Airport 1975 (1974)

You know, I didn’t think it would be possible, but the filmmakers for this sequel to 1970’s charming original somehow managed to take all the elements that made the first one a success, and successfully managed to make things even better this time around. For instance, where the first movie focused a lot on melodrama, this one goes straight to delightfully cheesy: On board this doomed flight is a sick child in urgent need of an operation, her worried mother, a few nuns, lovable older curmudgeons, a stewardess considering an abortion and even a legendary movie star (Gloria Swanson) playing herself, in an era far before self-referential humor became in vogue. At this point we haven’t even gotten to the cast’s relentless horniness; everywhere you look there’s always people having trouble keeping their hands off each other or not flirting with each other almost reflexively. By the time a mid-air collision leads to a massive hole in the cockpit and an incapacitated flight crew, forcing stewardess Karen Black to take the elm of the plane, the whole thing goes from campily entertaining to impressively tense, with a number of effective shots, tight editing and Black’s strong performance selling the deliriously over-the-top plot. Overall it’s even better than the first one, taking more chances with the formula and presenting more likable characters this time around, and upping the stakes in terms of special effects proves surprisingly potent instead of extravagantly shallow. Pardon the lame pun, but this one’s a blast.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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