What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 80: “Airport ’79”

  • Today’s Movie: The Concorde – Airport ’79
  • Year of Release: 1979
  • Stars: Alain Delon, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner
  • Director: David Lowell Rich

“The Concorde – Airport ’79” is not on my list of essential films.

NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of the Disaster Blog-A-Thon.  This is an event being co-hosted by The Midnite Drive-In and yours truly here at Dubsism. Originally, this was an idea conceived by my frequent partner in blog-crime Realweegiemidget Reviews, but circumstances did not allow her to serve in the role of co-host. The Midnite Drive-In stepped into keep the “Disaster Blog-A-Thon from becoming a disaster of it’s own!

Regardless of who does what here, the common theme is a fascination with disaster movies, and as you’ll see, this event is chock full of great contributions! As such, this blog-a-thon is exactly what is purports to be…all about all things “disaster.” We held this event when we did to celebrate the birth of disaster movie mogul Irwin Allen, which happened on June 12th, 1916.

As for yours truly, part of what got this all starting was the fact I’ve already covered several delicious “disaster” flicks:

With that, let’s get this installment going…

The Story:

With this post, I have officially covered all three sequels to 1970’s “Airport.” This one is easily the worst.

The plot revolves around a shady arms dealer named Kevin Harrison (played by Robert Wagner) who wants to destroy an American-owned Concorde.  The reason is one of the passengers is network news reporter Maggie Whelan (played by Susan Blakely) has discovered Harrison’s weapons sales to communist countries during the Cold War. She comes to know this from a man named Carl Parker (played by Macon McCalman) who is an employee of Harrison’s.  He shows up at Maggie’s house the night before the flight spilling the beans about the sales when a man bursts into the house and shoots Parker dead.

Your target for today.

Meanwhile, Captain Joe Patroni (played by George Kennedy) shows up at the airport.  Patroni is the only character to appear in all four “Airport” movies; in the first three, he’s a mechanic who knows the nuts and bolts of every airplane in the sky.  But in the first thing about this movie that makes no sense, now all of a sudden Patroni is is fully-qualified Captain. In fact he tells the French Captain Metrand (played by Alain Delon) that he “quit counting the years he’s been flying after he hit 30,” yet there is never a single mention of Patroni’s having been a pilot in any of the three previous movies. That’s important because there’s a “call-back” between Patroni and Maggie to the effect of “I haven’t seen you since that crash-landing in Salt Lake;” a direct reference to “Airport ’75.”

By the way, “stock” plot-twist #1 comes when we discover Harrison also happens to be romantically involved with Maggie. Speaking of things that don’t make sense, if you’re a guy like Harrison who is up to some seriously illegal stuff, doesn’t having a girlfriend who is a network TV reporter seem like a bad idea? Just sayin’…

She has her own network news show…I’m sure she can keep a secret.

When Maggie confronts Harrison about Parker’s allegations, he weaves a lofty load of crap about being black-mailed.  Harrison sends Maggie off in a limousine, after which he sets the plan in motion to destroy the Concorde with his new anti-aircraft missile system.

Harrison surprises Maggie at the airline check-in desk to see her off. But as he is walking away, Parker’s wife (played by Kathleen Maguire) shows up and delivers documents to Maggie which prove Harrison is lying to her about being black-mailed.  Just before the flight, Maggie tells Harrison she’s blowing the whistle on this story.

Almost immediately, the plot starts getting wrapped around it’s own axle. It’s clear Harrison intends for his missile test to destroy the Concorde, but his attempt to cover it up are the next thing which doesn’t make sense. Harrison gives Washington a chance to save the Concorde, which the U.S. Air Force does by F-15 fighter jets to intercept the “rogue” missile. Later as the Concorde nears the French coast, an unmarked F-4 “Phantom II” sent by Harrison engages the Concorde.  The F-4 launches several air-to-air missiles, but Patroni manages to pull off some evasive maneuvers to avoid them.

Does the phrase “not bloody likely” mean anything to you?

Impossible flying from a guy who has been a pilot for almost 35 minutes…sure, why not?

For purposes of not getting extremely “technical” here (go back to my original piece on “Airplane!” and why I was always afraid of becoming Ted Striker), I’n not going into the ridiculous idea of a delta-wing passenger jet doing “high-G” turns and “barrel rolls” at Mach 2, or pulling off a “dive bomber” move to within feet of the ocean’s surface.

I don’t need to touch that pant-load because it’s about to get far worse.  For now, let’s just leave this part with French Air Force “Mirage” fighters coming to the rescue, the F-4 gets blown out of the sky,and the Concorde makes it to Paris, albeit with a damaged hydraulic system.

Now that he’s failed twice to blow the Concorde away, Harrison is getting nervous.  To cover his tracks, he promises Maggie that he will go public with all the documentation, but first he tries to get her to “polish” his statement…what we call today “spin,” which is just code for good, old-fashioned bullshit.

Speaking of “bullshit,” here’s where this movie really gets off the rails.  One would think that after not one, but two attempts have been made to destroy this airliner, you might expect to see an army of government/law enforcement types sniffing around this…once on the ground in Paris, they don’t even get Inspector Clouseau.  Not only that, but the president of the airline (played by Eddie Albert) was on the flight, and he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned about two brushes with death.  Instead, he’s more concerned with getting the Concorde on the last leg of it’s journey…to of all places, Moscow.

Now for the best part…

One might think that if anybody on earth who would be the one to piece together 1) two attempts to destroy the Concorde which were obviously done by somebody who has access to high-end weapons systems, 2) has a motive to keep the world from finding about their illegal arms dealing to communist countries, and 3) already knows the evidence to back up both those points is no longer a secret, it might just be the network news reporter who a) has a boyfriend who fits the first two counts and b) knows she has the goods on him, and c) knows she is on that plane?

