Bad Movie Reviews: “The Concorde… Airport ’79”

Well, I “enjoyed” a blast from the past watching The Concorde… Airport ’79 last night. None of the Airport movies were that great, but IMHO this one was the worst by far. Ridiculously low budget. Horrible special effects. But the worst thing of all? A story that’s literally telegraphed within the first minute of the movie!

It begins in Paris, where a Concorde takes off for Dulles and its new owner, Federation World Airlines. As an aside, I’d almost forgotten that Concorde was built to be a “regular” plane, in the sense that airlines like Delta and Pan Am were supposed to buy them and add them to their fleets. Of course, the oil crisis and anti-SST protests nixed all that, so Concorde was dumped on to Air France and British Airways.

Anyway, as the plane approaches Dulles for landing we see a drone test being conducted on the Virginia coast by defense contractor Harrison Industries. The drone has been built to take down jet fighters, and looks like K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider in missile form. WHY DOES A MISSILE NEED BLINKY LIGHTS ON THE OUTSIDE? AND COULD THESE TWO EVENTS POSSIBLY BE RELATED SOMEHOW?

The plan is, the Federation Concorde will fly back to Paris the next morning, then on to Moscow for a “goodwill visit” ahead of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (the film was shot was pre-boycott, I guess). But wait: local hotshot reporter Maggie Whelan is taking that flight… because the NBC affiliate in DC just has money to burn, I guess.

The night before the flight, an accountant from Harrison Industries shows up at Maggie’s house alleging that company CEO, Dr. Kevin Harrison, has illegally sold weapons to Cuba, Angola, Uganda, record company executives, the New England Patriots, and every other scummy organization you can think of. The accountant tells Whelan that someone will give her documents to prove this the next morning… but then a hitman just kinda walks through the front door (without knocking? how RUDE!) and shoots him. He takes a few half-hearted shots at Maggie and leaves. And oh… did I mention that Maggie is DATING KEVIN HARRISON? What a coincidence, amirite?

So… the plot magically falls into place: Maggie is handed the documents as she’s boarding Concorde. Harrison sees this and knows the evidence is going to send him to Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass prison, so has the next drone test moved up to that morning. One of his guys rigs the drone’s software to “have a fault” (wink-wink!) and blow up the Concorde. Of course, our heroes, the pilots, save the plane. So Harrison has fighter jets sent out to take down Concorde (and hey, what private citizen DOESN’T have his own personal air force?). The pilots once again save the day and make an emergency landing at Orly.

Harrison has one last chance: instead of, ya know, immediately rushing to the NBC office in Paris and breaking the story of her boyfriend illegally selling weapons to America’s greatest enemies, Maggie decides to go sightseeing or something. Maybe get a croissant at a SUPER-CUTE café in Montmartre? I dunno. We don’t know, because the movie chooses to take this time to show the two pilots in a bar, specifically to show George Kennedy’s soft, sensitive side. HE’S TOUGH AS NAILS, BUT HIS WIFE DIED AND HE MISSES HER, YOU GUYS!

Anyway, this allows one of Harrison’s henchmen to disguise himself as a mechanic and rig the cargo door to open after the plane takes off the next morning. Yes, the next morning: although the Concorde was beat to hell evading drones and missiles – doing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops like it was a giant goddamn F-16 – and half the rubber wore off the tires making that dramatic “stops 5 feet before the end of the runway” emergency landing… it’ll be ready to fly again in less than 12 hours! If Trump really wants to build that wall, he should hire these guys! Also, Harrison must have Scrooge McDuck money to pull all this off. If I gave you an hour to get to Orly airport, find a mechanic’s outfit (complete with ID) and build a device that can press the keypad buttons on the cargo door when the plane reaches a certain altitude… could you do it? It’s not like you can go to Lowe’s and ask for a “Concorde cargo door sabotager”.

So the plane takes off for Moscow the next day and, sure enough, the cargo door opens as planned. Holes start ripping through the fuselage, causing people to almost fall out of the plane. Interestingly, the holes only appear under actors we know, not the nameless extras seated throughout the plane. Odd coincidence, that. Of course the pilots – who are goddamn national heroes by this point – manage to land the plane in a snowbank in the Alps. There are a few bumps and bruises, but everyone is OK. The movie ends with the last people getting off the plane, which fades to a shot of the Concorde flying (peacefully!) through the air. It’s like they ran out of money at the very end and the writers withheld the ending or something.

