Airport '77 (1977)

PG | 114 mins | Drama, Adventure | March 1977

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HISTORY

       The 6 Aug 1976 HR noted that designing and building the interior and exterior sets for Airport '77's luxury jetliner would cost Universal Pictures at least $1.2 million, constituting most of the film's $1.5-million-plus set design budget. Production designer George C. Webb explained that the three-level, 4,000-square foot interior had to be mounted on gimbals that allowed it to be "tossed around." A giant water tank surrounded the airplane's exterior that allowed the film to capture turbulence during the crash and flooding sequences. A seventy-foot portion of the exterior also had to be built and submerged in a Florida lake.
       The 12 May 1990 LAT obituary for water stunts expert Manfred Zendar said that he created the "22-foot lift bags" that raised the 747 from the ocean bottom.
       The 25 Oct 1978 HR reported that Airport '77 won the Prix d'Honneur at the Union Internationale des Associations Techniques Cinematographiques's Awards dinner at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, France. It was the first year that any American films were entered into the competition.
       National Screen Councilncil awarded its Blue Ribbon Award for Mar 1978 to Airport '77, according to a 9 May 1977 Box article. The council based its decisions on the film's "suitability for family entertainment."
       Var , in its 23 March 1977 review, gives Airport '77 's running time as 113 minutes. A 9 Aug 1978 Var article reported that Universal was adding seventy minutes to the movie's original 113 minutes to turn the theatrical film into a television "miniseries" scheduled to air over two nights on ... More Less

       The 6 Aug 1976 HR noted that designing and building the interior and exterior sets for Airport '77's luxury jetliner would cost Universal Pictures at least $1.2 million, constituting most of the film's $1.5-million-plus set design budget. Production designer George C. Webb explained that the three-level, 4,000-square foot interior had to be mounted on gimbals that allowed it to be "tossed around." A giant water tank surrounded the airplane's exterior that allowed the film to capture turbulence during the crash and flooding sequences. A seventy-foot portion of the exterior also had to be built and submerged in a Florida lake.
       The 12 May 1990 LAT obituary for water stunts expert Manfred Zendar said that he created the "22-foot lift bags" that raised the 747 from the ocean bottom.
       The 25 Oct 1978 HR reported that Airport '77 won the Prix d'Honneur at the Union Internationale des Associations Techniques Cinematographiques's Awards dinner at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, France. It was the first year that any American films were entered into the competition.
       National Screen Councilncil awarded its Blue Ribbon Award for Mar 1978 to Airport '77, according to a 9 May 1977 Box article. The council based its decisions on the film's "suitability for family entertainment."
       Var , in its 23 March 1977 review, gives Airport '77 's running time as 113 minutes. A 9 Aug 1978 Var article reported that Universal was adding seventy minutes to the movie's original 113 minutes to turn the theatrical film into a television "miniseries" scheduled to air over two nights on the National Broadcasting Corporation on 24-25 Sep 1978. The extra footage included both original out-takes and newly-shot scenes. NBC justified the added expenditure because the many additional commercials over a second night would more than offset the $2 million-plus the network had paid for the movie.
       Airport '77 was part of the Airport series of films, including 1970's Airport, 1974's Airport 1975, and 1979's The Concorde...Airport '79 (see entries).
      The end credits begin with the following statement: "The incident portrayed in this film is fictional; the rescue capabilities utilized by the Navy are real." The end credits then conclude with the following acknowledgement: "Universal Studios acknowledges the generous cooperation of the UNITED STATES NAVY, the COAST GUARD, the Officers and Men of the USS CAYUGA and the Underwater Demolition Teams of the Pacific Fleet in the production of AIRPORT '77."
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 May 1977
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1976
p. 1, 25.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1977
p. 3, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1990
p. 26
Variety
23 Mar 1977
p. 22.
Variety
9 Aug 1977.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jennings Lang production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost
Lee Grant's cost
Cost supv
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec eff
Matte photog
Matte photog
Miniatures
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to prod
Marine coord
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the film Airport written by George Seaton (Ross Hunter Productions, Inc. and Universal Pictures, 1970) based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Hailey (Garden City, 1968).
SONGS
"Beauty Is in the Eyes of the Beholder," composed and sung by Tom Sullivan.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
March 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 25 March 1977
Production Date:
Completed November 1976
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, LLLP
Copyright Date:
25 March 1977
Copyright Number:
LP48704
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
114
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Billionaire art collector Philip Stevens greets a group of reporters at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, which he is turning into a museum. The reporters also ask Stevens about whether his "prototype executive aircraft" will revolutionize the private and commercial airline industries. He hopes it will. Meanwhile, at a Washington, D.C., airport, Capt. Don Gallagher returns from a successful test flight of Stevens's new aircraft, a three-level 747 luxury jet. Also at the airport, a young man surreptitiously exchanges identical-looking black bags with a man dressed as a pilot. As Gallagher watches Stevens's multi-million dollar artwork get loaded on the plane, the phony pilot enters a men's room stall to alter his appearance by putting on a wig, a fake mustache and a baggage handler's uniform. He also retrieves a gun hidden in a paper towel dispenser. Gallagher then discusses the status of his relationship with his mistress, Eve Clayton, another one of Stevens's employees. The imposter baggage handler and one of his associates board the plane and hook canisters of CR-7 gas into the passenger compartment's ventilation system. Later, the passengers begin boarding the plane, including Lisa, Stevens's estranged daughter, and her son Benjy; Emily Livingston, an influential art patron and her maid, Dorothy. Also aboard are world-renowned oceanographer and architect Martin Wallace and his spoiled socialite wife, Karen Wallace; Stevens’s personal engineer, Stan Buchek; Dr. Herbert Williams, the veterinarian that oversees Stevens’s racing horses; a little girl named Bonnie with her elementary school’s prize-winning art project; several art critics; and various Stevens executives. The flight to Palm Beach is routine until Chambers, the co-pilot, makes contact with the imposter baggage handler -- now working as a steward ... +


