One of the first of the big disaster films, this stodgy Hollywood product lumbers and creaks as it tries to sort out the various plot threads of Arthur Hailey's doorstop of a novel. Set at (what else?) a busy metropolitan ... more »airport, it details what happens one eventful night when, among other things, a huge blizzard threatens to disrupt air traffic for the airport manager (Burt Lancaster) even as a suicidal bomber (Van Heflin) heads into the air with mayhem on his mind. There's also an impish old lady (Helen Hayes, who won an Oscar for this role) who specializes in sneaking aboard airliners, and the married pilot (Dean Martin) is having an affair with a stewardess (Jacqueline Bisset). An old-fashioned movie that inspired a bunch of sequels, the Airplane spoofs, and a host of other disaster films. --Marshall Fine« less
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 08/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This first of the big airplane disaster movies features an outstanding cast, a host of distinctive characters, and a widely interesting web of subplots. While all things lead to disaster in the air, there is a much greater human component to Airport than what you will see in the disaster movies of today. Perhaps the human drama does not play out to perfection on one or two occasions, yet it all kept my rapt fascination even as I wondered why disaster had not yet struck an hour and a half into the film (which lasts for two hours and seventeen minutes). Airport (1970) picked up ten Academy Award nominations, including best picture, Helen Hayes walked away from it with her second Oscar, and a host of sequels followed in its wake, so obviously it did many things right.
The first half of the film actually seems like some kind of 1970s TV pilot. Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster) is the airport manager working himself to death in order to keep the place running smoothly, campaigning when he can for expansion and modernization. His brother-in-law pilot Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin) assumes the role of Bakersfield's antagonist, criticizing airport measures for keeping the runways operational and the flights on schedule, especially on nights such as the one in question, when a major snowstorm is wreaking havoc on the ground as well as in the air. Bakersfield is locked in an unhappy marriage with a regal yet noxious social gadfly, facing the fact that the woman he now cares about may be leaving her job at the airport for a better opportunity elsewhere. Demerest has some kind of marriage of convenience to Bakerfield's sister, and he is carrying on with a lovely and suddenly pregnant stewardess (they still called them stewardesses back in 1970) played by the engaging Jacqueline Bisset. Then you have the heavy of the group, Joe Patroni (George "If it's an airplane movie, I'm in it" Kennedy), the only man for the job of getting an airplane stuck in the snow out of the way of the main landing strip. Helen Hayes plays a delightfully entertaining serial stowaway, and while she is naturally fantastic in her role, the size and importance of her part would not seem to merit the Best Actress award she received for her performance. About the time you start looking for Aaron Spelling's name to come up in the closing credits, we are finally introduced to a nervous fellow putting together an attache case of explosives. He is presented in the most sentimental of lights, and one can't help but feel sorry for him and for the rash decision he has made, nor can one do anything but curse the otherwise forgettable character who plays the dumbest airplane passenger in history.
Eventually, the plane takes off for Rome with both the stowaway and the bomber on board; soon thereafter, puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, and the pilots, aware of the danger, try to turn around and head for home. Their safe return faces two major obstacles: the bomber on board and the stuck airplane jutting out on the only landing strip they can safely attempt to land on through the roaring blizzard. Don't expect a lot of special effects or outrageous acts of unrealistic heroics (although there is a priest who delivers a most unorthodox and intensely satisfying blessing to the aforementioned dumbest airplane passenger on earth). What happens is presented very well, but the real drama lies in the characters' relationships. I am a huge Dean Martin fan, and I thought the man delivered a terrific dramatic performance in this movie, standing equally beside the likes of the legendary Lancaster, Bisset, and Hayes. The story may seem to develop slowly for those used to or expecting quick and impressive action and special effects, but this movie follows the old creed that there can be no real tragedy unless the audience knows and cares about the characters."
A+ DVD for the GoodTimes
Robert E. Rodden II | Peoria, IL. United States | 06/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm going to do something I thought I'd never do; give GoodTimes Video an A+ for this DVD. They took a step into the 20th century for their Thirtieth Anniversary DVD release of Airport. I held onto my old Airport VHS tape well after I stepped up to DVDs, because no one had released a widescreen DVD of the classic disaster film. GoodTimes had earlier released a DVD of Airport, but it was in standard aspect ration, so I passed on it. Then last week, there it was, Airport, WIDESCREEN, it said. And when I picked it up to look at the features on the back, I couldn't believe my eyes. GoodTimes not only released it in widescreen, but in anamorphic widescreen, AND in Dolby surround. And the price is more than perfect.You get no extras, just the movie. But it's beautiful, and it's the original, shown for the first time as it was on the big screen in perhaps thirty years.If you love classic films, then this movie is probably on your list of must-haves. This is not a perfect film, but it works. From Dean Martin's better than average performance, to Helen Hayes' Oscar winning portrayal of a fiesty trickster that sneaks onto planes. By today's standards the plot may seem to move slowly, but if you view it in it's 70's context, it's actually more like a roller coaster ride that takes off at a slow glide, tops a hill, and flies down the other side into a fairly tense climax. Don't be afraid of this DVD. For ten bucks you could get a real crappy DVD. But in this case, you strike gold. Let's hope this is a new and lasting trend for GoodTimes DVDs. Low prices, good movies. GoodTimes."
