Airport 1975 (1974)

Charlton Heston in Airport 1975.

Directed by: Jack Smight
Starring: Charlton Heston, Karen Black, Linda Blair, George Kennedy, Gloria Swanson.

Airport 1975 is, of course, the first of three sequels to the very successful Airport, the semi-serious melodrama that can be credited with spawning the disaster movie wave of the 70’s. But where the original film focused on the relationships between the main characters, Airport 75 is all about the action. It’s simply more catastrophic bang for your bucks. Just like its predecessor, this film features a large cast of characters but this time it’s more or less irrelevant who they are – they are not in the movie because they are interesting per se, they are there to be put in danger.

Characterizations in Airport 75 are, to put it mildly, moronic. Linda Blair plays a young girl who despite her life-threatening kidney disease is the happiest, chirpiest person on board. Helen Reddy plays a young nun (so what is it with disaster movies and nuns? I feel there’s a whole separate blog post brewing about that) who for no reason is allowed to stop the plot for a few minutes to sing a song and play the guitar. Old Hollywood star Gloria Swanson joins the flight playing herself, and talks a load of bollocks about flying loop-the-loops with Cecil B de Mille. But the hero is, of course, non other than Charlton Heston, delivering yet another of his subtly nuanced performances.

And then there’s Karen Black as stewardess Nancy, who is forced to fly the plane herself when a mid-air collision knocks out both pilots. She confuses the hell out of me. From the very beginning we understand that she’s a spunky, independent woman, when she blows off Charlton for only being interested in a quickie between flights. But once the disastrous collision happens, Karen turns into a sleepwalker. I’m not sure if we’re to infer that Nancy has been helping herself to whatever licquor is available on board in order to get through the crisis, or if it is a conscious attempt on Black’s part to portray a woman dazed by shock, but the result is that the character appears mildly retarded. Not least when Charlton asks her for the nth time to check the speedometer, and Karen seems unable to either focus her eyes or read numbers.

Strangest of all, however, is the guy who is on the plane only because he wants to see the onboard movie, where he happens to have a bit part. He is probably intended as comic relief, but his failed jokes only make him appear more and more psychotic. They should have given him a movie of his own, I say.

Airport 75 is nowhere near as good as the original film when it comes to the acting. It does, however, feature lots of disaster action, with the attempt to put a replacement pilot onboard the damaged aircraft in mid-air as the main attraction. It’s entertaining, but not as visually appealing as Airport was, and Airport 75 does have some tempo problems when Karen nods off in the cockpit. On the whole, a pretty lukewarm affair, but a must for any disaster movie fan.

Rating: 3/5

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