Airport (1970): One of the best disaster films ever made

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Starring: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson, Dana Wynter, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Hale, Gary Collins, Ena Hartman, Patty Poulsen, and Marion Ross.

Directed by: George Seaton.


Set around the fictional Chicago Lincoln International Airport, a manager fights obstacles while trying to stabilize his airport during a severe snowstorm, meanwhile, a suicidal bomber attempts to blow up a Boeing 707 while in flight.


*Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster): The manager of Chicago Lincoln International Airport.

*Captain Vernon Demerest (Dean Martin): Checkride pilot for Trans Global Flight Two.

*Tanya Livingston (Jean Seberg): Public Relations agent, Trans Global Airlines.

*Gwen Meighen (Jacqueline Bisset): Chief Stewardess.

*Joe Patroni (George Kennedy): Chief mechanic.

*D.O. Guerrero (Van Heflin): A former contractor (and in this case, suicidal bomber) inbankruptcy. He’s got a history of mental illness and he wants to blow himself and the plane up so that his wife can benefit from life insurance which he purchased.

Mrs. Inez Guerrero (Maureen Stapleton): The suicidal bomber’s wife.

Anson Harris (Barry Nelson): Captain of the plane.


“Airport” was the film that kick-started the disaster film genre which was notable for spawning such mega-hit blockbusters (and a couple that weren’t) such as “The PoseidonAdventure”, “Earthquake”, “The Towering Inferno”, “When Time Ran Out”, “Beyond The Poseidon Adventure”, and yes, more of these ‘Airport’ films. Many of the cliches, themes, and conventions of  those films can be found here in “Airport”.

The story entails a great amount of realism as it tries to focus attention on the day-to-day details of airline operations and how things may play out in the case of a disaster. The disaster in this case comes in two forms and two stories both intertwined – A severe snowstorm that is battering the airport itself and suicidal bomber with intentions of blowing away an airplane while in flight.

I was surprised to see how much depth was given to the suicidal bomber villain here as well as a realistic motivation as to why he is doing this, because it really could have went the wrong way very easily. Overall, not bad for a film that cost $10 million to make and ended up grossing $100 million at the box office.

Rating: *****


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