The Mother of all Airport films is the best one !
Trent Nickson | 01/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Airport is surprisingly faithful to Arthur Hailey's book, with regards to the screenplay. Jacqueline Bisset is perfectly cast as a stewardess, as is Helen Hayes as the stowaway passenger. Van Heflin and Maureen Stapleton share many poignant moments, and a little seen Barbara Hale rounds out the shining stars very well. While I have seen this movie called "slow and plodding", you actually get quite involved with all the characters and know about their motivation before the crucial scene in the air where it all comes to pass. Of course, this huge success at box office has been let down by a... DVD release - it's in Pan & Scan. Why anyone would do this on a DVD is beyond me. Also, it's lacking a lot of extra features that a film of this calibre should have on a DVD. Regardless, the film is an awesome piece of entertainment, faithful to the novel (without the "boring parts") and is supurbly acted by a stellar cast. It deserved to be the runaway worldwide success it was."
"I'll admit it: Airport is a guilty pleasure of mine. It's a classic disaster film, spiritual father to all from the Poseidon Adventure to the present day. We learn the stories of the people aboard a bomb-laden Rome bound flight, and those on the ground fighting a blizzard and blocked runway to get them home. Characters are a little thin, a little soap-opera-y, but better than many modern films. Helen Hayes in particular, is terrific in her Oscar winning role. The DVD is of mixed quality, a nice presentation of an un-remastered copy of the film. Some dirt and scratches are evident, but color and sharpness are fairly good. Screen aspect shifts, usually cropped pan & scan, but occasionally letter-boxed to preserve some wider shots. Film length is misstated on the box, at 136 minutes, not the 91 listed. Recommended for all disaster fans."
Not Perfect, But Solid Entertainment
Sandy McLendon | Atlanta, GA USA | 04/22/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's not every day you see a movie that shows Dean Martin as more of an actor than you remembered, and Helen Hayes as rather less of one, but "Airport" is like that. It's a rich, plotty plum pudding of a film that features dozens of performances from actors at every level of competence. Interestingly enough, it all works. Martin is quite credible and good as an airline pilot, even when the dialogue he's given is contrived and movie-ish. Hayes is a little over-the-top in her acclaimed performance as a little-old-lady stowaway; it's nothing Spring Byington couldn't have done just as well, and cheaper. What the heck, Hayes had reached the point in her career where she could do as she pleased.Other people in the film? The late Jean Seberg is in it, looking amazingly like Kim Novak in a Hitchcock film- complete with grey Edith Head suit and a crush on an older man, played dully by Burt Lancaster. Barbara Hale ("Della Street" in the old "Perry Mason" series) is great as an earth mother married to Dean Martin; watch for her little scene toward the end of the movie when she realises her marriage is over. Van Heflin is painfully accurate in his portrayal of a demented loser who wants to suicide-bomb a 707 so his wife will have his flight insurance as compensation for the horrible life she's had as his spouse. And as the wife, Maureen Stapleton is absolutely wonderful. She's uncomprehending, incoherent, and agonisingly aware by turns; everytime she's on-screen, nothing else matters.Other roles involve Jacqueline Bisset as a stewardess- not the highest and best use of her talent- and yes, that's Gary Collins as a navigator. George Kennedy plays a TWA mechanic who saves the day; I don't like his performance, but Kennedy went on to play the same role in this film's sequels, so he must have been pleasing someone with his work. True film buffs will be delighted by one of the bit players- the mother of a teen-aged nerd who is on the ill-fated 707 flight. It's none other than Virginia Grey, Joan Crawford's blonde co-worker at the perfume counter in "The Women". And "Airport" features the last screen appearance of the late, great Jessie Royce Landis; she's a rich woman who tries to do a little diamond smuggling. Her accomplice is her poodle, who travels in- what else?- a Louis Vuitton carrier.The film itself? Well, it's big-time movie-making, circa 1970; everything about it is flossy and expensive and well-done. There is an astounding special effect when the loser sets off a bomb on the plane. It's got enough plot and enough stars for four movies. And in its own way, it's quite good. It'll take your mind off your life for the entire time you're watching it, and what more is a Hollywood epic supposed to do? Chalk this one up as imperfect, but recommended."