DAY 13. OPEN SOAR: This should focus on flying or aviation somehow.
I’ve gone on record proclaiming my love for the Airport movies, specifically their continual devolution from high end picture to scummy cash-in — and therefore, more awesome films — as the series progressed. By Airport ’77, things had become goofy. And by The Concorde … Airport ’79, any semblance of being a quality picture went out the window, the same one that George Kennedy opened and fired a flare gun out of to throw off a heat-seeking missile.
Which means that of all the four films, the 1979 one — blame a cast that includes Sylvia Kristel, Robert Wagner, Jimmie Walker, Susan Blakely, Martha Raye, Charo, John Davidson, David Warner, Sybil Danning and Harry Shearer (where were Edmund Purdom, John Carradine, Donald Pleasance and Cameron Mitchell and what were they doing at the time to not be in this movie?) — is my favorite.
Let’s smashcut to Italy, where Ruggero “Monsieur Cannibal” Deodato — the very same man who made Cannibal Holocaust; Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man and the astounding Dial Help, amongst others — would join with scriptwriters Ernesto Gastaldi (The Possessed, Day of Anger) and Renzo Genta (Jungle Holocaust) to try and get a few extra kilometers (it does 2,179 an hour) out of the Concorde, which trust me, was all the rage in 1979.
If you could make a Venn diagram out of my film loves — and you totally can — this exists at the absolute center point of Italian ripoffs, American actors in foreign films, disaster flicks and opportunities to dream of making a souffle for Mimsy Farmer.
This film starts with a great disclaimer, which is always the way the best of films begin:
“This story is imaginary, and any reference to actual events or to real persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. The supersonic airliner “Concorde” is a stunning reality, however, the result of space-age technology, it links continent to continent, flying in complete safety at over 1,200 miles per hour. The production wishes to thank “British Aerospace,” English builders of the “Concorde,” for their kind cooperation and for producing film footage and materials.”
I am willing to bet that the makers of this film never spoke to anyone who made the Concorde and my proof is that this movie starts with one of them wrecking, which was the greatest fear of this plane and one they’d probably never want in a film.
L.P.A. Flight 820 is the test flight that has crashed off the coast of French Antilles of the Caribbean, with French air hostess Jean Beneyton (Ms. Farmer, who is also in The Perfume of the Lady in Black Body Count) as the only survivor. She’s rescued by two fishermen who are soon killed to keep any witnesses from learning what has happened.
Moses Brody (James Franciscus, the voice of Jonathan Livingston Seagull) is an investigative journalist on the case, brought on by his ex-wife Nicole (Mag Fleming, who is in everything from Cannibal Ferox to Nightmare City and A Policewoman on the Porno Squad) who dies from a “heart attack” before he gets to see her. As soon as he arrives, he’s attacked by a gang of ne’er-do-wells before he’s saved by a man named George.
We soon learn that two men are behind all of this mayhem: the superstar powered duo of Milland (Joseph Cotten) and his business partner Danker (Edmund Purdom), who are using their Old Hollywood energy and big business scumbag savvy to keep all of this a secret.
Our heroes rescue Jean and find the wreckage of the Concorde underwater, but George loses his arm in the wreckage and gets shot several times because this is an Italian movie. I’m shocked that a turtle hasn’t been ripped asunder or a pig hasn’t been landed on by a jet engine at this point.
From here on out, the movie becomes Venantino Venantini (Father Moses from Warriors of the Wasteland) chasing Farmer and Franciscus while another Concorde, flown by Van Johnson (once second to only Frank Sinatra in bobbysoxer’s hearts), is being attacked by a vial of acid that heats up in the microwave and destroys the electrical lines of the plane. If the science of this all seems way off, welcome to the glorious world of Italian xerox cinema and its utter lack of making any sense. May it never change! And speaking of great things about this movie, the Stelvio Cipriani (A Bay of Blood, Death Walks on High Heels, Baron Blood, Piranha II: The Spawning, Tentacles) score is fabulous!
Somehow, this movie has the budget to have a nerve-wracking landing sequence. Our protagonists aren’t even on the plane, which is kind of an anti-climax, but at least Brody is ready to take down big business now that the henchmen are all members of the choir invisible.
Look for Robert Kerman from Cannibal Holocaust as the London air traffic controller. Years later. Deodato would say that if he had known that Kerman was a porn actor, he wouldn’t have hired him. Oh yeah? Well the other air traffic controller, Jake Teague, was in Debbie Does Dallas and Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle, so I think he isn’t being all that honest and is more upset about the fact that Kerman continually had horrible things to say about the hell he put the cast of the aforementioned human gutmuncher through inside the Green Inferno.
Two years after this movie, Franciscus would star in The Last Shark, making him that part of a very rare breed of actors: those that ripped off two major franchises aided and abetted by Italian magic makers. He’s also the kind of guy that can take over for Charlton Heston — who was in Airport 1975 — not once, but twice, seeing as how he did the honors in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
This movie makes no sense and spends more time underwater than in the sky on a supersonic jet. 900 thumbs up, 300 stars out of 5, 300/10 would see this again.
PS: I couldn’t find this movie anywhere, so I had to watch it on a Russian video site, which meant that a Russian voice had to say every line a few seconds after it was voice as well as read every single block of text on the screen. The guy doing it even roped a female voice — I imagine it was his bored wife, much like how Becca reacts when I force her to watch Italian blockbuster remixes, to be the Soviet-friendly voice of Mimsy Farmer.
PPS: Keep an eye out for former pro wrestler Dakar as a fisherman. He was the High Priest of the Spider in Ator the Fighting Eagle and also shows up in all manner of Italian films, including Zombie Holocaust, Zombi, Mission Stardust, 2 Mafiosi Against Goldginger and Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals.