Thoughts from the Ledge: #TBT to the fabulous disaster flicks of the 70s

2 of 2

Airport 1975 (1975)

“Airport 1975” Karen Black 1974 Universal Pictures ** I.V.

This film is one in a series of Airport disaster flicks throughout the 70s. If you are a fan of the Zucker Brothers parody, Airplane! Well, here is the movie that inspired it.

There are several reasons why I chose this film over the other contenders. It stars Karen Black, Linda Blair and my favorite hero, Charlton Heston. Yes, this time he is saving people in the air.

When the pilot of a small plane has a heart attack and dies, his craft crashes into a Boeing 747 blinding the pilot of the bigger aircraft and killing crew members. Somehow, despite this tragedy, the flight continues on auto pilot with Nancy Prior (Karen Black) at the controls.

Nancy is a flight attendant. Now, see if you can guess what is going to happen. The ground crew in the tower have to try to find an experienced pilot to bring the passengers to safety. Enter Alan Murdock (Charlton Heston).

Captain Murdock just happens to be Nancy’s boyfriend. He makes his grand entrance via a daring helicopter delivery. Once he takes over the cockpit, everyone can breathe easy because he lands the plane safely.

Part of the reason why this flick is so entertaining is the delivery of the dialogue. Here are some samples.

Murdock: “Damn! Brake pressure is dropping.” Chuck Heston says this with such conviction while looking dapper in a turtleneck sweater.

Prior: “I’m scared.” Of course you are, Nancy. You are just used to serving drinks and making passengers comfortable. Flying a plane is NOT part of your job description.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The Poseidon Adventure is another one of Irwin Allen’s masterpieces. With this particular venture, the producer won several Academy Awards. One for Shelley Winters as best supporting actress and the other for Maureen McGovern’s hit song, The Morning After.

They remade this film on television starring Rutger Hauer and Peter Weller in 2005. Then in 2006, The Poseidon Adventure made it on to the silver screen again with Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas.

In the original, we get Gene Hackman who at that time was one of the best thespians around. Another cast of thousands in addition to him, you had Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy) and Fright Night’s own Roddy McDowall!

Oh, and Leslie Nielsen of Creepshow and Airplane! fame is also in the mix. When a rogue wave comes out of nowhere and capsizes a luxurious ocean liner, it is up to Gene Hackman to get everyone to safety before the ship sinks.

There are mini dramas with every character that have to be overcome while battling fires and seawater intake. Not to mention hazardous climbs and jumps. This may be one of the more subtly acted films which is probably why it garnered awards.

Avalanche (1978)

Avalanche – Rock Hudson – Courtesy of New World Pictures

Chances are you have never heard of this film. It was parodied on MST3K and has the distinction of being a Roger Corman production. Yes, the grandfather of B movies and horror flicks.

I must admit I picked this for Corman’s New World Pictures involvement and for Rock Hudson and Robert Forster. Yes, the same Robert Forster that appeared as Sheriff Truman in Twin Peaks: The Return and Jackie Brown.

Hudson was a matinee idol during the 50s. In the 70s, he made the transition to television rather smoothly with his turn on the hit mystery show, McMillan and Wife. Avalanche wasn’t one of his better efforts but it is still campy good fun.

Rock portrays rugged entrepreneur, David Shelby. A savvy businessman, he opens up a ski resort despite warnings from Nick Thorne (Robert Forster) an environmentalist. As with every disaster film of this era, emotional discord must be present so enter Mia Farrow as Shelby’s ex-wife Caroline.

While David wants to reconcile with her, she wants to get down with Nick. This dynamic causes the men to be at odds with one another even more.

The mountain is not stable and when an airplane crashes into it, a 200-m.p.h. wall of snow is headed straight for the resort threatening to kill its lodgers. Nick and David must put aside their differences and try to save innocent lives.

As you can see 2012, the upcoming Skyscraper, Deep Impact, Armageddon and The Day after Tomorrow are direct descendants of those 1970’s disaster films.

Next: Thoughts from the Ledge: Movies to beat the summer heat

What is your favorite disaster movie? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We want to hear from you.