Posts Tagged ‘Airplane’

Disasters Films of the 1970’s

May 26, 2011

Well, May 21, 2011 6:00 PM came and went and we’re all still here. All this talk about the end of the world got me thinking about how I can turn this into a blog entry. Then it hit me. (I’m talking about an idea, not a bolt of lightening.) I could do a blog entry on the disaster films of the 1970’s. After all, disasters flicks of the 1970’s have it all, action, drama, sometimes a secondary love story to keep the story going when there’s a lull in the action.

Also, what was going on 1970’s is similar to what is going on today, such as high energy prices, a war, a recession, high unemployment. In a way, is it not surprising that these films came out when they did and interestingly enough they were very successful, to boot. Yet, one would think that in such a situation, people would flock to see happy, escapist films, not films where people had to deal with earthquakes, fires, plane crashes or other catastrophes. My theory is that in a weird kind of way these films were escapist. The people watching these films were safe and sound in a movie theater, so they could comfort themselves with the thought, “Those people in the film REALLY have it bad.”

So, without further ado, here is a short list of disaster films of the 1970’s.

Airport 1970
What would happen if you got on a plane on a snowy night and one of the passengers carried a bomb?  No, this is not the latest terror plot, this is the plot of Airport. Based on the book of the same name by Arthur Hailey, the film stars Dean Martin, as pilot of the ill fated plane (in a rare dramatic turn), Burt Lancaster, as the airport’s manager and George Kennedy is the gruff mechanic who saves the day. This film was successful at the box office and spawned three sequels and the infamous Airplane! spoof movies.

The Poseidon Adventure 1972
Picture this: You’re on a cruise ship on New Year’s Eve. Everyone is at dinner, they’re happy and waiting for midnight to strike. Midnight comes and so does a tidal wave. Uh-oh. Well, that’s The Poseidon Adventure for you. But wait, there’s more than just a tidal wave. The wave turns the boat upside down, so people have to swim up to the bottom of the ship in the hopes of being rescued. Stars Ernest Borgnine, as a cop on his honeymoon, Stella Stevens, plays his wife, the prostitute who went straight and it also stars Gene Hackman, Shelly Winters and Roddy McDowell. This picture wasn’t a disaster at the box office and earned nine, count’em nine, Academy Award nominations. I guess this film floated the Academy’s boat. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Earthquake 1974
In the late 1970’s many a comedian made a joke out of the “Big One”, which is the earthquake that does more than just shake up California, but causes havoc. When I heard these jokes, I wondered where the comedians got this idea from. Then I saw the movie Earthquake on television and I stopped wondering. This movie came out just as the disaster flick was wearing thin, so its kind of a throw in everything but the kitchen sink, type of film.  It has major stars, such as Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene (as her father, no less, even though she was only 7 years younger then him), Charlton Heston and George Kennedy, as a gruff cop who saves the day. It has a disaster, i.e. the big earthquake that shakes Los Angeles to its core. It also has a cliché love story where businessman Heston has an affair with a young mother. The film didn’t win any awards, but it did feature a new sound system called  Sensurround. Yet, it this feature didn’t catch on for subsequent films. You think the fact that it was associated with the film Earthquake had something to do with it?

The Towering Inferno 1974
This film is considered the best of the disaster film genre, since the level of acting of its two major stars Paul Newman, as the architect of the the world’s tallest building and  Steve McQueen, in his last film role, as the fire chief who obviously wants to put out the fire, is top notch. The film also stars William Holden, as the chief builder, Richard Chamberlain (who plays the film’s villian, no less) as the electrican, Faye Dunaway and even Fred Astaire. Newman’s character returns from vacation and senses that something isn’t right with the building. He is proven right, as shoddy wiring starts a fire that quickly consumes the building, just as a high society party is going on at 129th floor. Who will be saved and who will go up in smoke? I don’t know. I guess, I’ll just have to watch the movie and find out.

Of course, this blog entry is no disaster, since no one was hurt in the writing of this entry. 



Library of Congress Adds Movies to the 2010 Film Registry

December 30, 2010

The Library of Congress announced its 2010 Film Registry list. The Library of Congress Film Registry seeks to preserve films that are “…culturally, historically or aesthetically significant, to be preserved for all time.” These films aren’t necessarily the best films of a particular genre. Rather they are representatives of the time in which they were made.  The films range from comical (Airplane and The Pink Panther) to dramatic (All the Presidents Men and Malcolm X) to groundbreaking (Newark Athlete and The Front Page) to even the blockbusters (The Empire Strikes Back and Saturday Night Fever).  In case you are wondering which films made the list for 2010, they are:

1.            Airplane (1980)

2.           All the President’s Men (1976)

3.           The Bargain (1914)

4.           Cry of Jazz (1959)

5.           Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (1967)

6.           The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

7.            The Exorcist (1973)

8.           The Front Page (1931)

9.           Grey Gardens (1976)

10.          I Am Joaquin (1969)

11.           It’s a Gift (1934)

12.           Let There Be Light (1946)

13.           Lonesome (1928)

14.           Make Way For Tomorrow (1937)

15.           Malcolm X (1992)

16.           McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)

17.           Newark Athlete (1891)

18.           Our Lady of the Sphere (1969)

19.           The Pink Panther (1964)

20.           Preservation of the Sign Language (1913)

21.           Saturday Night Fever (1977)

22.           Study of a River (1996)

23.           Tarantella (1940)

24.           A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

25.           A Trip Down Market Street (1906)

Yes, some on the list are more well known than others. Yet, whether they are a documentary, short film or feature film, they all have a story to tell. Be it about political corruption, the importance of dreams, social justice or just getting the bad guy before he strikes again, stories are how human beings inform and instruct each other and subsequent generations. So, the having the Library of Congress preserve these films isn’t just a publicity stunt to make them look less stuffy.  Rather it is keeping with the library’s mission to “…further human understanding”. So, these films to the Film Registry will help future generations know more about life in the 20th Century. Either that or they’ll be very entertained.

To learn more about the films on the list, go to: