|The Concorde ... Airport '79|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Lowell Rich|
|Produced by||Jennings Lang|
|Screenplay by||Eric Roth|
|Story by||Jennings Lang|
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||Philip H. Lathrop|
|Edited by||Dorothy Spencer|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|August 3, 1979|
|Box office||$13 million|
The Concorde ... Airport '79 is a 1979 American air disaster film (in the UK, it was released a year later as Airport '80: The Concorde) and the fourth and final installment of the Airport franchise. Poorly reviewed by critics, the film also flopped at the box office. Produced on a then high budget of $14 million, it earned a little over $13 million, thus ending the enormous financial success of the Airport films.
The film was directed by David Lowell Rich. The ensemble cast includes George Kennedy, who appeared in all four films from the Airport series, Susan Blakely, Alain Delon and Robert Wagner in main roles. Mercedes McCambridge and Martha Raye have cameos.
Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner), a corrupt arms dealer, attempts to destroy an American-owned Concorde on its maiden flight after one of the passengers, reporter Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely), learns of his weapons sales to communist countries during the Cold War.
The Concorde takes off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Captain Paul Metrand (Alain Delon) makes conversation with Isabelle (Sylvia Kristel), the purser. They land at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C.
Maggie reports on the "Goodwill" flight on the Concorde the following day, which leads to a story of Harrison and his Buzzard surface-to-air missile project. A man named Carl Parker (Macon McCalman) shows up to Maggie with a claim about documentation of illegal arms deals, but is shot by an assailant who then chases Maggie throughout the house before a passerby triggers a fire alarm, scaring the assailant away.
Maggie is told by Harrison someone is framing him. He sends Maggie off in a limo, then plots to have the Concorde's departure delayed and the drone test reprogrammed.
Capt. Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) joins Metrand aboard the Concorde, creating some doubt as to which pilot is in command. They are joined by Peter O'Neill (David Warner), the 2nd officer and flight engineer, who is living with a controlling girlfriend.
Harrison surprises Maggie at the airline check-in desk to see her off. He asks if the documents showed up, but they have not. As he is walking away, Parker's wife (Kathleen Maguire) delivers the documents to Maggie as she steps into the mobile lounge. She looks them over and realizes that Harrison lied to her.
The Concorde takes off for Paris. Unbeknownst to the flight crew, an off-course surface-to-air missile is headed straight for them. At his company headquarters, Harrison tells his controllers to alert the government. The USAF scrambles F-15 fighter jets to intercept the missile just as it locks onto the Concorde. After several evasive maneuvers by the passenger plane, an F-15 shoots down the missile before it collides with the Concorde.
As the Concorde is approaching the European coastline, an F-4 Phantom II sent by Harrison engages the Concorde as French Air Force Mirages scramble to help. The Concorde manages to evade the F-4's missiles, but the explosion of one of them damages the plane's hydraulic system. The Mirages shoot down the F-4 and the Concorde continues to Paris, although to Le Bourget airport instead of Charles de Gaulle. The plane reaches the French coastline, landing with a damaged hydraulic system and just barely stopping at the last safety net. Metrand and Isabelle invite Patroni to dinner.
Harrison promises Maggie to go public with the documents but attempts to bribe her into "polishing" his statement. After being paid by Harrison, a mechanic, Froelich (Jon Cedar), places a device in the Concorde's cargo door control unit, timed to open during flight.
As the passengers board, a well-dressed woman (played by Charo) attempts to smuggle a dog aboard. She is caught by an alert Isabelle and leaves. Froelich is in line at the security checkpoint when some of his money falls out of his pant leg. The X-ray technician attempts to return it, but Froelich pretends not to hear and runs off panicked. On the runway, where the Concorde is taking off, the aircraft's exhaust kills Froelich and scatters the money he received from Harrison.
The aircraft is en route to Moscow when the automatic device opens the cargo door. Metrand sees the carpet tear down the middle of the aisle, signifying the fuselage is under tremendous stress and the aircraft is about to break apart. The cargo door is ripped off, extensively damaging the aircraft and ripping a segment of the floor as it spirals toward the ground. The airline founder's seat lodges in the hole, acting as a plug. The pilots attempt to fly to Innsbruck, Austria, for an emergency landing, but realize they are losing too much fuel and do not have enough to make it there. Metrand realizes they are flying towards a ski area he knows in the Alps; they could make a belly landing on a mountain-side.
