The full title of this ridiculous disaster movie from 1979 is The Concorde … Airport ’79, making it one of the few films to have an ellipsis (…) in its title. And that’s about all this pile of trash has going for it.
This is the fourth film in the Airport franchise, which began in 1970 with what is perhaps the archetypal disaster movie, called – you guessed it – Airport. Next came Airport 1975 and then Airport ’77 hot on its heels. (I remember seeing Airport ’77 at the Tuncurry Cinema with my sister during Christmas holidays when I was a kid. This was the one in which the plane crashes into the ocean and sinks to the seabed with all passengers trapped alive.) These first three films were fairly serious dramas, but for Airport ’79 they decided to take a slightly different approach.
For starters, the movie is essentially an extended advertisement for Concorde. Which is strange when you consider that the plot revolves around repeated attempts to blow it out of the sky, culminating in a crash landing in the Swiss Alps. Not exactly the positive image of air travel that you’d expect from an aircraft manufacturer.
Anyway, to the plot … Jesus, I can’t even be bothered explaining it. Let’s just say that there’s a bad guy who wants to blow up the Concorde, which is on some sort of good will trip from Washington to Paris and then on to Moscow as a lead-up to the 1980 Olympic Games. The passenger list is your typical disaster flick fare: desperate mother transporting a new heart for her terminally ill child; doobie-smoking jazz saxophonist (played hilariously by Jimmie Walker, aka J.J. from Good Times); group of stereotypical Russian athletes; and so on.
One of my favourite moments is when Captain Joe Patroni (played admirably by veteran George Kennedy) attempts to distract an incoming missile by firing a flare gun out of the open cockpit window … while the plane is upside-down and travelling at Mach 2.
The dialog is often hysterically bad. When a female flight attendant makes a comment about the male chauvinist attitudes of the flight crew, the Captain replies: ”Why do you think they call it the cock pit?”
To be honest, it’s likely that Airport ’79 was never intended as anything but a self-parody. Indeed, it wasn’t long after that we got the hilarious Flying High. And that put an end to the Airport series once and for all.