Universal has always been big on “franchises,” from the Universal Monsters and Ma And Pa Kettle to Back To The Future and Tremors.
Certainly one of their biggest would have to be the Airport pictures. And while they’re a cases study in the Law Of Diminishing Returns, there’s still something about them, something we can all own on Blu-ray in June.
Directed by George Seaton
Starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson
Van Heflin (in his last movie) blows a hole in Dean Martin’s plane. Shot in 70mm Todd-AO by Ernest Laszlo, it was a massive success — and kick-started the disaster movie craze of the 70s. Note the Easter ad for Radio City Music Hall.
Airport ’75 (1974)
Directed by Jack Smight
Starring Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Helen Reddy, Gloria Swanson, Linda Blair
A small plane runs into the cockpit of a 747, leaving no one to fly the plane. It seems to be the movie most parodied in Airplane! (1980).
Airport ’77 (1977)
Directed by Jarry Jameson
Starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, James Stewart, George Kennedy, Brenda Vaccaro, Christopher Lee, Joseph Cotton
A hijacked 747 crashes and sinks in the Bermuda Triangle.
The Concorde: Airport ’79 (1979)
Directed by David Lowell Rich
Starring Alain Delon, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Sylvia Kristal, George Kennedy, Eddie Albert, Charo, John Davidson
Where the previous pictures had the likes of Helen Hayes, James Stewart, Gloria Swanson and Joseph Cotton in supporting roles, here we have Charo and Sybil Danning. It plays like a TV movie, and a bad one at that.