Airport 79:The Concorde was the last film on the series of sequels derived from the Airport movies and is possibly the worst of all disaster movies of all times. Unlike Airport 75 and Airport 77 this one features The Concorde, not the 747 jumbo jet.
The film also features an all-star cast: George Kennedy returning as Patroni, this time the Concorde’s captain; Alain Delon as his co-pilot; Sylvia Kristel as the head Stewardess; Susan Blakely as Maggie Whelan, a TV News Reporter; Robert Wagner as Kevin Harrison, the head of a nasty powerful corporation; Jimmie ”JJ” Walker as a pot smoking sax player; Martha Raye as a passenger with a sick bladder; Cicely Tyson as a mother transporting a heart in an ice box; Bibi Anderson as a French prostitute; Mercedes McCambridge as a Russian Coach; John Davidson as another TV celebrity; David Warner as the Flight engineer on a diet; Eddie Albert as the head of the airline, and Charo trying to sneak in her seeing eye Chihuahua into the Concorde.
The story begins with a new Concorde being delivered to Federation World Airlines in Washington D.C. We then switch to a news station with Maggie Whelan reporting on the arrival of the Concorde, as well as a bunch of other featured stories involving most of the characters that will be involved in some way or other with our flying friend. Talk about over done plot exposition. We learn that Maggie Whelan is romantically involved with Kevin Harrison the head of Harrison Industries, an evil corporation involved in illegal arms sales. Before she can get out of her tub after a long day of over done plot exposition she gets stalked in her house by one of Harrison Industries thugs because they know that she knows about the illegal arms sales they have made to other countries. Maggie gets handed a set of documents that will incriminate Kevin Harrison minutes before boarding The Concorde . The rest of the cast joins in as well as the whole Russian Olympic Team which is the reason why the Concorde is flying from Washington D.C. to Moscow via Paris. But where is Charo? I wonder. Captain Patroni announces the take off and suddenly I feel that I’ve been taken up by false advertisement. Oh Charo, poor Charo, she missed her flight.
So, the Concorde takes off, Jimmy Walker locks himself in the bathroom to smoke marijuana. Martha Ray visits the bathroom a couple of hundred times, due to a sick bladder. Cecily Tyson mops around the aisles about her sick child that needs the heart in the ice box for a transplant. Silvia Kristel wonders the aisles fully dressed. Everything seems to be operating normal until they get word that a military target drone has strayed off course from a test range. This "target drone" is launched right at them as an effort to make the Concorde crash with Maggie in it. Well, she seems to have in her possession something that needs to disappear after all.
Pay attention to the scenes where the drone gets close to the Concorde. The blue screen work is so poorly done that at times you can see the sky through parts of the drone. Or maybe this is a new type of camouflaged drone that blends so well with the sky.
Super star pilot Patroni rides the Concorde like a true cowboy, performs a few barrel rolls, allowing our passengers to scream in unison while Martha Ray, food trays and luggage fly all over the place. Patroni manages to evade the missile long enough for Air Force chase planes to catch up and shoot it down. This makes Kevin Harrison very angry so he calls up one of his colleagues in France to plan another fun filled attack.
Now our intrepid Concorde crew must deal with an F-4 armed with heat-seeking missiles. Patroni comes up to the rescue again with the idea of shutting down all the engines so that the missiles don't hit them. He opens the cockpit window, deliberately blows the cabin pressure, sticks his hand outside and fires a flare gun to give the heat-seeking missile a false target.
By now, not only have Patroni and the Concorde defied the Laws of Physics and Gravity but without engine power the Concorde dives towards the ocean giving us more flying objects and debris and lots of opportunities for our entire cast to scream and act some more. Didn’t the technical advisors told the producers that a plane can glide without engine power? Can they land safely with this toy plane? Can someone tell me if this is the moment when Charo comes out from under the seat as a stowed away passenger?
As they plunge towards the ocean the Concorde does not look like a miniature model but more like a poorly assembled kid’s toy. All the Concorde's hydraulics fail, including the breaks, so huge barriers popped out of the runway to slow down the Concorde. These bright red barriers look more like paper mache butterfly nets. The toy model scenes show a completely black asphalt runway made out what appears to be cardboard. This miniature set is so poorly constructed that at times we see the cardboard runway being lifted by the paper mache butterfly nets and the passing toy Concorde. The shots involving the miniature model are noticebly different when cutting to the real plane shots on the real gray concrete runway. Did anyone bother to talk about continuity in this film?
Well, they make it safe, shaken but not stirred. All the guest spend the night in Paris while the Concorde gets repaired. But the story isn’t over yet. They have to continue their flight to Moscow the following afternoon.
