Film Review – AIRPORT ’77 (1977)

AIRPORT ’77 (1977, USA, 114m, PG) ***
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Scheff, David Spector (based on a story by H.A.L. Craig and Charles Kuenstle and the novel “Airport” by Arthur Hailey); pr. William Frye; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. John Cacavas; ed. Robert Watts, J. Terry Williams; pd. George C. Webb.
cast: Jack Lemmon (Don Gallagher), Lee Grant (Karen Wallace), Brenda Vaccaro (Eve Clayton), Joseph Cotten (Nicholas St. Downs III), Olivia de Havilland (Emily Livingston), Darren McGavin (Stan Buchek), Christopher Lee (Martin Wallace), Robert Foxworth (Chambers), Robert Hooks (Eddie), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), James Stewart (Philip Stevens), Monte Markham (Banker), Kathleen Quinlan (Julie), Gil Gerard (Frank Powers), James Booth (Ralph Crawford), Monica Lewis (Anne), Maidie Norman (Dorothy), Pamela Bellwood (Lisa), Arlene Golonka (Mrs. Jane Stern), Tom Sullivan (Steve), M. Emmet Walsh (Dr. Williams), Michael Pataki (Wilson).
The second sequel to AIRPORT also takes its lead from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE as a botched mid-air hijack of multi-millionaire Stewart’s private 747, carrying a collection of priceless works of art, results in the plane crashing into the sea. As the stricken airliner sinks, its passengers and crew, led by pilot Lemmon, are faced with a nightmare fight for survival. Despite the far-fetched nature of its premise, the film manages to deliver a decent number of thrills. The game cast help to sell the scenario, with Lemmon and McGavin delivering convincing performances. The film does have the usual array of stock characters and their domestic baggage, but the action takes centre stage once the plane hits the water and Jameson keeps the tension high through to the finale. Network TV version added additional footage, including deleted scenes and newly shot footage, and runs 182m. Followed by THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979).
AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (George C. Webb, Mickey S. Michaels); Best Costume Design (Edith Head, Burton Miller).

Film Review – THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979)

THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979, USA) ****
Drama, Thriller
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-EMI-Warner (UK); pr co. Columbia Pictures / IPC Films; d. James Bridges; w. Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, James Bridges; pr. Michael Douglas; ph. James Crabe (Metrocolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); ed. David Rawlins; pd. George Jenkins; rel. 6 March 1979 (USA), 20 July 1979 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 122m.
cast: Jane Fonda (Kimberly Wells), Jack Lemmon (Jack Godell), Michael Douglas (Richard Adams), Scott Brady (Herman De Young), James Hampton (Bill Gibson), Peter Donat (Don Jacovich), Wilford Brimley (Ted Spindler), Richard Herd (Evan McCormack), Daniel Valdez (Hector Salas), Stan Bohrman (Pete Martin), James Karen (Mac Churchill), Michael Alaimo (Greg Minor), Donald Hotton (Dr. Lowell), Khalilah ‘Belinda’ Ali (Marge (as Khalilah Ali)), Paul Larson (D.B. Royce), Ron Lombard (Barney), Tom Eure (Tommy), Nick Pellegrino (Borden), Daniel Lewk (Donny), Allan Chinn (Holt).
Fonda plays a TV reporter who, with her cameraman (Douglas), finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant. Lemmon is the plant’s senior technician who looks to spill the beans, whilst the corporates try to silence him. This absorbing cautionary tale of the dangers of nuclear power plants benefits from an excellent script that balances its message with character motivation. It is aided by three excellent central performances – notably Lemmon who wrestles with his conscience as he uncovers shortcuts taken in safety checks – and a superb support cast. Whilst the drama may veer toward melodramatic thrills in its final act, the film’s message has an impact that is undeniable.
AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon); Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jane Fonda); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, James Bridges); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (George Jenkins, Arthur Jeph Parker)