Poor Martha
You deserved better, Martha.

So… where do I even begin with this?

As mentioned, the Concorde is treated like a giant jet fighter, able to do almost anything an F-16 can… even down to evading two Exocet missiles at once! But the best part is when, in an attempt to evade one of the missiles, the pilot opens a window, sticks his arm out, and fires a flare (to throw off the heat-seeking missile, you see). Because sticking your arm out the window at MACH 2 won’t instantly break it into a hundred pieces – it’s just like tossing an empty soda bottle out the window of a moving car! And all that, as if some dinky flare is somehow gonna confuse the heat-seeking missile compared to four giant Rolls-Royce engines that have pumping out 10,000 pounds of thrust (each!) for an hour. Spoiler: it works.

And the effects… woo, boy. This is some of the worst mattework you’ll ever see: at one point, you can even see a smudged fingerprint or streak in the sky as the “plane” flies by. But that’s only scratching the surface: shadows and light rarely make any sense: why is the Concorde lit from the OPPOSITE SIDE of the sun? Why does this jet fighter retain the same lighting as it flies through the sky? Some of the planes are clearly models they didn’t even bother putting little pilots into. Explosions sometimes don’t line up with where they’re supposed to be, and most of the time they’re transparent enough so you can see through them to the undamaged plane.

Oh, and speaking of the plane… ohmygosh it’s so hideous inside. The interior walls are a sickly shade of beige that reminds me of the smoker’s lounge at Salt Lake City International Airport. There’s brown plaid on the seats and on the bulkheads. Remember the Regal Beagle from Three’s Company? Yeah, like that, only it’s a plane. Either that, or it’s like the Steak and Ale at Northlake Mall in Atlanta circa 1978, only in the sky.

But the best worst part of the film is the cast. Robert Wagner plays Evil White Guy™ Dr. Kevin Harrison. George Kennedy plays hero pilot Capt. Joe Patroni, while Alain Delon plays French pilot Capt. Paul Metrand. Aside: I liked that Kennedy used the word “boffed” early in the film; I hadn’t heard that word in years! Eddie Albert plays Eli Sands, the airline’s president; oddly, he looks like he needs to take a shit really badly throughout most of the film. Which makes it weird that Martha Raye plays a passenger with a bladder problem that actually needs to go to the bathroom several times in the film. But she often can’t, because sax player Jimmie “J.J.” Walker – and yes, he literally walks around the cabin playing the sax – is smoking joints in the bathroom. It’s kinda funny: they show him smoking out the bathroom, yet when he finally opens the door, no smoke comes out, and no one notices the smell (also, Concorde apparently only had one bathroom). Cicely Tyson plays a mom who’s taking a heart (like, an actual human heart) to her son who is awaiting emergency surgery in France; during turbulence, the cooler almost files open, but it’s saved by sports reporter Robert Palmer (John “That’s Incredible!” Davidson) who is only on the flight because he’s boffing (ha!) Russian gymnast Alicia Rogov (Andrea Marcovicci) who is going home to Moscow. Oh, and how could I forget: Charo makes an appearance as a snooty passenger with a snooty little dog. There was some kinda law back in the 70s that any ensemble TV show or movie required Charo.

So yeah… as far as the cast goes, it was almost like an episode of The Love Boat, but on a plane. But Mercedes McCambridge (the evil voice of The Exorcist) is also in it, as is David Warner (who has been in a hundred things, like Ripper Street, Wallander, Inspector Lewis, Penny Dreadful, The Secret of Crickley Hall, Mad Dogs – and, less glamorously, What’s New, Scooby-Doo?). Ed Begley Jr. shines as “Rescuer #1” (yes, really). Also, José Ferrer has a role in the TV version (which was cut from the version I saw), Harry Shearer has a voice role, and Arrested Development and Archer star Jessica Walter plays Kennedy’s dead wife in flashback, which I don’t remember at all.

So yeah… it’s a shit film. But is it is good shit film? Meh – I give it a 4 on the Shitty Film Scale, where 1 is Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and 10 is Road House. It’s worth watching – once! – for the lols, but not much else.

RANDOM CRUSH: Greta Gerwig

Greta Celeste Gerwig, born on August 4, 1983, is an American actress and filmmaker. She initially became popular through the mumblecore movement, but has since starred in “bigger” films, such as Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and the godawful Arthur remake. She does voice work on the Adult Swim series China, IL, and also co-wrote her most recent film. Frances Ha.

