For a generation that grew up on Airplane! (1980), the definitive disaster spoof, it may be impossible to take the overblown melodramatics of this adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s best-seller seriously. But the combination of a star-studded cast, multiple story lines and special effects (in this case, just an aeroplane with a big hole in it) had moviegoers biting nails and buying tickets.
The story revolves around a busy Midwest airport on a snowy night. The blizzard-swept runways and stormy skies above the airport are stacked with movie stars going through various kinds of hell.
Dean Martin is the veteran Global Airlines pilot with a marriage problem and a mixed bag of passengers, including geriatric stowaway Helen Hayes and psychopathic Van Heflin, whose bomb is primed to blow them all to kingdom come.
Burt Lancaster is the unflappable airport manager who keeps things in order during efforts to land a damaged plane safely while a vital runway is blocked by a snow-bound plane.
Lending a hand are security chief Lloyd Nolan and the cigar-chewing maintenance man George Kennedy (who spouts macho lines like, “I’ll have this mother outta here by midnight!”), as curvaceous stewardess Jacqueline Bisset mops Dino’s fevered brow while the minutes to disaster tick away.
Lt Anson Harris
Sarah Bakersfeld Demerest
Mrs Harriet DuBarry Mossman
Jessie Royce Landis