Written and Directed by George Seaton
Based on Arthur Hailey’s 1968 novel, Airport is about the intertwining lives of airplane and airport personnel and one fateful snow-covered night and how they all must contend with a bomber and other problems.
Airport is the granddaddy of all disaster films. It started a series of films that hoped to capitalize on its success and revived the disaster genre. It is nothing deep but not every movie has to be deep. Sometimes you need a little delectable junk.
Burt Lancaster who played airport manager Mel Bakersfeld called this one of the biggest pieces of junk ever made. That might be a bit severe. It is not the greatest thing ever but far from being the biggest piece of junk. Then again, Battlefield Earth had not been made yet so maybe he was right then. Airport is all melodrama and is not without its flaws or two-dimensional characters. In fact, it is mostly two-dimensional characters.
Most of the characters from the philandering men to even the bomber get some type of rehab by the end. Mel Bakersfeld and his mistress Tanya Livingston (Jean Seberg) get a happily ever after even though they are cheating. Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin) is a captain on Trans Global Airlines Flight 2 as well as Bakersfeld’s brother-in-law and having an affair with stewardess Gwen Meighen (Jacqueline Bisset) who is now pregnant with his love child and pushing for an abortion but decides to divorce his wife and marry her and it’s all good. Even the actions of the bomber D. O. Guerrero (Van Heflin in his final film performance) get excused because of an implied mental illness and his overall personal situation.
Petroni (George Kennedy in his first turn as the character) is all bluster and bellicose. He chews up every line and gives everyone a scowling look because he knows he can do it better and he can. Ada Quonsett (Helen Hayes) is perhaps one of the more entertaining characters but she is essentially filler for most of the movie. In fact, her role in getting the bomb could’ve been tossed altogether and the story would have turned out pretty much the same. Still she was entertaining filler and if you must have filler then it should be entertaining.
While Airplane! was a better airplane disaster movie, this one is not bad either. Airport is more soap opera than disaster film but it is fun to see a bunch of big-name stars in something this cheesy.
This is a heavy-handed disaster film but who cares? This is the type of movie that you are not supposed to think too deeply about, and the characters aren’t supposed to be that sophisticated. In the end you are just meant to have a good time. So watch the show and enjoy yourself and don’t go in expecting too much and you’ll be OK.