An all-star cast highlighted this mind-boggling 1970’s disaster film – The first of three sequels to Airport (1970).
A 747 bound for Salt Lake City is hit by a small private plane whose pilot has suffered a heart attack. The collision rips a hole in the cockpit, and most of the crew are sucked out, leaving the plane without a pilot.
Karen Black plays the terrified (and cross-eyed) stewardess who must then take over the controls.
Charlton Heston (his character has been having an affair with Black’s stewardess for six years) and George Kennedy (who has a wife and daughter on the crippled plane) play the airline staff trying to guide her down.
Meanwhile, a young kidney patient grows weaker and Gloria Swanson dictates the finishing touches on her autobiography (“I never did want the damn thing published while I was alive, anyway”). Helen Reddy plays a singing nun.
If you ignore the terrible acting and concentrate on the special effects – as the wind rips into the plane and the passengers bundle up with blankets and the mountains loom up ahead and the first rescue pilot falls to his death and Gloria Swanson remembers her first flight (“It was in 1917, Cecil B. De Mille was the pilot, and we flew nonstop from Los Angeles to Pasadena”) – this film is more than entertaining.
Despite the title, the film was made in 1974. A further sequel, called Airport ’77, followed in (take a guess) 1977.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr