Succeded by: Airport 1975 (1975)
For those of today's viewers who are more familiar with the pinnacle of film parodies, Airplane! than they are with this original disaster film which was the target for that parody, it may take a couple of minutes of giggles before the crafty, almost deceptive slickness of Airport pulls you in and sends you flying. Taking into account that this was the first of a bundle of similarly structured disaster films made during the 1970s, the film has some undeniable and borderline groundbreaking strengths which have stood the test of time well. One is the wide cast of characters which are weaved in and out of the storyline in elegant Grand Hotel fashion by director George Seaton. Another is the delicately unorthodox structuring in the film's opening half, from which the action could take any which direction, before it finally settles into an (air)tight thriller aboard the flagrantly revered Boeing 707.
Now, Airport also has its tritenesses, which probably are more lucent today than they were back in 1970. For instance, there are a couple of stereotypical characters utilized for cheap effect, such as George Kennedy's ultra-tough workingman or the farcically nerdy kid on the plane. The film also is weirdly sexist in a manner that would have been almost unthinkable only a few years later: Our two "heroes" here are seasoned, middle-aged married guys with a young and beautiful mistress at work (who we get to root for) and a scorned and bitter wife at home (who come off almost as reactionary). This is Airport's twisted take on the inception of the sexual revolution, but luckily this view didn't turn out to be quite representative of it. I can understand the attraction Burt Lancaster or Dean Martin had on beautiful young women, but not quite that of a weary old pilot or an airport executive. Followed by no less than three sequels, beginning with Airport 1975.