AIRPORT 77, 1977
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Brenda Vaccaro, Lee Grant, Joseph Cotton, Olivia De Havilland, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Kathleen Quinlan, James Stewart, George Kennedy, James Booth.
A luxury Jumbo Jet, kitted out as a swish, flying convention centre, sets off on it's maiden voyage carrying a passenger list of the rich and redoubtable and owner Stewart's priceless artwork collection. Some of the crew are bent on carrying off this loot for themselves so they takeover the plane and fly it into the bermuda triangle to avoid detection. Hitting an off-shore oil rig, they plunge into the sea, ditching the air-liner on the sea-bed. Harrassed captain Lemmon has to try and save everyone as the air runs out and the water starts seeping in.
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Universal's third entry in their increasingly tired series of airborne disaster dramas features perhaps the oddest casting for this type of venture, perfectly in keeping with the daft plot in what has become something of a guiltily enjoyable late-night viewing pleasure.
Comedy film legend Lemmon slums it in the lead role and is off-key and clearly embarrassed, despite being surrounded by some hard working and classy support actors, the best of which are Grant who is on top-form as a bitchy, boozy passenger making best friends with the drinks cabinet and the requisite relics of Hollywood's Golden Age de Havilland and Cotton as two old flames reigniting their romance beneath the waves.
Stewart, Lee, Vaccaro, McGavin, a young Quinlan et al are completely wallflowered by the dismal and sodden script. These are actors who had shown themselves to be capable of much more but are ultimately defeated by thinly drawn, cardboard characterisations and a distinct lack of dialogue. Though for some of them, this may have been a blessing in disguise when looking back on their CV (pity poor McGavin who gets the award for the worst line as he sagely intones: “And oxygen. That could be a very important factor”).
Jameson, a former movie editor, still knows how to make a winner and is smart enough to completely side-step the loopy plot and focus his and our attention firmly on the well-orchestrated rescue operation. Here, the US Navy came in handy, as the liner is painstakingly raised from the sea and water rushes into the cabin area in the film's most impressive moment.
Despite being hampered by special effects that wouldn't allow for a decent crash into the sea (see it to believe it - a kid's toy chucked into a bath and a bin hitting someone on the head would never make this stand up against Titanic), Jameson still jumps on any moments of action to ensure the excitement is pushed to the limit.
A film like this was never going to win any major film awards (or even the minor ones), but thanks to a decent budget the good looking production managed to garner itself Oscar nominations for production design and Edith Head's costumes.