Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Metphistopheles Previous Previous Next Next
"There's a sale at Penneys!" - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
"There's a sale at Penneys!"
I've really come to rely on the avclub website as my go-to for episode reviews of shows I follow- but their other work is also great.  This retrospective on Airplane!, which dropped on Friday and has been shared about 8 million times since, is a really well-done explanation of the how's and why's behind everything from the casting to the eventual release of the film.

It's one of the few I can remember seeing in a particular place.  The film came out in the summer of 1980, between my junior and senior years at Cornell, and even though you'd think a college town would have found a screen for it, my roommates and I wound up having to drive the 40-odd miles down the road to Elmira to see it.  This was also when the Internet, if even called that, was located on probably three terminals on the Engineering Quad, so the only buzz it got was in the papers, and maybe a little on primordial pop-culture shows like PM Magazine (Entertainment Tonight didn't debut until the following year).

However we heard about it, it was enough for us to make the unfamiliar drive down Route 13 and see this utterly unconventional spoof of the airplane/disaster genres. I knew about the inventors of the schtick- I'd seen the Zucker/Abrahams earlier work Kentucky Fried Movie,but this one went for far fewer of the obvious sight gags. In fact, most of its comedy came in the droll delivery of so many of the lines by the usual straight-man likes of Bridges, Stack, Graves and, especially, Leslie Nielsen. Later I learned, and the avclub piece confirmed, that most of those lines were written by Arthur Hailey of the serious Airport series of films and were lifted straight out of his screenplay for the 50s B-movie Zero Hour!:

Jerry Zucker: We’d never heard of Zero Hour! before [accidentally taping it while trawling for funny late-night television], and at first we were probably sort of just fast-forwarding to the commercials, or maybe looking at but mostly just waiting for the commercials—but then we started really watching it and getting into the movie. And, you know, Zero Hour! actually works. It was written by Arthur Hailey, who also wrote Airport. You could teach film structure using Zero Hour. It’s a perfectly classically structured film.

Abrahams: It’s like a classic three-act play: You meet a guy in the first act, you throw stones at him in the second act, and in the third act everything is resolved.

The rest of the piece speaks with the other Zucker, as well as a number of the actors, many of whom were in minor roles but still recall their places in history with fondness. The kid who played Joey, a number of the religious zealots, and Slap Woman all tell their tales.

So we watched the DVD of it last night- with so many iconic one-liners (Don't call me Shirley, Looks like I picked the wrong week, and pretty much everything Johnny ad-libbed), you forget a lot of the lesser known gags. I kept saying, "Damn! I never noticed it's Jimmie Walker[Spoiler (click to open)] washing the window!" or "Kareem is[And stop calling me Spoiler (click to open)] wearing his Laker uniform from the waist down?!?"

Once done, I checked to see if Zero Hour! was obtainable. Netflix and the library said no, and most online copies are pricey, but TMC is showing it on the night of May 13th.

I just have to remember to set all the controls on the DVR, so it doesn't come in too fast.
Leave a comment