The fact Maggie can’t connect those dots explains why she’s willing to get on that same plane less than 24 hours later when it is headed to Moscow.  Let that sink in for a minute.

She knows somebody has tried twice to shoot down this airliner, she knows her boyfriend has been selling just such kinds of armaments to communist countries at the height of the “Cold War,” and she’s getting on a plane which has a giant target on it which just so happens to be headed to the capital city of the “granddaddy” of all communist countries.  Finally something about this movie makes sense.  Maggie can’t figure out her boyfriend Harrison is the one trying to kill her, so it shouldn’t surprise anybody except Maggie that another attempt to destroy the Concorde is coming.

This time, Harrison pays a mechanic named Froelich (played Jon Cedar) to sabotage the Concorde’s cargo door control unit so that it will open during flight; the resultant explosive decompression and subsequent stress on the fuselage should finally destroy the supersonic airliner.

After Froelich completes his act of sabotage, he arouses the suspicion of even the dimmest-bulb French airport security when a large wad of his pay-off cash falls out of his pant-leg.  To escape this bunch of Clouseau “wanna-bes,” in a final act of stupidity, he dashes out on to the runway where the Concorde is on it’s take-off roll.  Think about it…if you were running away from the police, why would you run to the one place in an entire international airport where you are only slightly less visible than if you set yourself on fire while riding an Arctic ice floe?

Frankly, this movie lost me at this point, but I’m still going to bring this baby in for a landing.   Cue predictability in 3…2…1…

The sabotaged cargo door opens as expected.  Blah, blah, blah…the Concorde begins looking like it is going to disintegrate in mid-air. Some more not possible flying, blah, blah, blah and one completely telegraphed emergency landing later, and almost all of the major characters live happily ever after.  Well, except for Harrison, who offs himself once he knows he likely headed for prison.

The Hidden Sports Analogy:

The “Airport” movie franchise is like basketball.  The original movie represents the National Basketball Association (NBA).  The sport had enough appeal to spawn several other leagues.  At first, the NBA was the result of the merger of two rival leagues; the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL). About 20 years later, the American Basketball Association (ABA) began competing with the NBA at the professional level. This led to yet another merger between the NBA and ABA in 1976.

Since then various and sundry minor leagues have come and gone



The farther you go down that list, the deeper into the weeds you get. Through various combinations of minor-league-ness to downright ridiculousness, you end up with something that may only slightly resemble the original. You can literally see that in movies thanks to the never-ending need to milk a franchise to death through multiple sequels. Through that same prism, you can see that “Airport” is to “Airport ’79” as Basketball is to Slamball.

If you’re not familiar, Slamball is part basketball, part gymnastics, part “Street Fighter,” and completely “made-for-TV” action.  Slamball appeared on various American cable outlets at differing points throughout the 2000s. The game itself centered around a standard basketball court with hockey-like Plexiglas boards along the boundaries with the floor in front each goal being made of four trampolines. The similarities with basketball end there, as this was definitely intended to be a “rough and tumble” sport, complete with collisions akin to hockey or American football.

Slamball was the brain-child of a guy named Mason Gordon; the idea being to create a sport that resembled a live-action video game. That it was, with the over-the-top flying thunder-dunks and the massive collisions.  The look of a live-action video game was important, because the target audience was the typical video-gamer…males typically under 30 who live off microwave burritos, ripping bong hits and who love their “extreme” sports. The problem was it didn’t draw enough of them, so much so that after two years in existence, the cable TV outlets began pulling their support. The game resurfaced again in 2008, but met the same fate.

Here’s the bottom line: Slamball and “Airport ’79” both crashed due to a common fatal flaw. They were both completely ridiculous.


The Moral of the Story:

“Sequel” is usually just “Hollywood-ese” for “law of diminishing returns.” The more you make, the worse they get.

Check out Dubsism’s Movies and Blog-A-Thons page for a full schedule of projects past, present, and future!

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About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

14 comments on “Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 80: “Airport ’79”

  1. Pingback: The “Disaster” Blog-A-Thon Is Here! | Dubsism

  2. Christopher Cooper
    June 10, 2020

    Thanks for hosting the blogathon! What a great idea, and Irwin Allen would be proud and pleased!

    I laughed when you listed Airport 79 as NOT one of your essential films—good call! But the flick is good fun, though not nearly as wild and wackily wonderful as 75 and 77, my two faves. Still, it’s enjoyable, with a good cast. Blakely and Delon are both easy on the eyes.


    • J-Dub
      June 11, 2020

      I think we can agree on the seriously good-looking nature of Susan Blakely 🙂


  3. Realweegiemidget Reviews
    June 11, 2020

    Fabulous review. I do love these films as you know. So if I review this and you review Airport then we’ll have done them all. But then I’m urging you to check out Skyjacked. Reviews on my blog of you want to know more…


  4. Airport is my guilty pleasure. I know I saw one of the sequels, but I don’t remember if it was Heston or Lemmon. I know it wasn’t Kennedy in the pilot’s seat. Boy, how did I miss that! I only hope that everyone was well paid for their efforts.

    Slamball? I must have been busy or something. I really enjoyed the analogy.


    • J-Dub
      June 13, 2020

      I wish I had missed Slamball. But as the sports guy, I’ll give everything at least one shot…


  5. Silver Screenings
    June 20, 2020

    I’ve seen a couple of the Airport movies, but not Airport ’79. It sounds like a marvellous guilty pleasure.

    George Kennedy seemed to be everywhere in the 1970s, didn’t he? He’s always credible, in my opinion.


  6. rebeccadeniston
    July 6, 2020

    I want to see this because of Jimmie Walker, even if the film is bad.


  7. Pingback: Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 130: “Airport” | Dubsism

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