous calamities faced by the crew of the Concorde.

Previous New Year's Eve disaster movies: AIRPORT '77 (1977), EARTHQUAKE (1974), CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965), THE CROWDED SKY (1960), ZERO HOUR! (1957), SKYJACKED (1972), and TWISTER (1996).

Reviews of the prior AIRPORT movies: AIRPORT (1970), AIRPORT '75 (1974), and AIRPORT '77 (1977).

THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 is a gem of a bad movie which I thoroughly enjoyed. Fans of goofy airline disaster movies should be sure to catch it.


Blogger dfordoom said...

It's not quite as wonderful as Airport 1975 but it's still terrific fun. Great review.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

AIRPORT '75 is my favorite! You just can't beat trying to lower a pilot into a jetliner...

Best wishes,

5:39 PM  
Blogger KC said...

Yeah, even though we don't have Karen Black in this one, it's still pretty good. I can't believe the part where Blakely goes to meet Wagner alone after learning what he has done. It's like she want him to kill her! So silly and entertaining.

11:09 PM  

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