Billionaire art collector Philip Stevens greets a group of reporters at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, which he is turning into a museum. The reporters also ask Stevens about whether his "prototype executive aircraft" will revolutionize the private and commercial airline industries. He hopes it will. Meanwhile, at a Washington, D.C., airport, Capt. Don Gallagher returns from a successful test flight of Stevens's new aircraft, a three-level 747 luxury jet. Also at the airport, a young man surreptitiously exchanges identical-looking black bags with a man dressed as a pilot. As Gallagher watches Stevens's multi-million dollar artwork get loaded on the plane, the phony pilot enters a men's room stall to alter his appearance by putting on a wig, a fake mustache and a baggage handler's uniform. He also retrieves a gun hidden in a paper towel dispenser. Gallagher then discusses the status of his relationship with his mistress, Eve Clayton, another one of Stevens's employees. The imposter baggage handler and one of his associates board the plane and hook canisters of CR-7 gas into the passenger compartment's ventilation system. Later, the passengers begin boarding the plane, including Lisa, Stevens's estranged daughter, and her son Benjy; Emily Livingston, an influential art patron and her maid, Dorothy. Also aboard are world-renowned oceanographer and architect Martin Wallace and his spoiled socialite wife, Karen Wallace; Stevens’s personal engineer, Stan Buchek; Dr. Herbert Williams, the veterinarian that oversees Stevens’s racing horses; a little girl named Bonnie with her elementary school’s prize-winning art project; several art critics; and various Stevens executives. The flight to Palm Beach is routine until Chambers, the co-pilot, makes contact with the imposter baggage handler -- now working as a steward -- to set their illicit plan into motion. First, the steward accidentally kills the airplane’s security man, then lures Gallagher out of the cockpit with a false report about a sick passenger. The steward knocks out Gallagher while Chambers knocks out the navigator and another hijacker releases the CR-7 gas. The hijackers put on their gas masks as the passengers begin to pass out immediately. Chambers starts flying the plane low so that it disappears from radar detection in the Bermuda Triangle. He plans to land the plane on deserted St. George Island where Stevens's art and rare wine collections can be removed. Suddenly, the lights of a floating oil platform appear out of the fog, and as Chambers swerves to avoid a collision, the tip of the plane’s right wing clips the rig’s platform tower. Chambers is forced to crash land on the water. The impact damages one of the 747’s airtight compartments, kills two hijackers and injures several passengers who have started coming to. With the plane's nose dipping under the water, it submerges and glides to the bottom of the ocean. The plane’s emergency lights come on and, as the passengers begin to panic, Capt. Gallagher assures everybody that the compartments are airtight and should be able to withstand the water pressure long enough for rescuers to arrive. Gallagher also notices that Bonnie, the schoolgirl, is severely injured. However, Capt. Gallagher discovers that Chambers has flown the plane 200 miles off course and realizes that no one is coming to save them. The only way out of their predicament, Capt. Gallagher realizes, is to enter an isolated cargo hold at the rear of the plane, where he can then exit with a self-inflating life raft with its own radio that will send out a Mayday signal. Martin Wallace, who says he is a skilled scuba diver, insists on joining the captain on the mission. However, when an electrical short opens the cargo door too soon, the high-pressure water entering the cargo hold fatally slams the door against Martin. Capt. Gallagher triggers the inflatable life raft, floats up to the surface and activates the Mayday beeper, alerting the U.S. Navy to swing into action. A fighter jet flies overhead and reports seeing the captain floating above the outline of the submerged airplane. Naval officers, with Philip Stevens in tow, rush to the disaster. Scuba divers in landing craft rescue Capt. Gallagher and prepare a salvage operation, with giant slings, heavy air bags, and large hoses attached to air compressors. Gallagher insists that he has to go back down with the divers because he’s the only one who knows where the plane’s stress points are, and warns that if the divers put slings in the wrong places, the plane could split in half. In the plane, the air supply is thinning and the ocean’s pressure, accompanied by creaking metal and the increasing flow of water, is weakening the fuselage. Looking out the windows, engineer Stan Buchek, who built the plane, sees that Capt. Gallagher and the divers have started their rescue operation. Buchek warns his fellow passengers that water may start rushing through the cabin as soon as the plane rises, so they must strap themselves down. Capt. Gallagher begins marking Xs on the skin of the plane to show the divers where to attach their airbags and where to place the two straps beneath the fuselage. When the airbags are inflated, the airplane lifts from the bottom. Its body creaks, metal screams, and water gushes inside, breaching a sealed door and sending torrents through the passenger cabin. Chambers and Dorothy are killed, but the rest of the passengers ride the plane safely to the surface, despite one of the straps giving way. Everybody is eventually rescued, except for Eve, who is knocked back when the second strap breaks and the plane begins to sink again. Capt. Gallagher leaps inside to guide her up to the cockpit, the only part of the 747 still above water. There, Capt. Gallagher is able to open a door and the two lovers are able to jump to safety before the plane sinks back down to the ocean floor. Philip Stevens is reunited with his daughter and grandson, and Gallagher and Eve plan to keep their date in Palm Springs. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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