A Flight to Remember, it’s like a soap opera in the skies…
OTT plotlines and characters including Christopher Lee as a deep-sea diver as a plane crashes into the sea at the Bermuda Triangle.
Airport ’77 Official Trailer #1 – James Stewart Movie (1977) HD, Movieclips Trailer Vault and photos © Universal Pictures
Now time for some guilty pleasure gold, from that Airport films franchise… this with Airport 77 (1977). This film was the third of those disaster flicks. It is an Airport movie crossed with The Poseidon Adventure (1972), which makes it the best of these films. Personally, after rewatching it I felt the Abrams, Zucker and Abrams trio didn’t really need to parody these movies. As it feels that the Airport franchise increasingly parodied themselves over the subsequent years, with each plot more outlandish than the last and with an even more dream all-star cast.
This one has it all, an aeroplane disaster, priceless relics, all star cast and the Bermuda Triangle. These all add up to this guilty pleasure of a movie that I
sadly would rewatch over any Superhero movie. Apart from possibly an Antman (2015) or Deadpool (2016) sequel. Who am I kidding? You know me and yes, the 1970s made Airport 77 would more likely be watched for the comic value, plot lines and the all-star cast.
The all-star cast includes the then big names of Hollywood – James Stewart, Olivia De Havilland (in her disaster movie years, where The Swarm (1978) was added to the list the following year) and Jack Lemmon. It also has two prime time soap stars in the making for the
sad eagle-eyed soap fan, Pamela Bellwood (Claudia Bleisdale from Dynasty (1981-89)) and Monte Markham (who played Sue Ellen’s married lover Clint in Dallas (1978-91)).
Throw in plot lines, including the Bermuda Triangle, an incurable illness and an illicit affair and its full-tilt prime time soap. Characters include every stereotype ever from a couple of kids to a lounge singer. The best of these characters is (for plot convenience) a one-time deep-sea diver. This is in the priceless on-screen double act of Martin Wallace (Christopher Lee) and his drunken lush of a wife, Karen (Lee Grant). Even Airport franchise favourite George Kennedy pops in as Joe Patroni and so does Buck Rogers.
Watching this with me,
under duress was my Darlin’ Husband. He impersonated the leads and riffed them mercilessly. So what’s the plot? In a nutshell, with the characters mentioned so far, you have all the ingredients for a crime in the skies. This plan falls apart after the plane crashes in the sea in the Bermuda Triangle. Then the film is Poseidon Adventure all the way…
So from the beginning, the film tells of the fate of the plane owned by Philip Stevens (played by James Stewart), a millionaire who has invited his guests including estranged daughter Lisa (Bellwood) and her son to stay with him. Also aboard are some priceless paintings – echoes of Terror at 37,000 (1973) feet here – and the plane is hijacked to steal these.
We meet most of the characters, Jack Lemmon the pilot, his love interest, air hostess Eve (Brenda Vaccaro). Eve adds to the drama by telling Steven’s daughter he’s dying, adding to her distress. There is Emily Livingston (De Havilland) who reunites with an old flame (Joseph Cotten) and is a bit of a card shark. The lounge singer, also singing a foreboding song as in The Towering Inferno (1974) and The Poseidon Adventure.
In this luxurious plane -with an in-film wee natty tour guide of the plane for us viewers – there is an office. This room commanded by Martin (Lee). Here he tries to talk business but with his adulterous, with his drunk wife (Grant) getting in the way of business. He works with another object of her affections Frank Powers (Gil Gerard from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81)). This love triangle, within the Bermuda triangle, should have made more movies together. But only with this cast.
There’s a couple of annoying kids, but then
luckily for us sleeping gas through the vents, puts everyone to sleep. Then the hijackers – who are wearing primitive Bane masks – attempt to land the plane to make off with the goods. An oil rig is clipped on its descent and the plane plummets into the sea instead…. and then disappears into the murky depths of the Bermuda Triangle.
So this movie like The Towering Inferno has a wee in-film education film for the actual operations carried out by the Navy. These are seen in later rescue scenes showing what would happen in such an emergency. But sadly without instructions or narration as given by Steve McQueen. Lemmon plays a great Head Pilot, with a firm and reassuring gruff voice and additional qualifications in deep-sea diving he’s the best kinda pilot you could ask for.
Christopher Lee is also great in his part, although small, the looks and contempt given to his screen wife reflect those given by us, the audience in his scenes with her. And no one can emote contempt like Christopher Lee… Lee Grant is the stereotypical pathetic, annoying drunk wife role – much found in disaster movies – to perfection. The other roles include a paid break from a golf game as filmed at the 18th hole with James Stewart and a wee cameo by Kennedy (not as Joe Patroni).
The combination of these disasters, of course, is a bit far-fetched. As the plane falls from the sky, all the furniture in the plane moved, from the poker table from the lounge players piano, trapping guests in its wake. And including the lounge singer in an
unlucky twist. You’d think these would be secured down, so this wouldn’t happen…
The mysterious curse and conspiracies relating to the Bermuda Triangle, of course, was added to this plot. This curse was made even more enigmatic in a number of 1970s movies. This film could only have been improved with the lounge singer played by Barry Manilow playing the lounge singer, singing his Bermuda Triangle song as the film plummets from the sky.
Add that to the despair of the cast, taking we the viewers onboard as we sink to the depths of
despair the sea, Then as Manilow’s musical lyrical warning “Bermuda Triangle, Don’t go too near” ringing in our ears” as the plane hits the water. Then “So Bermuda Triangle, Here we come!” just before this particular lounge singer met his watery grave.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This review was added to the Jack Lemmon Blogathon run by Critica Retro and Widescreen World. Other reviews with this cast include Pamela Bellwood in Dynasty, Monte Markham stars in Dallas and Christopher Lee stars in Dracula AD 1972. I wrote a remembrance tribute to George Kennedy here. Olivia DeHavilland and Joseph Cotten star in The Screaming Woman and The Love Boat. She also stars in The Swarm. Jack Lemmon stars in The Apartment. Lee Grant also stars in Voyage of the Damned, Omen II and in Buona Sera Mrs Campbell. She also features in her blogathon starting HERE. Brenda Vaccaro stars in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and Water.