To me, she seems to be the “thinking man’s Katee Sackhoff”… or, if you prefer, Katee Sackhoff for hipsters and\or film nerds. What do you think?

Stuff I Missed #324

As a kid, I remember that there was a bit of mild parental and feminist outrage over the movie poster for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only:

for_your_eyes_only

Of course, being an almost 11 year old boy, I loved it! Sure, the main attraction was the model’s butt hanging out. But there was more than that: the “shininess” of her long legs and the strappy heels were really hot (remember, this was 1981, when “shiny” and “strappy” were in vogue). And the crossbow was sexy. This girl, whoever she was, was not only hot, she was dangerous, too!

It wasn’t until a couple of nights ago, when I caught the film on G4, that I googled the movie poster for the first time in years… and realized that the photographer was able to make the model’s ass fall out… by having her wear the bikini bottom backwards. Which is now something else I’ll never be able to unsee.

Little Annoyances #107

Early in the film Pulp Fiction, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) notices a hamburger that Brett (Frank Whaley) is eating. Jules asks if he can have a bite, and a terrified Brett says that he can.

When Jules picks up the burger, it’s whole:

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(click to embiggen)

But when he brings it to his mouth, it’s nearly halfway eaten:

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(click to embiggen)

Stupid, I know. But it’s one of those things that, after you notice it, is impossible to unsee.

FRIDAY FUN: Bond Theme Trivia!

So…. the Internet kind of blew up over the past couple of days since Adele’s “Skyfall”, the theme to the new James Bond film of the same name, leaked on the Internet (hear it for yourself here). Of course, this got me thinking about Bond themes… and I found a bunch of nifty trivia I thought I’d share:

– Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill” is the only Bond theme to reach #1 in the music charts in either the US or UK.

– Amusingly, Duran Duran became involved with the theme after bassist John Taylor approached Albert Broccoli at a party and drunkenly asked when he was “going to get someone decent to do one of [his] theme songs” (after Dr. No was an international hit, American film producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli started a company called Danjaq, which owns the copyrights and trademarks to the Bond properties; its subsidiary, Eon Productions, actually produces the Bond films).

– New Wave group Blondie really wanted to do the theme for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, and sent the producers a tape of a song they’d written for the film. Producers preferred another song written by Bill Conti and Mike Leeson, but offered to let Blondie perform that song on the film. The band refused, and the song ended up on Blondie’s 1982 album The Hunter:

– Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”, the theme to 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, was the first Bond theme to not share a title with the film. Simon does, however, include the title as a line in the song:

I wasn’t lookin’ but somehow you found me,
It tried to hide from your love light;
But like heaven above me,
The spy who loved me,
Is keepin’ all my secrets safe tonight.

– “All Time High”, the theme to 1983’s Octopussy, is the only other theme to not share a title with the film in the pre-Daniel Craig era. In fact, it’s the only Bond theme to not mention the film at all (perhaps not surprising, as it would be kind of hard to work “Octopussy” in normal song lyrics).

– Conversely, Adele’s “Skyfall” is the first Bond theme of the Daniel Craig era to share the title of the film. Casino Royale’s theme was “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell and Quantum of Solace’s theme was “Another Way to Die”, by Jack White and Alicia Keys.

– Scottish singer Sheena Easton, who sang the theme to For Your Eyes Only, is the only artist to actually appear onscreen singing the theme during the film’s title sequence:

Continue reading FRIDAY FUN: Bond Theme Trivia!

The Movie Location Game (Special Engagement!)

Yes, it’s back, for one day only!

The game is simple: I post a picture of a movie location, you guess which movie it’s from. Hints will appear after the picture; highlight them to read. Using TinEye or Google in ANY WAY is cheating. There are no prizes, other than bragging rights.

LOCATION #1 – This home played a central role in a 1940s film that’s considered THE classic of its genre.

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(click to enlarge)

HINTS (highlight to view): I hope you have enough insurance!

LOCATION #2 – Although this building has appeared in many TV shows and movies, the film I’m thinking of was an 80s smash.

mlg2
(click to enlarge)

HINTS (highlight to view): I hope you’re from the right side of the tracks!

LOCATION #3 – This restaurant is seen at the beginning of a 1970s smash hit. The studio, however, was sure would be a giant flop.

mlg3
(click to enlarge)

HINTS (highlight to view): If you’re not leaving you’re… and if you’re not dead you’re…

Answers after the jump!

