Charlton Heston stars as Al Murdoch, an executive and former flight instructor for Columbia Airlines, who doesn't have time for meaningful conversation with his girlfriend, stewardess Nancy Pryor. He does have time for some quick hanky panky, but Nancy lets him know that's not going to happen. She wants to talk about the future of their relationship. (At this point, two things came to mind: (1) My wife convinced me that Nancy was going to deliver big news about being pregnant; (2) I was trying to get past the fact that Nancy was played by Karen Black, who played "crazy" exceptionally well in the classic made-for-TV movie Trilogy of Terror).
I think this movie--more than any other--inspired the hilarious 1980 spoof Airplane! The cast includes: Linda Blair as a little girl needing an organ transplant; Helen Reddy as a singing nun; Sid Caesar as a talkative bit actor; Myrna Loy as a lush; and Gloria Swanson as...herself. Plus, the flight crew includes TV all-stars Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (The FBI), Roy Thinnes (The Invaders), and Erik Estrada (CHiPs). Toss in Dana Andrews as a businessman pilot on the verge of a heart attack and you've got a cast for the ages.
|Karen Black in the breezy cockpit.|
Other than the joy of watching some classic movie stars in their twilight years, Airport 1975 has little to offer--other than Karen Black. After some great early roles (e.g., Five Easy Pieces), Black was beginning to find good parts harder to find. Considering that she spends a good portion of Airport 1975 in the cockpit on the radio, she delivers a believable performance worthy of a better movie. She made me temporarily forget how creepy she was in Trilogy of Terror.
|Pilot Lemmon faces plenty|
Though Airport '77 made a tidy profit, it marked the beginning of the end for the disaster movie genre. Despite their big budgets, The Swarm (1978), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979), and When Time Ran Out (1980) all tanked at the boxoffice, effectively ending the disaster movie craze.