In the version that I saw, the Paris section was expanded considerably. At a fancy Parisian restaurant Eddie Albert’s wife expresses some concern about going back to the Concorde. In his typical perky fashion Eddie responds “Get over it baby, lets just go shopping!” Another added scene shows one of Kevin Harrison's thugs breaking into Maggie Whelan's hotel suite.
Maggie Whelan appears on French television reporting on the two attacks, but fails to associate Kevin Harrison with any of it, even though she is aware that Harrison Industries owns at minimun the drone of the first attack. This is perhaps the most incredible aspect of this movie, (aside for the fact that most people return to fly on the Concorde the following day). But even with the documents and the drone incident and later attacks, Maggie gives an opportunity to Kevin for a public confession, giving him more time to plan his next move on the Concorde. I wonder if it would have been much easier to have her killed in a Parisian street rather than putting all that effort on the Concorde. I guess that if he had the good sense to do that we wouldn’t have a movie. Does Kevin Harrison really think that three attacks in two days will look like an accident? Only in the Airport 79 moronic universe.
Now we get romantic. Sappy love themes and Parisian music drown the soundtrack. Are we in a Jaques Demy movie now? Maggie has a romantic dinner with Kevin (can you believe that?), pilot Alain Delon and Silvia Kristel have a sleepover and rekindle their romance over French Fries and George Kennedy ends up in the sack with Bibbi Anderson, a Parisian hooker. Now thats entertaiment!
The next day EVERYONE, and I mean EVERY single passenger returns to continue their flight to Moscow (except for Cecil Tyson) . I guess they all enjoyed the amusement ride style of Patroni’s flying. Kind of like being in a Disney ride with the potential to die (for bonus entertainment). The next terrorist setup consists of an electronic device that has been placed in the cargo hold of The Concorde. This device will force the cargo door open at cruising altitude, and the change of pressure will tear the plane apart .
But wait a minute, there is more!!! New Passengers!!! Charo has arrived ! The hot Spaniard enters wearing a tight Eskimo-like outfit with winter gloves and heavy glitery sunglasses! This is the moment that I have been waiting all along. I survived two Concorde attacks and the sight of George Kennedy naked with a prostitute and now it was my moment to enjoy good “cuchi cuchi pa” humor. Silvia Kristel hears some barking coming from Charo’ s bag. She pulls out of the bag this nervous Chihuahua with a sad eyes that seem to say "Yo quiero Taco Bell!". Silvia playing the good Stewardess asks her to take the dog outside the Concorde to which Ms. Charo replies “Please Miss, don’t misconscrrrrew me, this is my seeing eye dog”. Sylvia doesn’t buy it and kicks out Charo from the Concorde. Charo switches to Spanish and tells her Taco Bell baby "don't worry sweetie you will get on all the flights that you want after we win the revolution!" IS THAT ALL? I want more Charo! But she does not return. Maybe she’ll come back on the next stop.
So the Concorde takes off again without Charo and the inevitable occurs. We are up in the air and suddenly all hell brakes loose again with an open luggage compartment and many more holes all over the Concorde, one in which Eddie Albert calls “the best seat in the house”. Patroni tries to land the Concorde in a snowfield in the Alps before it completely tears itself apart. And what a crash landing we get. Who lives? Who dies? You will have to see it to believe it. As Roger Wilcox pointed out in his review that “However, it is reassuring to know that if you wish to crash land on any snowfield in the Alps, you only have to provide a 2-minute notice and the resident Swiss Alpine Crash Landing Army, always at the ready, will mark the desired site for you, erect tents, station rescue squads, and set up international TV coverage, all in about 30 seconds. You might even be able get in a little skiing and a four-star meal before being ushered off to your connecting flight.”
The best way to describe the experience of seeing this movie is that it is as unique as they come. In my life I have never seen so many preposterous plot lines in one film intertwined with so many high profile and stupid people, facing stupid challenges and making stupid moves. All of this is presented in a serious straight forward manner but it ends up feeling like state of the art camp. I hate to admit it, but I truly enjoyed this piece of trash. Not only did I laugh at all the wrong moments, bad special effects and pathetic performances, but I also got to see Washington DC, Paris, the Alps and Charo. What’s not to like?
ADDED NOTE: This review is based on an expanded two hours and forty five minutes version (with intermission!) that was distributed outside the U.S. market, and has been appearing on pay TV on rare ocassions. New storylines, cast and characters were added, including Jose Ferrer as an Investigator. As if 2 hrs of the original were not enough.