In the midst of a deadly blizzard, a plane falls victim to a mad bomber
and is unable to make an emergency landing on the snowed-in runway.
Written and Directed by George Seaton
Starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson, Dana Wynter, Barbara Hale
Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actress (Helen Hayes)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Maureen Stapleton), Best Adapted Screenplay,
Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Alfred Newman)
Somewhere inside this bloated, dull action thriller is a fantastic disaster movie. Unfortunately, it's surrounded by an hour's worth of soap opera bullshit and way too many characters. This is the film that inspired the classic 1980 spoof Airplane, which has a great disaster storyline and unforgettable characters. It's never a good sign when the parody is more memorable and acclaimed than the actual movie. Airport is overly long, full of aircraft jargon, and is never actually thrilling until the last ten minutes. Apart from a few decent performances, you can leave this one at the gate.
Burt Lancaster plays Mel Bakersfeld, an airport general manager dealing with the worst blizzard in history, a terrorist attack, and the most callous, aggressively unlikable wife in movie history. Seriously, what a horrible woman. Dean Martin plays his brother-in-law, Vernon Demerest, a womanizing, Dean Martin-esque character with very little else put into his character. Demerest must land the plane that suffers the world's smallest explosion while Bakersfeld barks orders at numerous characters through a ridiculous amount of split-screen. This film is stylized to the point of annoyance. I think the supporting cast outshines these two, who were both clearly here for the money.
Airport is just the latest (for me) in what I believe to be one of the worst Best Picture bunches in Oscar history. I already tore MASH a new one, and while Patton was a good movie, it doesn't really hold a candle to the winners that would follow it during the amazing 1970's Oscar run. Yet, at the beginning of the decade, we had films like this to represent the best of the year, while a movie like Kelly's Heroes got completely shut out. Go figure.