Roger M. Wilcox's review of

The Concorde: Airport '79

(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)

Since a review of Airport '77 was already available here on Bad Movie Night, I decided to follow up with a review of the last, and worst, of the Airport cadre of airliner disaster movies.

Not to be contented with the mere 747 jumbo jets of the second and third Airport movies, The Concorde: Airport '79 centers around ... wait for it ... a Concorde. Not a British Airways concorde. Not an Air France concorde. A generic concorde. The plane just says "Concorde" on the side, with no other distinguishing markings.

You see, an American corporation — which apparently owns everything in the whole world — just bought the Concorde and is taking posession of it at Dulles airfield in Washington, DC. They can get away with this because it's 1979, and Dulles airport still allowed Concordes to take off and land from it back then. But on the landing attempt, the air traffic controllers somehow fail to see a hot-air balloon drift out over the runway (presumably because its blinding airspeed of 3 miles per hour is too fast for the human eye to follow), and the Concorde has to hit full throttle and climb out so it doesn't run into the balloon — even when the balloon is 200 feet above the runway and the Concorde is already below it.

At this point, the VHS cassette of The Concorde: Airport '79 I'd rented started to lose tracking and display a vertically-flickering picture. I watched the rest of the movie in this blurred fashion. In retrospect, I don't think I missed anything.

Now, it turns out that the head of this world-owning corporation has made some underhanded weapons sales to the U.S.'s enemies. His girlfriend even gets her hands on documents showing these transactions, with the corporate head's signature on them. (A closeup inspection of these documents in freeze-frame mode, which canceled out my VCR's tracking problems, showed such entries as "12 gauge shotguns" and "375 magnums". You gun enthusiasts out there know that these aren't military weapons, they're guns designed primarily for civilian self-defense — and that the props hack didn't know how to spell ".357 magnum" correctly. Also notice that such minor details as the number of weapons, and the sales price, were completely missing from these invoices. But I digress.) So, if your girlfriend has evidence that could destroy you, what do you do? That's right. You reprogram a new experimental anti-aircraft missile — which your company owns, and which will receive so much bad press from any test-firing mishaps that it would probably bankrupt your company in real life — to shoot down the new Concorde (which your company ALSO owns) while your girlfriend is on board it.

Oh, and did I mention that Jimmy "Dy-No-Mite" Walker and Charro will also be aboard? No? Good. Then I don't have to mention that George Kennedy will once again be repirising his role as the pilot. (The Airport movies just can't seem to get enough of him. He immortalizes this film with the line "They don't call this a cockpit for nothing, sweetheart.") Or that the Soviet olympic team and a desperately needed heart transplant are on board, too.

So, the Concorde takes off, Jimmy Walker locks himself in the bathroom to smoke marijuana, the experimental missile fires, and the villainous corporate boss secretly reprograms it to hit the Concorde. But he wasn't counting on George Kennedy's championship aerobatic flying, and after a few barrel rolls that should have caused no end of trouble with the plane's many gravity-dependent systems, they manage to evade the missile long enough for Air Force chase planes to catch up and shoot it down. (Oh, and I should mention that the stunt crew seems to think that when a plane turns left, everything in it gets pulled to the right, like it does when a car makes a turn. In a real plane, no such thing happens. The plane banks, so the only thing the passengers and cargo should feel is a little increase in weight.)

Our passengers and crew then breathe a sigh of relief, but it is short-lived. The evil corporate boss has connections with another evil corporate boss living in France, who owns his own fighter plane. Now our intrepid Generic Concorde crew must deal with an enemy armed not with one, but with four heat-seeking missiles. They evade the first one, but the co-pilot (who has almost as much military training as George Kennedy but talks funny) mentions that "one more maneuver like that last one and the plane could fall apart". (Funny he didn't say anything the first 3 times Kennedy executed a barrel roll.) So what can our Captain do? What else. Open the window at 60,000 feet and fire a flare gun to give the heat-seeking missile a false target. I swear I'm not making this up. He puts on an oxygen mask, deliberately blows the cabin pressure, opens a side window in the cockpit (I had no idea airliner windows were removable in flight), sticks his head out into the oncoming supersonic air, and fires a flare JUST at the right time to decoy the second missile away — but not far enough away to keep its detonation from "hitting their hydraulic lines". Unfortunately, now, his flare gun is "jammed". (How does a breach-loading gun "jam" anyway?) He needs some other way to get the 3rd and 4th heat-seeking missiles off his tail. So, he shuts down the plane's engines, which INSTANTLY causes them to cool off so that the missiles will lose their tracking. But now, since the special-effects crew doesn't seem to know that a plane can glide without engine power, the Concorde plummets downward, nose-first, at about a zillion feet per minute. Can they get their engines restarted in time? Can they land safely with their brake hydraulics out and half of their reverse-thrusters damaged? Can the amateur pilots in the audience hold their lunch down until they do?

Well, they make it. But we can't leave the theater yet. They have to continue their flight to Moscow the following afternoon. Yep, after stressing the hull through multiple barrel rolls, and getting both the hydraulic lines and the reverse-thrusters damaged, one days' worth of repairs will make the Concorde good as new. And none of the passengers will even THINK about taking a different plane. Oh, and our intrepid corporate girlfriend isn't going to spill the beans about his illegal activities until she reaches Moscow, so he'll have another chance to eliminate her while she's flying on the Concorde. This time, though, he'll be more insidious, and blow the plane up by opening its luggage compartment. This is a jet that can withstand supersonic speeds, multiple barrel rolls, near-misses by air-to-air missiles, and rapid cabin depressurization, but not an open cargo hold.

But our evil corporate boss once again underestimates the tenacious resourcefullness of over-the-hill George Kennedy. He's going to try and land the Concorde in a snowfield in the alps before it completely tears itself apart. The snowfield is plowed flat in 8 minutes by an alert Ski Patrol (!), the music gets really loud and dramatic, Kennedy shoves the Concorde down below about 10 feet of snow, ...

And ...

In a twist of fate too horrific for words ...

... Everybody makes it out of the plane safely. The Russian olympic team does not die. Jimmy Walker does not die. Charro does not die. David Warner, whose acting contract requires him to die in every movie he's in, does not die. And George Kennedy does not die. The tragedy here is just too great for words. My eyes still fill with tears remembering it.

In its defense, I will say that this movie isn't quite as bad as Starflight One: The Plane that Couldn't Land. But just barely. Go rent Airplane! instead and have some good clean fun.

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