#4 in my Ranking of the Airport Franchise.
Okay, Airport ’77 was ridiculous, but this is both ridiculous and really frustrating. It’s structure is way off, while it still retains all of the problems of the previous film in the franchise. For the first half hour or so, I was actually kind of on board with the film. It was about illegal gun sales and a plucky reporter, nothing terribly groundbreaking, but it sort of held together. And then they got onto the plane.
The movie begins with some loving shots of The Concorde over the credits. The production spent a lot of money renting that thing, and they were going to get as much of it on film as possible. So, the basic plot of the film is that a young, attractive reporter (that I assume was in one of the earlier movies considering George Kennedy’s reference to the Salt Lake crash that I think refers to one of the earlier movies I haven’t seen yet) is dating the CEO of a major corporation. She receives word that the corporation is selling arms right before the guy who tells her gets murdered in her house and the murderer chases her onto the top of her rooftop greenhouse before he runs away at the sound of a siren. It’s ridiculous and a weird way to start a disaster movie about airplanes, but sure.
The reporter ends up going on her planned trip to do a puff piece on a goodwill tour to the Soviet Union on the Concorde because she needs to be on the plane for the movie to happen. Her boyfriend is completely behind the arms sales and decides that he’s going to have his high profile drone weapon that’s coincidentally testing the same morning as the Concorde’s flight “malfunction” and destroy the Concorde to protect his secret. He’s not a smart man. Also, the reporter calls him from the plane before take off to confront him about the documentation she received, promising to call in the report…after she gets to Moscow, on a plane that will land in Paris. She’s also not that smart.
There are other stories on the plane, of course. An aged singer and her jazz sax accompanist who are going to Moscow for a concert, a woman who keeps going to the bathroom (at times that seem to be calling for comedy), some Russian athletes going back home including a man with his deaf daughter, George Kennedy smiling as he talks about his dead wife, and Alain Delon alternatively having romantic troubles with his chief stewardess and doing his best to break into American movies. It’s as chaotic as with the preceding film with none of the stories relating to each other or to the central idea of illegal arms sales.
The drone going after the plane is a cheap looking special effects sequence that ends with the Concorde getting away because of George Kennedy’s flying skills. They land in Paris with every intention of simply going the next leg of the trip the next day. So, the passengers are stuck in Paris for at least twelve hours and the reporter does not file her report on the illegal arms sales while she’s there. She waits until just before boarding the plane again to call the CEO and tell him that she’s going to do it after she lands in Moscow. Again, she’s not smart. Instead of filing while she’s safe on the ground, she doesn’t. Instead of not even contacting the CEO, she tells him exactly what she’s going to do even though the drone that he controls tried to kill her in the plane. She’s dumb.
Also, during this stop over, Alain Delon arranges for George Kennedy to spend a night with Bibi Andersson, who ends up being a prostitute, because they needed to squeeze in the Swedish actress somewhere.
Okay, so the structural problems really pop up here. The movie is about 2/3 done with they land in Paris, about an hour and twenty minutes into the film. It feels like the film’s over, but they have to get back onto the cursed plane after some sabotage gets implemented, fly away from Paris on the way to Moscow, have another disaster almost break up the plane, and then end with a snowy landing in the mountains. The movie essentially restarts as they leave Paris, a flight that probably shouldn’t have happened.
The movie has all of the problems that star-studded disaster movies retain but with less famous people. It also has a weird structural problem where the movie essentially takes a break and then resets near the end of the film. It’s full of stupid characters doing stupid things in order to keep the movie going. The world was probably done a service by this movie’s failure followed by the blessing of Airplane! the next year.