The Concorde … Airport ’79 (1979)

concordeairport 79With The Concorde … Airport ’79 being the fourth and final flight in the Airport series, I am legitimately saddened I have no further sequels to consume. As creaky as this franchise is by today’s standards, I find it more entertaining than most. After all, its living, breathing, connective tissue is George Kennedy’s continuing role as Joe Patroni, here promoted to pilot and squeezing into the cockpit with a shit-eating grin and an update on his life: “My boy’s starting college!” he beams with pride. “My wife’s been dead a year!”

And thus, the secret seeds are planted to score Patroni a prostitute during layover. Ladies and gentlemen, we are cleared for takeoff!

Capt. Patroni and his co-pilot, Capt. Paul Metrand (French superstar Alain Delon, Le Cercle Rouge), are tasked with taking the airline’s newfangled Concorde from D.C. to Paris, and then Paris to Moscow, partly as a PR stunt for the Russia-hosted Olympic Games. (Two flights compressed into two hours feels like two episodes of an Airport television series, which is what Airport ’79 may as well be.)

concordeairport 791The trips fall under the category of “easier said than done,” what with Patroni busting out some incredible aerial acrobatic maneuvers — including more than one hysterical 360˚ — to avoid having the supersonic jet blown to smithereens by the drone missiles chasing it. The missiles are “accidentally” deployed by a slimy aeronautics CEO (Robert Wagner, Curse of the Pink Panther), because just before boarding the plane, his journalist girlfriend (Susan Blakely, Over the Top) uncovered evidence of his involvement in illegal arms sales. If he can down the plane, he’ll get away with greed!

On the downside, he’ll also be killing many in the process; the potential collateral damage includes the airline prez (Eddie Albert, TV’s Green Acres), his trophy wife (Sybil Danning, Chained Heat), one sexy stew Sylvia Kristel (Emmanuelle, of course), a Russian gymnastics coach (Avery Schreiber, those Doritos commercials) and his deaf moppet daughter, a news reporter/set of teeth (John Davidson, TV’s Hollywood Squares), the Russian figure skater he’s boinking (Andrea Marcovicci, The Hand) and a really worried parent (Cicely Tyson, Bustin’ Loose), whose carry-on is a human heart awaiting transplant into her dying child.

And those are just the subplots that make sense! So many baffling creative decisions reroute The Concorde into self-parody without director David Lowell Rich (1973’s Satan’s School for Girls) or screenwriter Eric Roth (future Oscar winner for Forrest Gump) knowing it. I speak of comedian Jimmie Walker, then coming off his “dyn-o-mite” run on TV’s Good Times, playing a jazz saxophonist who keeps sneaking off to the bathroom to get high. I speak of Martha Raye, in her final film (roughly 37,000 feet from her days sharing the screen with Charlie Chaplin), as a fraidy-cat passenger who keeps sneaking off to the bathroom because of nervous diarrhea. I speak especially of game-show staple Charo, who has one scene that exists only to feature Charo and her cuchi-cuchi shtick. Was she really that much of a “get”?

Don’t answer that. Do see ’79, the master of the disaster film — disastrous in all the right ways. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

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