15 Jul 2015

DISASTER FILMS - Airplane! (1980)

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

Flying High! (1980) is the Australian title of the US film Airplane! (also 1980) because at the time Australia was still fighting the US usage and instead official used the term "Aeroplane." Of course, that doesn't explain why "Airplane!" was used in the UK.  I guess the important thing is they kept the exclamation mark.

The above trailer will include spoilers for the best jokes in

Airplane! (1980)

RULE #1 - Characters

"You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital." ~ Dr Rumack.
  • Male lead - Ted Striker.  Ted is a happy well adjusted ex-fighter pilot with a drinking problem, hasn't been able to get into a plane since the war (although he doesn't seem that fat) and is trying to get Elaine not to leave him.
  • Female lead - Elaine Dickerson, Stewardess. Has just walked out of Striker because she doesn't respect him.
  • The experienced tradesman - Kramer.  As tradesmany as a pilot can be.
  • The wash-out - McCroskey.  Unfortunately he'd chosen this very day to give up all his vices, but the stress of the situation 
  • The joker - No one.  No one in this film is even slightly funny.
  • A typical family - The Hammen family: father, mother and son, Joey.
  • Someone religious - A nun and some Hare Krishna.  They don't really have a story arc.
  • The child - Joey, who is endangered in a very different way.  Lisa, the sick child who is endangered in much the same way as the one in Airport 1975.  There are also the kids with coffee, I get caffeine's dangerous.
  • The older woman - There are a few.
  • Animals - There's a horse, of course.
  • Not appearing in this film - The important guy (thus no Relatives of the important guy)The usurped official, A nerdy/geeky expert, The new man (Ellen & Martin are happy); The criminal;  Minor celebrity; The officious but incompetent person; The loving couple; The bickering couple; The tired couple.

RULE #2 - Sex & Nudity

"First time?" ~ Hanging Lady.

  • Nudity None.  Most of the film is set on an airliner in flight.  You can't just throw in random boobs onto a plane or a PG film.  Oh, wait, it appears you can.
  • Sex - No sex.  The plane even has an advisory sign prohibiting it in certain rows.  There's a lot of references to it, Capt Clarence Oveur's wife, Mrs Oveir, is seen in bed not with her husband, but with some young stallion.  Elaine has a purely physical relationship with the inflatable automatic pilot and it appears that the in-flight safety cards have been swapped with the kama sutra.

RULE #3 - The Disaster

"By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?" ~ Elaine.

  • Manmade Disaster - Obviously a manmade disaster, but how many times did Kramer warn them about food safety?
  • Size A planes a plan, the number endangered seem OK.
  • Unreal -  It seems there was no industry regulation, but it was common policy for most airlines to require the pilot and co-pilot to eat a different meal (or to wait at least 30 minutes between eating the same meal).
  • True story - Doesn't try to claim to be a true story.
  • The momentWhen the pilot experiences the symptoms the Doctor is describing.
  • 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 vaguely successful landing of the plane is the natural sudden end.

RULE #4 - Endangered

"Ted, the altitude! We're falling, Ted! We're falling! The mountains, Ted! The mountains!" ~ Elaine.

  • Everyone was endangered by getting on the plane, some even more so by eating.

RULE #5 - Destruction

"Excuse me, Captain Oveur, but I have an emergency call on line five from a Mr. Hamm." ~ Operator.

  • Panoramic opening - An airliner in the clouds, with Jaws music.,
  • Warning bouts of destructionNo 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 -   None really.
  • The final event - The final event is the need to land.

RULE #6 - Death

"Now your husband and the others are alive, but unconscious." ~ McCroskey.

  • Deaths not occuring - All of them.  It's a comedy.

RULE #7 - Last Ditch Group

"I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you." ~ Dr Rumack.

  • No last ditch group.

RULE #8 - Ridiculous Solutions

"Surely you can't be serious." ~ Striker.

  • Outrun -  N/A.
  • A plan -  The plan is simple, find someone onboard who can fly the plane. 
  • Big & simple -   Not big, but simple.
  • Critical fail -  Not really, no.
  • Time -  The passengers with food poisoning won't survive and hour.
  • Instant -  Landing does it.
  • Dangerous -  Landing the plan could be.
  • Explosive -  No explosives needed, but a much more spectacular landing than even in Airplane 1975.

RULE #9 - Happily Ever After

"Ted, that was probably the lousiest landing in the history of this airport." ~ Kramer.

  • Reunited -   Stiker & Elaine are reunited, and it seems she respects him again.
  • Together -   Strike & Elaine end up in each other's arms.  Not literately.  Neither one was minaturised and injected into the veins on the other or anything.
  • Vindicated -   Krammer, I guess, was.
  • Retribution -  N/A.
  • Lesson -  Just a personal lesson for Striker.
  • Sunrise -  Still night.
  • Beautiful Beautiful-ish, I guess.

RULE #10 - Sequels

"Have a nice day" ~ Randy.
  • Sequels -  One sequel, Airplane II: The Sequel (1982).  Probably best not to mention it again.
  • Remakes - This is actually a remake of "Zero Hour!" (I guess the important thing is they kept the exclamation mark.)
Airport and the other sequels remain, as yet, uncover.    However, notes are made for future reference.
  • More deaths - No deaths.
  • More effects - Some big plan crashes.
  • Better effects - Good FX.
  • More Formulaic - Genre creating comedy.

~ DUG.
Please do the survey to determine future rule sets.

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