With Airport 1975 you know exactly what to expect. The blueprint for the films was set out in Airport, the Arthur Hailey novel of the same name which spawned a hugely successful movie of the same name in 1970. The inevitable return to the story follows a standard path of any disaster movie, especially the ones produced in the real heyday of the genre. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have merit. There are a number of elements that make it almost a comforting watch despite the fact that it involves people in danger.
The plot of the film is a slight variation on the previous one. Let’s face it if it was just a carbon copy of its predecessor then there would be so little value in watching it. The plot centres on the red-eye flight between Washington and Los Angeles. Onboard is an assortment of passengers, many with recognisable personality types. When bad weather forces the flight to divert to Salt Lake city the trouble begins. At the same time as the 747 begins it descent another plane, is also trying to land. The pilot of this aircraft has a heart attack and the plane veers into the path of the passenger jet. A collision occurs resulting in the death or serious injury to the flight crew. With the mountains looming in the distance the head stewardess is forced to take the controls and try to steer the plane to safety.
The film is a very familiar mixture of disaster elements and human melodrama. To keep it interesting the story switches between the two. There is a fair amount of build-up which translates to nearly half of the film being spent setting the scene before the collision occurs. This is a little long and it tends to focus on the characters purely to identify their type to the audience in the most obvious and repetitive way. For instance, there is an older lady in the passenger ist. We meet her in the airport lounge as she is bumped into by some rowdy drinkers and by way of an apology accepts a drink from them. Except, she orders two. That alone would be sufficient indication of drinking problems for the character but the film lets you know twice more that here is an alcoholic.
The film is a star-studded affair. Charlton Heston leads the cast as a flight instructor who also happens to be in a disintegrating relationship with the head stewardess on the troubled plane. Heston is, as always, a consummate professional that treats the part seriously. for such a big name he is only really used in the second half of the film, which is a pity. His elements are the strongest in the film. Around him are a cast of thousands with names that will be very familiar to fans of US films and TV. It is a mix of the young upcoming and older stars on the wane. The film is notable for the last on-screen performance from Gloria Swanson .
it is difficult to watch the film with any degree of seriousness if you have watched Airplane. So many scenes and ideas have been taken from this film and turned into comedy gold. There is the young girl who is flying across the country to have a life-saving operation, the inclusion of Nuns, a song in the middle of the film where everyone stops to listen and the banter between the flight crew. That’s only the most obvious ones. It is littered with small touches that remind you of the far more enjoyable comedy film.
Airport 1975 was never going to be a great movie. It was the product of a studio wanting to cash in on a successful product which it did, in fact, do at the time. Despite its lack of originality it proved not to be the end for the series with two further films being produced before the end of the 1970s.
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