I must admit that the disaster movie genre is one of my favorite genres or more specifically subgenres. When looked at on a whole, this particular genre hasn’t been well-received by critics. Regular people (myself included) eat these kind of spectacles up and we love them. Which plays a part in the commercial success of this genre. After all, who doesn’t want to see earthquakes or towering infernos or alien attacks, etc. The 1970’s gave birth to this kind of movie and if you would want to single out any particular movie that began this new wave, it’s 1970’s Airport. The goal of these kind of movies is to make sure the audience have fun. Personally, I had a very fun time watching the film so Airport does its most important job.
When originally released, the film was met was respectable reviews. It was something that was never seen before on the big screen, but modern critics panned the movie despite praising its influence. The story itself is attention-grabbing. I became interested in a plot that calls for a severe snowstorm causing havoc at an airport. But the way the story is told is told in such ludicrous detail. I mean you really need to stretch your imagination because some plot points can become downright preposterous. Which I guess adds to its campy tone. The movie itself is not taken too seriously so you’ll have the chance to not think because if you think too much, you’ll easily notice flaw after flaw and that will take from the campy, fun tone of the movie.
George Seaton directs a film about a busy airport that is stricken because of a blizzard. The runways are shut down because of the snow and all flights are canceled. But more problems arise when a bomb-damaged plane needs to make an emergency landing if anyone on board that plane is going to live. The manager of the Lincoln Airport, Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster) has his hands full trying to combat the weather, his personnel, and his personal life if people are going to be saved this night.
Critics may hold no true love for these kind of films, but I am always amazed on the casts they can muster. It’s only fair that the granddaddy of all disaster films would have a wonderful cast. It’s ironic because the main star, Lancaster later called this film “a piece of junk.” All the performances are fine in the film, but I feel maybe they could have had fun (some did though). For such a campy atmosphere, some people took their roles way too seriously. Anyhow, Lancaster does a great job as Mel and Dean Martin does a good job as the pilot of the damaged plane, Vernon Demerest. The one big standout of the film is Helen Hayes, who plays a 70-year-old stowaway. She was an absolute hoot to watch trying to get her way into a free airplane ticket. Her performance is a must see. Also throwing in a ridiculous over-the-top performance is Van Heflin, the man who had the bomb in the briefcase. The way he shakes, sweats, etc, his overacting is plenty of stupid fun and Maureen Stapleton as his wife who decided to apologize to everyone in the airport for her husband’s actions.
I am astounded a film like this would be nominated for an Oscar. Well my friends, guess what? Airport was nominated for ten Oscars!? I’m still surprised very much how such a campy film would achieve that feat. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the film, but it is a kind of genre the Academy never paid much attention to. Hayes did win for her supporting turn (and rightfully so). It also was nominated for Oscars for a bunch of technical work such as sound and editing, which was all well-done.
Airport is campy, over-the-top, and quite predictable……but I had a blast watching the film. There is no denying how influential the film was as it proved people do want to see these kind of actioners. I was hooked from start to finish as I rooted for Mel to be a hero and save the people on the plane. The movie is quite suspenseful at times, but quite funny in others. The plot had issues and I didn’t like the personal life of Mel’s. That section got in the way of the main story at times. I didn’t love this film, but I had a blast and enjoyed it very much so.
My Grade: B+