The Concorde…Airport ’79 (1979)
Directed by: David Lowell Rich
Starring: George Kennedy, Alain Delon, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Sylvia Kristel
If you’ve been looking for a film where one character dies after getting run over by the Concorde, look no further: Airport ’79 is that movie. And the runway incident is just one of many senseless features in this, the fourth and last installment of the famous Airport series.
This time the plot is downright silly. It all revolves around a TV reporter, played by Susan Blakely, who finds out that a wealthy industrialist – who also happens to be her boyfriend – has been involved in illegal arms trading. Susan is about to board the Concorde bound for Moscow via Paris when she gets the documents proving the dirty arms deals delivered into her hands by a woman in a wheelchair who comes rolling out of nowhere. Mr Evil Industrialist, played by Robert Wagner, promises to meet Susan in Paris to explain everything, while secretly planning to silence her in the most discrete way imaginable: by blowing the Concorde up with a missile.
George Kennedy, mainstay of the Airport films, has gone from aircraft mechanic to Concorde pilot, and demonstrates through a series of dramatic rolls and loops that the Concorde can outmanoeuver any jet fighter, not to mention computer-guided missiles.
Robert Wagner’s plot fails. During the stopover in Paris, he meets up with Susan Blakely but fails to convince her of his innocence. Susan breaks up with him, telling him she will expose him – once she gets to Moscow, that is. Meanwhile, George Kennedy, still sad and lonely since his wife died a year ago, sleeps with a French hooker played by frequent Ingmar Bergman collaborator Bibi Andersson.
When the plane takes off for Moscow, Wagner’s henchmen have installed a gizmo that makes the cargo hatch open in midair, causing great big hole being torn open in the belly of the aircraft. Luckily, George Kennedy and his co-pilot Alain Delon manage to land the Concorde on a mountainside in the Alps, where – fortunately – a complete rescue team is waiting to evacuate the passengers before the plane explodes.
This absurd plot is enhanced by really cheap-looking visual effects and a bunch of crap jokes. Just about every character is quite annoying. Among others, we meet a team of Russian gymnasts on their way home, and a few musicians headed for a jazz festival in Moscow (as we all know, the Soviet Union in the 1970’s was a real jazz hotspot). The only passenger worth remembering is Jimmie Walker, who kind of reminds me of Snoop Dogg, and spends a good part of the journey in the bathroom, smoking weed.
Frequently, Airport ’79 feels like watching a parody of a disaster movie. A disappointing end to an entertaining series.