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Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Lorna Patterson, Stephen Stucker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Otto
Writing Credits:
Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

The persons and events in this film are fictitious - fortunately! A masterpiece of off-the-wall comedy, Airplane! features Robert Hays as an ex-fighter pilot forced to take over the controls of an airliner when the flight crew succumbs to food poisoning; Julie Hagerty as his girlfriend / stewardess / co-pilot; and a cast of all-stars including Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ... and more. Their hilarious high jinks spoof airplane disaster flicks, religious zealots, television commercials, romantic love ... the list whirls by in rapid succession. And the story races from one moment of zany fun to the next.

Box Office:
$3.5 million.
Domestic Gross
$83.400 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Monaural
French Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $22.98
Release Date: 9/25/2011

• Audio Commentary from Writer/Directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker and Producer Jon Davison
• “Long Haul” Branching Feature
• Trivia Track
• Theatrical Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Airplane! [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 31, 2012)

When Airplane! hit movie screens in 1980, I was 13 and should have been a prime target to see the film. Its kind of madcap humor seemed perfect for someone in that age group, and the picture certainly did enough business to warrant my attention. However, although I wanted to see Airplane!, I didn't. My failure in this regard happened for reasons I don't recall, but I'll blame my Dad - why not?

Eventually I did watch Airplane! when I went to a party in 1982. A friend had the movie on tape and we took in a screening at that time. I was excited about this, since I'd heard so much about what a great film it was. However, I didn't agree. As I recall, I thought Airplane! might have offered a laugh or two, but even to my moronic 15-year-old self, I couldn't find much humor in it.

Who knows, maybe the gags went over my head. That seemed unlikely, since so much of the comedy in Airplane! appeared sophomoric; I was a sophomore in high school at the time, so it should have been a perfect fit. Nonetheless, I didn't like it, and with one exception - the brilliant Ruthless People from 1986 - nothing done by Abrahams and/or the Zucker boys has entertained me.

Despite that weak track record, I figured I should give Airplane! another shot. Alas, the decades have not altered my opinion one iota, as I still think it's a pretty lame little movie.

Airplane! functions as a very broad spoof of the disaster films that were so popular back in the Seventies. Although the Airport movies of the Seventies connected to it in title and theme, it used 1957’s Zero Hour as its main inspiration.

By the end of the Seventies, the entire disaster genre had largely run its course, but it remained active enough in the public's mind to inspire the spoofing we witnessed in Airplane!. Whether or not this was a good thing remains debatable.

Does much of my disaffection for Airplane! have to do with personal taste? Yup. I won't deny that Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker seem to do what they do fairly well, a concept that was reinforced when I watched the film's 1982 sequel. As much as I dislike the original, the follow-up made Airplane! look brilliant and inventive.

I also won't deny that occasionally the team hit upon something moderately funny. Within Airplane!, I found myself amused by the ill woman who produced a bunch of eggs from her mouth, just like in the magic tricks; it wasn't a great gag, but for some reason it worked for me. I found a couple of additional mildly witty bits as well, but there's nothing in the film I can say seemed hilarious or particularly memorable.

I honestly don't understand the appeal of Airplane! or films like it. The humor they purport to offer seems haphazard and insanely broad; I get the feeling that the filmmakers try to win us over by sheer volume of gags rather than through any form of quality. Almost none of it strikes me as clever or well thought-out or inspired; it just feels dopey and pedestrian.

Maybe it's a mistake for me to try to review movies like Airplane! since the film may have merits that escape me. Perhaps it's the same as assigning an opera buff to review a country album; the latter may be an excellent piece of work, but if the critic despises the genre, it's quite unlikely he'll be able to accurately assess the product.

I don't think my situation is that extreme. After all, I do enjoy film comedies, and it's not as though I only go for allegedly intelligent products such as Woody Allen’s pictures. I like some movies that many consider stupid, such as things like Billy Madison. However, I see a spark of creativity in those films, whereas Airplane! just seems asinine.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Airplane! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While dated, the film looked fairly good.

Sharpness usually seemed positive. Occasional shots came across as a bit tentative and soft, though, and I can’t say the image often looked razor sharp. However, it mostly maintained positive definition and any softness resulted from the source material. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and neither digital noise reduction nor edge enhancement appeared to be present; this could be a pretty grainy film. In terms of print flaws, I noticed occasional small specks but nothing substantial.

Colors were adequate. With circa 1980 film stock and all that grain, the hues could appear a bit drab, but they usually maintained a decent sense of clarity. Black levels appeared reasonably deep and dark, and shadows were fine; a few low-light shots could be a little dense, but those weren’t a substantial concern. Overall, this was a strong presentation given the weaknesses of the source.

