Friday, September 05, 2003

... and don't call me Shirley

The other day I came home and found the DishDVR 721 (yes, No. 5 is still alive) tuned to the classic 1970 film Airport. Airport, of course, begat Airport 1975, which begat Airport '77, which begat Concorde: Airport '79, which begat Airplane!, which begat countless Leslie Nielsen mockfests.

I'd seen pieces of the original a few years back, but never the entire film. So, a quick DVR search showed it coming on overnight this week, and I grabbed it. With the wife out of town and some time to kill, I laid back and took in the masterpiece tonight.

First off, unlike the sequels, Airport isn't just a disaster movie. It's more of a soap opera set at an airport in the middle of a snowstorm. Sure, there's a guy with a bomb on a plane, and that becomes the film's focus, but before that plotline unfolds about 45 minutes in, we're treated to the following:

• Burt Lancaster is the airport GM. He hates his wife, is thinking about leaving and seems to be fucking some blonde girl who works in customer service for an airline.

• Dean Martin is an airline pilot. He's married to Burt's sister and fucks stewardesses in his spare time. He enjoys fucking Jacqueline Bisset most of all, so much so that she's now knocked up. His wife knows about the stewardesses, figures he won't fall in love with any of them, and is waiting for the day when he comes home "for some reason other than to change clothes."

• George Kennedy is the head maintenance guy who is called away as he's about to start fucking (his wife, no less!) to come dig a plane out of the snow, as that plane is blocking a runway.

• Burt has to deal with area residents who don't like planes taking off over their homes. The residents are thinking about suing; Burt is thinking about building a big, modern airport, which would require a bond issue. Somehow this plotline is considered worth 15 minutes of film.

So 45 minutes in, I'm about ready for the bomb.

The movie also serves as a platform to display the wonderous technologies of the day. Burt and George both have mobile phones in their cars (back when mobile phones looked like big desk phones and featured rotary dials - my dad had one of those in his Cadillac back in 1977), Burt's office has a wall embedded with about a dozen radios and other gizmos, and he carries a beeper that buzzes and vibrates like a belt sander.

Couple that with the cool circa 1970 office decor, Dean Martin calling people "daddy", the ultra-mod split-screen shots during phone conversations, great lines like Gary Collins describing passenger injuries as "some cuts and bruises, shock and puking" and all of the bits that morphed into Airplane! moments, and it's an enjoyable flick.

By the way, the guy sets the bomb off in the bathroom, but they manage to land the plane OK.


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