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George Seaton
Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson, Dana Wynter, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Hale, Gary Collins
Writing Credits:
Arthur Hailey (novel), George Seaton

The #1 novel of the year - now a motion picture!

One of the original "disaster" movies, this all-star nail-biter follows a series of emergencies at a large Midwestern airport on a snowy night. The weather's bad enough, but then a passenger threatens to blow up an inbound plane. Based on Arthur Hailey's novel. Sequels include Airport 1975, Airport '77 and The Concorde - Airport '79 and dozens of other catastrophe epics built from the same blueprint.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Domestic Gross
$100.489 million (through 2003).

Rated G

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 2/10/2004

Available Only as Part of The Airport Terminal Pack.

• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Airport (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 27, 2006)

For the granddaddy of the many star-studded disaster flicks from the Seventies, we go back to 1970’s Airport. Actually, 1954’s The High and the Mighty probably stands as the earliest instance of this genre, but Airport was the one that started the disaster film boom in the Seventies, so I count it as the most influential – for better or for worse. (And when we get the movie’s sequels, it’ll mostly be “for worse”.)

Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey, the film starts on a snowy day at Chicago’s Lincoln Airport, general manager Mel Bakersfeld (Burt Lancaster) tries to deal with the problems caused by the inclement weather. This leads to tension with his wife Cindy (Dana Wynter) as she gets mad about his absence from their home and the charity events she constantly schedules.

To aide in matters, he recruits maintenance engineer Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) to help open a clogged runway. Further concerns come from protests at the airport to stop the use of a runway that goes over residences. Bakersfeld also runs into entanglements with Vernon Demarest (Dean Martin), a pilot who officially complains about the Mel’s snow removal techniques. Soap opera elements emerge as we learn that Vernon’s a philanderer married to Mel’s sister Sarah (Barbara Hale) but he messes with plenty of other women such as stewardess Gwen Meighen (Jacqueline Bisset).

The situation becomes more complicated due to the presence of passenger Dom Guerrero (Van Heflin). He can’t hold a job but tells his wife Inez (Maureen Stapleton) that he’ll find a way to fix their situation. He plans to essentially commit suicide as he will detonate a bomb on board Trans Global Airline’s flight to Rome, a plane piloted by Vernon. The rest of the film follows intrigue with this area and plenty of other subplots.

When I was a kid, I adored disaster flicks, and I know I saw most of the sequels to Airport during their theatrical runs. Since Airport hit the screens when I was only three, I was too young to see it, but I always wanted to check it out when I got into its sequels.

I recall seeing Airport on TV during the Seventies and feeling decidedly unimpressed. That was because it didn’t deliver a lot of bang for the buck. It lacked the gaudy thrills of the average disaster movie, as it focused more on character drama than excitement. That made it less than captivating for a kid who just wanted to see some mayhem.

Fast forward about 30 years, and one might hope that I’d want more from a movie than simple fireworks. This may or may not be the case, but I do know that Airport seems no more satisfying to me now than it did in my childhood.

I find it shocking that the Academy actually nominated this clunker for 10 Oscars. Extremely slow-paced, Airport greatly emphasizes the soap opera elements over the disaster parts. It definitely takes its sweet time to get going; the movie doesn’t even introduce the concept of the bomb until about a fourth of the way into the movie.

Many folks will probably applaud the flick’s logy rhythms, as they might view the pacing as a nice antidote to the lack of exposition in modern films. I agree that too many stories tend to dispense with the appropriate levels of exposition, but eventually enough is enough. Airport goes on for so long with information that has so little relevance to the main story that it becomes badly tedious.

A lot of the problem stems from the dull characters. They lack much pep, and that leaves it as little more than Peyton Place at an airport. With all its sexual innuendo and themes related to pregnancy and abortion, I’m surprised that the film got a “G” rating. All of those elements should add some zing to the movie, but the bland personalities drag down the tale and make it lackluster.

Only Helen Hayes’ Oscar-winning turn as an elderly, unrepentant stowaway prompts any signs of life in this dud. She plays Ada as charmingly devious. Sure, Hayes hams it up a bit, but she nonetheless offers the only lively parts found in this leaden, overly serious flick.

Only in its final 40 minutes does Airport finally turn into a disaster film, and even then, the cheesy soap opera continues to dominate. Stale and overwrought, the movie presents too little drama and intrigue and too much lame character exposition.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Airport appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although elements of the transfer could look quite good, too many problems occurred to make this one substantially above-average.

The majority of the concerns stemmed from softness. A lot of the flick came across as fuzzy and undefined. Many scenes were appropriately concise and accurate, but sharpness varied an awful lot. A few examples of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I also noticed some edge enhancement. Print flaws manifested themselves in the form of specks, grit and marks. These remained reasonably modest, but they caused occasional distractions.

Colors tended to be somewhat flat. They usually looked fairly natural and occasionally bordered on lively, but the film’s drab visual design meant the hues stayed with neutral tones that appeared less than dynamic. Blacks were nicely deep and tight, while shadows demonstrated pretty good delineation. Low-light shots showed good clarity. Given the film’s age, this transfer was always acceptable, and it sometimes surpassed that standard. However, it simply was too erratic to merit a grade above a “C+”.

For this DVD, Airport received both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 remixes. These displayed very few differences. The DTS version sounded a little louder, but both were similar otherwise.

Given the age of the film, I didn’t expect much from the remix, and I got the kind of limited production I expected. Music benefited the most from the multichannel capabilities. The score demonstrated nice stereo imaging in the front, and the rear speakers gently echoed the music. Effects mostly stayed centralized. Some general ambience occurred along with occasional localized elements, but don’t expect a lot of fireworks. Vehicles sometimes moved from one spot to another, and plane ambience was decent. Even sequences like the explosion lacked much breadth. This was a “broad mono” mix for the most part, as it opened things up in only a minor way.

Audio quality was acceptable for material from 1970. Speech showed a smidgen of edginess and could be somewhat brittle, but the lines remained intelligible and clear. Effects were clean but without much heft. Plane-related elements were tinny and failed to demonstrate the depth I’d have liked. Still, they were fine for pieces recorded so long ago. Music worked best, as the score was reasonably rich. High end tended to sound a bit shrill, but it offered pretty nice bass. Though it didn’t excel, it presented the strongest portion of the mix. All in all, I heard enough here to warrant a “B-“.

Don’t expect much in the way of extras. All we find is the film’s trailer.

While Airport launched the disaster flick boom of the Seventies, it doesn’t stand as one of the genre’s more interesting releases. Indeed, I think it’s probably one of the most boring examples of this kind of movie, as it pours on too much soap opera and too little action or intrigue. The DVD presents slightly above average picture and audio but lacks many extras. Watch this one for historical value only.

Note that Universal currently makes Airport available only as part of the four-film Airport Terminal Pack. This also includes sequels Airport 1975, Airport ‘77, and The Concorde… Airport ‘79. Some may grouse that you can’t buy the flicks individually, but with a list price of less than $20 for all four, it’s hard to complain.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 12
3 3:
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