Jan 27

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.

Jan 8

If there’s one thing I learnt from watching our most recent Sunday Night Classic Movie, The Silencers, it’s that Dean Martin loved a drink. Apparently it was a condition of Dino’s contract that alcohol not only be constantly available on set, but that every scene in the film include an open bottle of booze, even when he’s tooling through the desert in his quite amazing 1965 Mercury Colony Park station wagon:

That’s a well-stocked travel bar you can see peeking out from behind the driver’s seat as our male lead accepts a glass from his female companion. One for the road, Dino?

The Silencers, released in 1966, is a tongue-in-cheek spy romp based on a novel by Donald Hamilton. Responding to the James Bond craze then sweeping the world, The Silencers was the first of four films to feature crooning “Rat Pack” alumnus Dean Martin as government agent Matt Helm.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around an evil individual called “Big O” (or perhaps it’s an organisation, it’s hard to tell) who plans to divert an American nuclear test missile so that it crashes back into a large underground cache of other nuclear weapons. Helm is called out of retirement to put a stop to this, with the resulting course of events often totally mystifying.

For some reason Helm keeps finding beautiful women in his bedroom, or in his car, or in other places. One beautiful woman tells him something about a mysterious “computer tape”, crucial to Big O’s plan. Helm drives to a desert resort hotel, the location for the drop-off of the tape to a Big O henchman. While watching a semi-erotic dance routine in the hotel lounge, Helm somehow ends up in the company of another beautiful woman, who through a strange and unfathomable series of events has acquired the tape. The pair take off into the desert in his enormous station wagon, stopping overnight in a swamp where the car converts magically into a swanky bachelor pad. Here’s Dino in the back, assisting his friend with the removal of her wet clothes:

The plot doesn’t really go anywhere after that. Helm saves the world in the end of course, by diverting the missile into Big O’s own headquarters. On the way he meets a variety of strange characters, most of whom he kills, including one old guy who wanders around draped in an electric blanket. Of more interest than the plot are the hilarious props: a circular bed that moves across the floor and tilts to 90 degrees, bath robes that descend from the ceiling, some sort of automatic towel system, a gun that fires backwards into the stomach of the unwitting shooter.

Dean Martin was in his late forties, and already a hugely famous singer and actor, when The Silencers was made. He had been playing nightclubs for decades, and was a legendary boozer. The cracks are beginning to show by 1966. Dino’s face is leathery and coarse. He sweats 100% alcohol. His lower lip is permanently creased from contact with glass. He sways and slurs his way from one scene to the next, delivering his lines with almost no inflection or nuance. At times his leading ladies seemed almost repulsed to be kissing him.

Nevertheless, The Silencers comes highly recommended by me. It’s truly hysterical from start to finish. Do yourself a favour and track down a copy.

Jan 2
Sharp Dressed Man
icon4 Jan 2nd, 2010 | icon2 Family, Fashion | icon3Comments Off

It was 1977, the year in which punk reigned supreme. In the UK both the Sex Pistols and the Clash released their debut albums, while closer to home the Saints and Radio Birdman did likewise. Anarchy was in the air. Schapelle Corby was born. Gold and Black won the Cup. I turned seven years old. My sister Julie got married, and to her wedding I wore a cornflower blue suit.

That’s me in front looking surprisingly happy to be having perhaps my life’s worst fashion moment. I was probably doped up on Milky Way Bars. The white skivvy says it all really. I think it was either that or a bow tie, so better the devil you know. I find the brown shoes go well with the blue suit, don’t you? The flower was ripped out twelve seconds after this photo was taken.

On the left is Dad, timeless in charcoal suit, thinking about the outboard motor he could’ve bought for the cost of this bloomin’ wedding. Mum is wearing a nice floral number with a pink triffid blossom that threatens to go for the jugular. That’s Grandma on the right, down from Rockhampton, wearing one of her countless number of increasingly dazzling muumuus.

And then there’s the bride and groom. Nothing dates this photo more than the powder blue tux and velvet bow tie. Or maybe the hairstyles. Julie and her new English husband Alan (looking here like one of the cello players from ELO) were fledgling hippies, soon to move to Mount Gambier, where Julie would teach primary school and Alan would be a cabinetmaker. They baked bread and had a bean bag. I know because I slept on it when we visited the following year. (It was on this same trip that I was falsely accused of weeing on the toilet floor among other felonies.)