The aircraft approaches the landing site while the ski patrol marks a runway. It lands successfully. While passengers are being rescued, Maggie gives a report of the accident to a news reporter and mentions a major story she is about to release. Harrison is seeing the newscast in his private plane and commits suicide. At the crash site, the last of the crew leaves the Concorde shortly before the fuselage caves in and explodes from the leaking fuel.
Lang argued the film was not a sequel because it used different characters and settings, apart from George Kennedy whose character was promoted to pilot.
The film was originally going to be called "Airport '79 - the Concorde" but Lang decided to rename it so it would not be confused with "Airport 75" and "Airport 77".
In October 1978 Universal announced that filming would start in November.
Susan Blakely appeared in the film as the first in a three-picture deal she signed with Universal following the success of Rich Man, Poor Man.
Sylvia Kristel wrote in her memoirs that Delon was unhappy with the size of his trailer and insisted he be given Rich's trailer, which was larger. Rich complained to Lang, who supported Delon. Kristel wrote that towards the end the shoot, the director started "being overtly misogynistic. He treats me badly, shouting, making me repeat things all the time for no reason."
The film was the recipient of mostly negative reviews by critics upon its release, and years later holds an approval rating of 14% on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on seven reviews.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "'The Concorde -- Airport '79' is -- how should I put it? -- not the best of the series, but to say that it's the worst is to convey the wrong impression. In this case, worst is best."Variety referred to it as an "unintentional comedy". Stu Goldstein BoxOffice graded the film as "Poor" and called it "so silly it's actually entertaining."David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, "You have to respect a movie so single-mindedly dedicated to High Silliness. The advantage of its blithe disregard for plausibility is a plot that zips along at such breakneck pace that the audience is too busy counting the holes in the Concorde to question the holes in the plot."Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star out of four and called the story "ludicrous."Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The disaster they face is as contrived as the characters. You never believe for a second that these passengers are in any danger, beyond getting airsick or mussing their hair." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film "nearly as funny as 'The Big Bus,' albeit unwittingly."
It is also listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
The Concorde aircraft used in the film first flew on January 31, 1975, and was registered as F-WTSC to the Aérospatiale aircraft company. It would be re-registered by Aérospatiale as F-BTSC and leased to Air France in 1976. In 1989, this Concorde carried Pope John Paul II. On July 25, 2000, F-BTSC, as Air France Flight 4590, crashed in the small French town of Gonesse, killing all 109 passengers and crew on board, as well as four on the ground. At the time of the accident, F-BTSC had logged 11,989 hours and 4,873 cycles.
The film was first released on videocassette by MCA Home Video in the 1980s in North America. In 2004, a Region One (U.S. and Canada) DVD release was issued by Universal for The Concorde: Airport '79 as part of an Airport Terminal Pack collection that included all four films in the Airport series. In Japan, the film was released on laserdisc as Airport '80: The Concorde on at least two occasions (1987 and 1999). A single disc was issued, followed by an inclusion in a box set containing all four Airport movies. The Japanese laserdisc was full frame (4x3) and included Japanese subtitles. Though disc labels and jacket include the name Airport '80: The Concorde, the actual on-screen credit was the same as seen in North America and read, The Concorde: Airport '79.
For the film's May 1982 network television premiere on ABC, additional footage was added to expand the film's running time so it could be shown in a three-hour time slot. A majority of the new footage consisted of scenes involving members of various government agencies investigating the background to Kevin Harrison. Actors playing investigators included Jose Ferrer, J.D. Cannon, Alan Fudge, and Ben Piazza. New scenes involving George Kennedy's family life and the death of his wife were also shot. Some deleted footage from the theatrical version was also reinstated into the television version. In addition, the cameo by Charo and scenes involving drug use by the Boise character were deleted, and some profanity was dubbed over. Despite the poor box office returns and the later parody Airplane! having put an end to the airplane disaster series, this TV version of the film came in tenth place in that week's ratings with 18.3 million viewers and a 31 share of the viewing audience. This footage however has never been officially released on home video on any format.