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The Concorde: Airport '79

Reviewed by Tony W.

Rating: 4 Poseidons  


 The Wild Blue Yawnder  


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 Airport ’79 The Concorde

Rating:  4 poseidons

Watching Airport ’79:The Concorde caused such cognitive discord and regression that my initial précis, written before I recovered, read as follows .
“This movie is about some dangers some people flying from Washington to Moscow on the Concorde plane have. The people nearly get killed a couple times but don’t. And the people on the plane have stories about them. Some of the  Russians are flying to Moscow to the Olympics. And the pilot and the stewardess have a love affair. And a woman reporter who is on the plane is in love with a rich scientist guy who is already married but he isn’t on the plane. A different reporter is in love with a Russian Olympic girl. And the wife of the other pilot was killed a year earlier in an automobile accident. Also, there’s a crying woman on the plane who is taking a heart for her son in Paris because he needs a new one. And one woman on the plane always has to go to the bathroom. There’s also a jazz player who is allowed to keep his saxophone with him in his seat and he plays it during the flight. The owner of the airplane and his pretty wife are also there. They all almost get shot down by a rocket sent by the rich guy the reporter loves. Actually, the reporter almost got killed in her apartment before she got on the plane. A guy who works for her rich boyfriend wanted to tell her about wrong things her rich boyfriend’s company was doing and the rich boyfriend sent a man to kill him at her  apartment but she gets away. The rocket misses the plane because the pilot dodges it. But before they get to Paris, the rich guy’s bad friends in France send out a jet to shoot down the plane. They dodge away from it too and the French Air Force planes shoot down the jet that was trying to shoot down the Concorde plane. So they land in Paris and the reporter meets the rich guy who flew to Paris on his own plane. She is sad because he tells her he did bad things with his company and she breaks up with him. He tells her he’ll confess for the bad things he’s done and she gets back on the Concorde plane the next day to go to Moscow. The pilots and the one pilot’s girlfriend and another woman went out to dinner in Paris. It was raining.  But that night, another bad guy who works for the rich guy sets a clock to open the luggage door the next day to make the  Concorde plane crash when it is flying. He gets hit by the plane when it takes off. But the plane starts to crack while they are flying to Moscow. Instead of crashing they land in the snow in the mountains and they all get out before the Concorde plane blows up. The rich guy shoots himself.”  

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The Rich Guy, Shooting Himself


Indeed, any astute viewer will want to shoot himself about ten minutes into this stupid movie. Isolated vignettes, largely embarrassing and unrelated to A79TC’s pathetic excuse for a plot, parade uninvited through the film like episodes in a bad acid trip. Martha Raye’s incontinence, Jimmy Walker’s “hipness”, David Warner’s diet, and Charro’s mere presence are recurring irritants which punctuate a collection of frayed plot threads, none of which is capable of supporting any narrative development, much less viewer interest. The actors’ creation of an atmosphere of impending doom must have resonated strongly in the minds of those poor, hopeless souls who actually paid to sit inside a dark theater and watch this film.


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Martha Raye

Jimmy Walker



            A few facts  to keep in mind if you plan to lobotomize yourself by actually watching A79TC: 


1. The t1. The true Concorde has a small interior, not the huge space (replete with a mini disco area) displayed on screen.


2. Robe2. Robert Wagner (the “rich scientist guy”) authors the best depiction of a dead oak tree ever seen in film, on stage, or in a forest. Had he just phoned in his part, it would have been superior.


3. The i3. The Inevitable love themes permeate the film like a cloying perfume. Pilot Alain Delon and a Parisian woman was but a one-night stand authored by his buddy Alain, he guffaws uproariously and the duo trot off  for another stint in the cockpit. Not a surprising reaction, given that we are told  by George earlier in the film, “They don’t call it the cockpit for nothin’.”


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 The "Cockpit"


umost   But the most melodramatic and incredible relationship is Susan Blakely’s one-sided affair with Robert Wagner. Even with evidence of his criminal doings in hand, this supposedly hard-nosed reporter fails to recognize Robert’s duplicity and murderous intent. Instead, she adopts a long-suffering mien, waiting passively for Robert’s promised public confession, while he, in turn, makes further plans to down the Concorde and thus silence her. Love is blind, and in Susan’s case, deaf, mute, and totally insensate.


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 Robert Wagner

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The C   4. The Concorde’s escapes from destruction defy Newtonian physics. We are to believe that, in George Kennedy’s hands, this aircraft can maneuver like a fly, that surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles can be avoided at will, and that when cracks appear in the Concorde’s fuselage at Mach 2, the result is a mildly discomfiting breeze in the passenger compartment. At one point, George opens the cockpit window, sticks his hand outside, and fires a flare to distract a missile, an act which would have ripped his arm off given the speed at which the plane was flying. 


            5. However, it is reassuring to know that if you wish to crash land on any snowfield in the Alps, you only have to provide a 2-minute notice and the resident Swiss Alpine Crash Landing Army, always at the ready,  will mark  the desired site for you, erect tents, station rescue squads, and set up international TV coverage, all in about 30 seconds. You might even be able get in a little skiing and a four-star meal before being ushered off to your connecting flight.


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The Concorde Rescue Station  

The marginal amusement one experiences while watching A79TC sail along ineptly is tempered by a sobering fact, evident in almost every disaster movie: Great actors have  chosen, of necessity or critical lapse, to appear in vehicles unworthy of their talent. Cicely Tyson, a credible actress, authors a brief and embarrassing role as a mother transporting a heart to her dying son. Bibi Andersson, the mainstay of many Ingmar Bergman classics and arguably one of the finest actresses of her time, has a brief on-screen moment as an elegant prostitute. And, equally sad, David Warner, the great English star of Morgan! and Chekov’s The Seagull, is confined to a small, demeaning role as a flight engineer grousing about the diet his girlfriend has imposed upon him. Yet, collectively, Andersson and Warner have produced  a body of serious work second to none.  Graham Greene once excused his dalliances into popular fiction as “entertainments”. Let us hope that Tyson, Andersson, and Warner were merely engaging the same excuse.

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Cicely Tyson

Eddie Albert


Finally, it should be noted that the Concorde aircraft and service are no longer in operation. If only this condition could be applied, retroactively, to Airport 79 : The Concorde. But do not rest easy!

In the near future, the Concorde may be reactivated and shortly thereafter a chilling thought will slither into conscious expression from the dim reptilian cortex of some typically unimaginative Hollywood brain:  Hey! How about ‘Airport ’04: The Return of The Concorde’!”.


Oh, the pain! The pain!


Tony W.