Airport is a 1970 prestige production that is based on a best-selling novel. It may not have aged well but gives us a glimpse into a simpler time of going to the airport without being strip searched. In fact, it seems that it was easy to sneak onboard and Helen Hayes certainly stole an Oscar.
The worst snowstorm in six years is playing havoc at Lincoln International Airport and general manager Mel Bakersfeld’s (Burt Lancaster) schedule. His wife Cindy (Dana Wynter) wants him to go to a charity function but a stuck plane has Mel calling in TWA chief mechanic Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) to get it off the runway. He’s also having trouble with his brother-in-law pilot Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin) who gave a bad report about the airport at a board meeting.
Tanya Livingston (Jean Seberg) in public relations is trying to make life easy for Mel. Demerest seems loving to his wife (Barbara Hale) but he’s also loving stewardess Gwen (Jacqueline Bisset) who is expecting. Demerest is flying to Rome to observe TGA Captain Harris (Barry Nelson) as well as spend three secret days with Gwen.
The flight is on time carrying stowaway Mrs. Quonsett (Helen Hayes) as well as Don Guerro (Van Heflin) who has explosive plans to collect on flight insurance for his wife (Maureen Stapleton) to live a better life.
Airport is based on the chart topping book by Arthur Hailey. It’s Peyton Place in the airways as there are lots of personal problems going on for all the characters. It’s a soap opera heavy on the bubbles. It would spawn a bevy of star-studded disaster movies, but when you look at it the disaster only comes in the finale. The majority of the film is used to build relationships, character, and plot.
Lancaster is the highest wattage star and seems to touch on all the other stories as they take place in his airport. Not only does he have to deal with the board of directors and keeping the place from clogging up during this snowstorm, but he has to deal with his unhappy wife, his philandering brother-in-law, an elderly stowaway, and a public relations lady who has eyes for him.
Of course, when we see the brother-in-law is played by the boozy Dean Martin we’re not surprised that he’s dipping into the stewardess pool. Hayes is also a gem as the frequent flyer that doesn’t pay a dime. She would swipe an Oscar for her efforts. This airport time capsule also shows us how easy it was to get away with things in the 1970s. You can’t even take water on the plane anymore and the TSA is sure to grope you down to make sure you’ve not got any. The high definition transfer looks fabulous and fans will certainly appreciate it.
Airport is presented in a 1080p transfer (2.20:1). Special features include the 3 minute theatrical trailer and the 100 Years of Universal featurettes: the 1970s (11 minutes) and the Lot (9 minutes). You also get a DVD and digital copy. I still would’ve liked some extras that dealt with Airport.
Airport was still given the nod for best picture, but certainly puts the suds in the soap opera. It features a grand cast, but may not age well for some. It’s a fun time and certainly more fun than you’ll have flying the skies today.
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