Welcome to the 1970’s, where disasters became big in the box office. Airport was one of the first to make big bucks over depicting a day where everything goes wrong and lead the way for films like Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and the rest of the Airport series. But perhaps Airport’s greatest achievement was inspiring the best spoof ever made, Airplane!
I’ll admit it, I love Airplane! and have seen it too many times. So it was a little difficult at first to take Airport seriously. But Airplane! mostly spoofs Zero Hour! and other installments of the Airport series. So don’t write off Airport too fast, once the gears of the plot start moving together it’s almost intriguing and suspenseful.
The whole film is one crazy night at an airport. There’s a huge blizzard delaying flights and one plane is stuck on the runway. The nearby neighborhood is filing a lawsuit because planes rattle their houses. A stewardess discovers that she’s pregnant with a married pilot’s child. An old woman is caught for being a stowaway. And a man has a bomb on a flight to Rome. Talk about a bad night.
Thankfully, most of these problems are very unlikely to happen today (I mean besides unplanned kids and snowstorms). But it’s fun to look back at the airport of yesteryear where they didn’t scan your bag, ticket or shoes.
The plot jumps back and forth between action in the terminal, on the runway, the tower, the jammed highway and of course the plane. For some, it may feel that too much is going on at once, and one character might be forgotten for a while until everything gels together.
The most enjoyable plot line is of the little old woman who stows away on planes to see her daughter. Played by Helen Hayes, Ada is a delightful little thing just playing the system and doing it well. In the end, she gets to be one of the heroes aboard the plane and snatches Airport’s only Oscar for best supporting actress.
For those who enjoy disaster films of the 70’s or airport melodramas, Airport is for you. If you want the same basic idea but full of zany laughs, just watch Airplane! And for a quote that could fit either film:
“Hold the whipped cream; I just had dessert.”