Continue reading The Movie Location Game (Special Engagement!)

The Best Worst Movie Ever!

Up until a few weeks ago, if you’d asked me what the “best worst movie” ever made was, I’d say, without hesitation, Road House. And why not? Patrick Swayze, at the zenith of his popularity, stars as James Dalton, a philosophy major turned cooler (super-bouncer) who shows up at the Double Deuce, a bar in Jasper, Missouri. The Double Deuce is the kind of place where the janitors are just as likely to find eyeballs on the floor as spare change and lost sets of keys. Ben Gazzara stars as Brad Wesley, the town’s resident Evil Rich White Guy™… whose relatives and associates work at the Double Deuce and are fired by Dalton. Wesley also owns the liquor distributorship, so he has the Double Deuce (and Dalton) in a bind. Kelly Lynch stars as Elizabeth Clay, the too-pretty-to-be-real doctor who sews up Dalton’s cuts and falls in love with him, and Jeff Healey and his band appear as the house band in the film.

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It’s all great cheesy fun. And every time Road House shows up on TV I have to stop and watch it. Seriously: if I was having a three-way with Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson and somehow found out that Road House was on TNT… sorry ladies: I want to be nice, but now it’s time to not be nice.

But all that changed a few weeks ago. I was hanging out at Snug Harbor here in Charlotte,  ostensibly to see a popular local band. But my friend William and I were mesmerized by a movie they were showing on the TVs there. I went home and did some googling and found out that it’s a 1967 Japanese film called Kingu Kongu no Gyakush?, or King Kong Escapes in the English-speaking world.

As I say, it’s Japanese. It’s from the late 1960s. It has campy goodness written all over it. It’s obvious that the film had a tiny budget, and not only are the special effects laughable to modern eyes, the scale of them is all wrong (sometimes Kong appears to be 50 feet tall; other times he’s not much bigger than a modern linebacker). And there’s one scene where the camera pans across some military equipment (Jeeps and such) and it’s painfully obvious that they’re the same Revell models I put together as a kid, with some of those fake trees used on model railroads. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s a Japanese film with white people in it, too!

The plot is simple: an evil genius named Dr. Hu (get it? Dr Who?) has created a robotic King Kong which he wants to use to mine “Element X”, a highly radioactive substance which Hu can use to… make weapons? Blackmail or extort governments for huge sums of money? Hell, I forget. But while this is going on, a delegation from the UN is in a submarine doing peaceful research when engine trouble forces them to stop at the mythical Mondo Island, home of the real King Kong. When they go to investigate Kong’s existence, Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Miller, voice provided by Akiko Santou) is attacked by Gorosaurus, a Godzilla-like creature. Kong kills Gorosaurus, allowing his new love to escape, but not before Kong battles a sea serpent that’s attacking the submarine. Hu ends up kidnapping both Kong and the submarine, and he hypnotizes Kong into digging for Element X. But Kong snaps out of it and escapes, swimming off to Tokyo. Hu tracks them down, and Mechani-Kong (yep, that’s his name) picks up Watson and carries her to the top of the Tokyo Tower. And then the real Kong takes care of business by saving Watson, killing Mechani-Kong, killing Hu, and then swimming for home. The end!

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Because the only thing better than King Kong is a ROBOT King Kong.

What I love most about this movie is the shotgun approach the makers took with the film. It’s as if they held a focus group of 8 year-old boys that went something like this:

Focus Group Leader: “So… what would you like to see in a new King Kong film?”

Kid 1: “Submarines!”

Kid 2: “Godzilla!”

Kid 3: “Pretty blonde American women!”

Kid 1: “Helicopters!”

Kid 4: “Sea Serpents!”

Kid 5: “A James Bond style mega-villain… only Japanese and with a bad haircut!”

Kid 1: “More helicopters!”

Kid 6: “OMG! A ROBOT King Kong!”

Everyone: “Coooooooooooolllllll!”

Focus Group Leader: “So… uh… what if we used all those things in the same movie?”

Everyone: “Coooooooooooooooooollllllllllllllll!”

It’s a really horrible film. I mean, seriously. It’s bad. I don’t know how it will hold up over repeat viewings (something tells me that Road House will win out in the long run). But still… this is one awesome bad movie! Walk – don’t run – to add it to your Netflix queue… NOW! You won’t regret it.

Probably.