I also felt relatively pleased with the remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Except for the music, the soundfield usually stayed anchored in the center channel. The score spread nicely across the forward spectrum and provided solid stereo sound, and the surrounds also reinforced the music in a light but appropriate manner.

All dialogue seemed to come from the center, and the majority of the effects emanated from that channel as well. On a couple of occasions, I heard some effects pop up from the sides, and I even heard one or two times where split surrounds appeared, such as when the plane landed at the end. However, the soundfield remained modest and it worked well for the film.

Audio quality seemed erratic but acceptable. Speech usually sounded reasonably natural and distinct, but the lines sometimes appeared edgy and sibilant. Effects displayed some concerns, as louder scenes could be a bit rough or distorted. These problems didn't seem terribly substantial, though, the effects usually reasonably clear, if without much range.

Music fared best throughout the soundtrack. The score usually appeared nicely bright and brassy, and its dynamic range was fairly broad. Across the board, the movie’s music sounded lively and dynamic. Nothing here dazzled, but the track was good enough for an age-adjusted “B-”.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the 2005 Airplane DVD? Audio seemed clearer and more robust, while visuals were tighter, cleaner and more vivid. This became a nice upgrade.

The Blu-ray repeats the 2005 set’s extras, and we start with an audio commentary from writers/directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker plus producer Jon Davison. All four sat together for this running, screen-specific chat. I largely found it to offer a very interesting and compelling discussion of the film.

The commentary suffers from a surprising number of empty spots, and even when conversation occurs, the participants sometimes do little more than joke about how they have nothing to say. Despite those issues, much of the track provides a lot of really good facts and anecdotes about the movie. These guys aren't afraid to criticize the work and they also give us a fairly frank discussion of the reality behind their creation.

We hear a lot about the studio politics that affected Airplane! and they go into their inspirations for the movie and quite a few other topics. Honestly, I enjoyed the commentary much more than I liked the film itself; the track was quite a lot of fun.

The movie's theatrical trailer gives away a lot of the film's gags, but considering the massive number of jokes packed into its 87 minutes, plenty more remained to be uncovered.

Next we get the Long Haul version of Airplane. Some have gotten the impression that this presents an extended cut of the film, but that’s not the case. While it does offer a smattering of deleted scenes, instead it uses branching to give us a slew of interview clips related to the flick.

In this case, “slew” means 60. If you activate the “Long Haul” version, the film will allow you to branch off to show these snippets at the appropriate time. This makes it virtually impossible to actually watch the film. It rarely runs for more than a minute or so without interruption, so don’t attempt to screen Airplane with this feature active if you hope to enjoy the flick.

The “Long Haul” feature does work well as a form of documentary, though, especially since we get to see the scenes connected to the material. None of the snippets are long; taken together, they fill a total of one hour, 10 minutes and 32 seconds.

Those with a hankering for deleted scenes won’t find much, as we get only three short clips. The majority of the footage stems from the interviews. We hear from the Zuckers, Abrahams, Davison, special effects supervisor John Frazier, and actors David Leisure, Ross Harris, Nicholas Pryor, Lee Bryant, Robert Hays, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen, Lorna Patterson, Al White, Norman Alexander Gibbs, and Billy Koch.

The pieces cover a broad mix of subjects. In addition to the cut footage, we learn about various effects, casting and working on the film, editing and pacing, goofs, playing the roles, the effect the film had on various careers, and general production notes. Some of this repeats what we learn in the commentary, but quite a lot of new material appears. The brevity of the clips makes them a little choppy, but there’s lots of great information here. Airplane fans should really dig this treasure trove of details.

Note that the Blu-ray’s “Long Haul” alters the presentation found on the DVD. The latter branched automatically whereas the Blu-ray lets you choose whether or not to leave the film. I’m not sure which is preferable; the automatic branching is more convenient, but the manual option is less intrusive if you want to watch the movie. I still wish Paramount created a separate place on the disc with all the clips there so we could examine them independent of the film.

For more information, we head to the Trivia Track. This text piece runs along with the movie and gives us actor credits as well as notes about goofs, flaws, references, effects, background elements and other general production topics. This is a true trivia track, as most of the information can really be described as “trivial”. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Inevitably, we find comments that already appear in the commentary and/or the “Long Haul” version, but there’s still enough good stuff here to merit a look from fans.

Despite its status as a comedy classic, Airplane! does almost nothing for me. I find it to offer a witless and uninteresting program from start to finish. The Blu-ray provides dated but generally good picture and audio along with a small but useful set of supplements. After 32 years, I still don’t like Airplane!, but fans will feel pleased with this high-quality release.

To rate this film visit the "Don't Call Me Shirley" Edition review of AIRPLANE!

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