Another Awful Movie I Love

I was intrigued when we first got digital cable. All those channels. All the programming.

Of course Gresham’s Law is right at home in TV. Mr. Wolfson, my 12th grade Social Studies teacher pounded it into me. Cheap money drives expensive money out.

In TV, it’s cheap programming that drives expensive programming out. That’s one of the reasons reality programs are so popular with TV and cable networks. Compared to an hour long drama or mature sitcoms, reality is dirt cheap. But little on TV is cheaper than old movies – and my cable dial (OK, there’s no dial anymore, but that’s the phrase) is loaded with old movies.

That brings us to tonight’s ‘classic’: Airport.

Watching Airport, it’s tough to believe this movie opened an entire genre of films – the disaster movie. It also spawned a sequel and, of course, the movie Airplane is an homage.

It’s trite and predictable, but I’m not sure it was predictable then. I’ve seen movies like this dozens of times – but had I in 1970?

Though the problematic airline is the fictional Trans Global, George Kennedy walks around in a TWA mechanic’s suit and jacket. On the runway, but in a ‘posed’ shot, crew members moved in and out of a Northwest bus and a Delta flight to Pittsburgh is ‘called’ in the terminal. All this in the days before product placement.

Ah, the good old days. The passenger who smuggled a bomb on board didn’t have to deal with magnetometers or shoe searches. Even Helen Hayes was easily able to smuggle herself from coast-to-coast on four engine 707s with 3 – man cockpit crews and a smoking section.

The real problem with this movie is that the disaster on Dean Martin’s flight is held until the very end. No special effects, no stunts, no 2nd unit shots from helicopters. It was spellbinding in 1970. It isn’t any more.

As much as I want to turn it off, I need to stick around to see if I’m right about one thing… that George Kennedy, after pulling a plane out of snow, says thank you to “Mr. Boeing.”

Oops. I’m wrong.

Here’s what actually happened. George Kennedy’s trying to get the plane out of snow – gunning the engines. Finally, the plane moves. The kid next to him in the co-pilot’s seat says, “The manual says that was impossible.” To which Kennedy chews a little more on his cigar and says, “That’s the good thing about the 707. It can do everything except read.”

Later, Barry Nelson thanks Mr. Boeing. Close, no cigar.

Burt Lancaster …. Mel Bakersfeld

Dean Martin …. Capt. Vernon Demerest

Jean Seberg …. Tanya Livingston

Jacqueline Bisset …. Gwen Meighen

George Kennedy …. Joe Patroni

Helen Hayes …. Ada Quonsett

Van Heflin …. D. O. Guerrero

Maureen Stapleton …. Inez Guerrero

Barry Nelson …. Capt. Anson Harris

Dana Wynter …. Cindy Bakersfeld

Lloyd Nolan …. Harry Standish

Barbara Hale …. Sarah Bakersfeld Demerest

Gary Collins …. Cy Jordan