Airplane + Poseidon

Olivia de Havilland and Brenda Vaccaro in Airport '77 (1977)

I love a good disaster movie especially those from the 70s the era which gave us some of the best and frankly some of the worst in the genre. It also was the era which gave us the "Airport" movies starting with the original in 1970 and then the final one "The Concorde... Airport '79" in 1979. Now when it comes to these movies the third in the series "Airport '77" is not a great disaster movie but it is a typical one even if it is far fetched. It has all the elements you expect from a 70s disaster movie, none more so the cast which includes James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Olivia de Havilland and Christopher Lee in amongst a whole list of well known names and faces.

Having decided to exhibit the art collection he has amassed over the years millionaire businessman Philip Stevens (James Stewart - The Shootist) has his art, guests and family flown in on his luxury Boeing 747. Unfortunately a group of art thieves hijack the plane and having flown it into the Bermuda Triangle end up in thick fog and flying straight into an oil rig. As the plane crashes into the ocean it begins to sink leaving the passengers to try and find a way of escape.

James Stewart and George Kennedy in Airport '77 (1977)

Anyone who knows their 70s disaster movies will know that there is a formula which they follow. As such during the opening we not only get a hint of what will probably go wrong but we then get introduced to the various pivotal characters. This formula driven opening then takes a bit of a change as rather than the typical plane fault we have robbers which amount to terrorists hijacking the plane before it returns to formula as the survivors have to find a way out, bicker between themselves whilst all the time the situation is getting worse. There is nothing wrong with that as that is what you expect and the little bit of variation on the formula is enough to keep it entertaining.

What also keeps it entertaining is the sheer calibre of the cast as whilst George Kennedy once again returns as Joe Patroni we also have a lot of other famous actors and actresses. The thing is that whilst there is Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, Joseph Cotten and Olivia de Havilland their characters are very ordinary. It makes it a movie which isn't about the performances but the fun of all these stars in one movie together.

But when you compare "Airport '77" to other disaster movies it is only average as is too reliant on the formula and the stars. As such the plot is far fetched, the dialogue is weak and the characters are slim and worst of all it lacks anything close to atmosphere. In fact rather than creating a dramatic atmosphere it often feels cornier rather than anything.

What this all boils down to is that "Airport '77" is just a typical 70s disaster movie which relies on a formula and its stars. It isn't great but is still entertaining, mainly because of those stars.

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