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24 Jun 2015

DISASTER FILMS - Airport 1975 (1974)

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do Disaster films follow those formulas?


Airport 1975 (1974) is the second film in the "Airport" disaster film series.




The following will include spoilers for

Airport 1975 (1974)



RULE #1 - Characters

  • Female lead - Nancy Prior, Stewardess.  The girlfriend of the male lead, but after six years wants the relationship to be something more than "one night stands."  I don't care that Murdock was all action heroy and got top billing, I'm putting Nancy here at the top.
  • An important person - Joe Patroni, Vice President of Operations.  Is not responsible for the disaster or delaying rescue in any way, in fact runs the entire rescue operation.
  • Male lead - Captain Alan Murdock, Chief Flight Intructor.  Expert, but rather than an outsider, he's part of the company and specifically called in.  He does have to action-hero his way onto the plane.
  • The usurped official - Capt Stacy.  Pushing the definition, as he's badly injured, not usurped.
  • A nerdy/geeky expert - Danton and air traffic controllers.  Probably count.
  • The experienced tradesman - Joe Patroni.  An aircraft mechanic in the previous film and here he's introduced in a scene referencing this.
  • The wash-out - Mrs. Devaney.  An alcoholic.
  • Someone religious - There are a pair of nuns on the flight, although we mostly see the younger one.  She does so praying, but religion mostly doesn't come up.
  • Minor celebrity Gloria Swanson as herself.  Self-obsessed and treated as a celebrity but really demands no special treatment (but gets a little)
  • Relatives of the important guy - Helena and Joe Patroni Jr.
  • A typical family - Two mothers with their child:  Helena and Joe Patroni Jr. and Mrs Abbott and Janice.
  • The older woman -  A couple, all minor characters or previously covered.
  • The joker - Barney.  Constantly jokes or comments.  Has a panic attack and begins drinking when he discovers that the stewardess is flying the plane.  There's also the Sam, Bill and Arnie trio.
  • The child - Joe Patroni Jr - Precocious.  Janice Abbott - the ultimate - a sick kid.
  • Animals - Passenger with dog's dog.  Smuggled on my owner.
  • Characters not appearing - The new man (There's no new man in Nancy's life, although she's hit on a couple of times); The criminal, the officious but incompetent person, Loving couple, Bickering couple and Tired couple (There were couples on the plane, including a 50 anniversary couple and a young couple but they were very minor characters.)

RULE #2 - Sex & Nudity

  • Nudity - None.  Most of the film is set on an airliner in flight.  You can't just throw in random boobs onto a plane.  There's some underwear shots on the way down the escape slides, but really have to be looking for it.
  • Sex - See above.  However, as noted Nancy and Al's relationship is mostly about sex.  There is also a lot of flirting and innuendo between the pilots and stewardesses.

RULE #3 - The Disaster

"Salt Lake... Salt Lake! This is Columbia 409! It's Nancy Pryor... stewardess. Something hit us! All the flight crew is dead or badly injured! There's no one left to fly the plane! Help us! Oh my God, help us!" ~ Nancy Pryor.

  • Manmade Disaster - Obviously a manmade disaster, but theoretically caused by Freeman's need to get to an important meeting.
  • Size -  A planes a plan, the number endangered seem OK.
  • Unreal -  Possible, presumably, but highly tailored for story purposes.
  • True storyDoesn't try to claim to be a true story.
  • The moment - When Freeman's plane hits the airliner.
  • Ongoing - The plane's still in the air for the rest of the film, so the danger continues until it finally lands.
  • Sudden end - The successful landing of the plane is the natural sudden end.


RULE #4 - Endangered

Everyone was endangered by getting on the plane, except:
  • Rescuers:  Murdock and Major Alexander.

RULE #5 - Destruction

"Is there much damage?" ~ Bill Oringer.
"No, not much, there's just a hole where the pilots usually sit." ~ Joe Patroni.
  • Panoramic opening - A brief shot of an airliner in the clouds,
  • Warning bouts of destruction - No warning destruction.  One person, once, asks Freeman if he's OK, but that's it.
  • Landmarks - No landmarks.
  • The tipping point - No tipping point.
  • Ongoing destruction -   Very little.  There's fuel leakage, the radio stops working but no follow-up explosions or fuselage tearing.
  • The final event - The final event is the need to land.


RULE #6 - Death

  • Prelude deaths - Freeman counts since his heart attack lead to the disaster.
  • Mass casualties - The moment of mass casualities results in the death of First Officer Urias and Flight Engineer Julio (Captain Stacy survives and Air Steward Gary has bad fall, but Patroni refers to needing ambulances for the injuried crew, so he presumably survived.)  Later Major Alexander dies.
  • The black guy - Julio isn't black, but he's a minority so we'll count him.
  • The usurped official - Captain Stacy presumably survives.
  • Deaths not occuring - Most of them.  With only 3 deaths, what do you expect?

RULE #7 - Last Ditch Group

  • Heroes - Major Alexander and his crew almost count.  And Patroni and Murdock went along for the ride, too, for absolutely no reason at all.
  • Survivors  There's no clear group of survivors beyond almost the everyone in the film.


RULE #8 - Ridiculous Solutions

  • Outrun -  N/A.
  • A plan  The plan is simple, drop a pilot through the hole in the side of a plane, many characters point out how stupid and dangerous it is. 
  • Big & simple -   As noted big and simple.  Major FX moment.
  • Critical fail -  The first attempt was less successful than Major Alexander would probably have hoped.
  • Time -  There are constant reminders that Janice needs to get back on dialysis soon or she'll die.  Fortunately, Salt Lake city ends up having a kidney waiting is able to do the transplant Washington couldn't.  There is also some fuel loss.  There was some concern that the helicopter wouldn't arrive before they could get a pilot on board, but Nancy solved that problem with some help from Bette & Captain Stacy.
  • Instant -  The problem of no pilot is solved, but other problems persist until they land soon after.
  • Dangerous -  Deadly, in fact.
  • Explosive -  No explosives needed.


RULE #9 - Happily Ever After

"Oh, it's so beautiful!" ~ Winnie.
"Every morning is beautiful, you're just too young to know!" ~ Gloria Swanson.

  • Reunited:  Murdock gives a perfunctory "I love you" as he brings the plan in to land.  To be fair to him, he had tried to say it earlier.
  • Together:  Murdock & Nancy leave the plan holding each other.
  • Vindicated:  N/A.
  • Retribution:  N/A.
  • Lesson:  N/A.
  • Sunrise:  Sunrise appears to have occurred soon after the accident.  Dialogue suggests it was still morning when they landed.
  • Beautiful:  Beautiful-ish, I guess.


RULE #10 - Sequels

  • Sequels -  This is actually a sequel to Airport (1970) and is followed by 2 sequels, Airport '77 and a film with some arrangement of the words "The Concord" "Airport" and the numbers "79" or "'80" depending on where it was released.
  • Remakes - No remakes.
Airport and the other sequels remain, as yet, uncover.    However, notes are made for future reference.


  • More deaths - As noted only 4 deaths in total.  It is noted that 120 people were on the plane.
  • More effects - Lots of a plane flying, some rear projection work and the like.
  • Better effects - OK for the time..
  • More Formulaic - Formulaic as is, with some gaps as the formula due to constrains of the plot.
~ DUG.
Please do the survey to determine future rule sets.

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