Tag Archives: Eddie Albert

The Concorde … Airport ’79 (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Missile targets passenger plane.

A corrupt arms dealer, Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner), has his deadly surface-to-air missile system target a Concorde airplane while it’s in the air when he finds out that one of the passengers on board, a news reporter named Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely), has incriminating information on him that she plans to report on once the plane lands. Captain Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) uses his superior piloting skills to avoid the missile, but then learns Harrison has installed a device on the plane that knocks-out its cargo door causing the plane to literally rip apart and forcing a dangerous emergency landing in the Alps.

This terrible idea for a movie came from its producer Jennings Lang who greedily wanted to squeeze out a story from an already tired formula if he felt it could continue to make a profit. Sometimes it’s best to get out while you’re ahead, but Lang, who wrote the story for this one, didn’t see it that way and ended up making a clunker that’s even worse than Airport 1975, which was already notorious for being one of the worst disaster flicks ever made. The plot here has all the trappings of being written by someone more interested in turning a profit than creating an actual movie as the characters are one-dimensional and the situations contrived.

The espionage undertone makes it seems more like a James Bond flick with most of the action occurring on the ground than in the airplane. Watching the plane trying to avoid the missile isn’t exciting because the unconvincing special effects clearly look like images being matted onto the screen. The scenes showing the passengers screaming as the plane turns upset down become laughable and get shown with a boring regularity. The part where Eddie Albert’s chair goes through the floor is the film’s unintentional comic highpoint particularly when he states “I thought I had the best seat on the plane.”

Yet the craziest element in the story is the fact that the plane, after the passengers spent the whole flight being terrorized by incoming missiles, lands in Paris and the people spend the night in a hotel. Then the next day they all happily board the plane again, which simply would not happen as there is no way that anyone anywhere would get back onto a plane, especially so quickly if ever, after what they had just gone through.

George Kennedy gives a solid performance and helps to give the film some minor credibility in what would turn out to be his last major film role as he would be relegated to minor supporting roles and B-movies afterwards. The rest of the cast though either gets wasted; particularly Mercedes McCambridge who only gets a few speaking lines, or become just plain irritating.

Jimmie Walker is the most annoying playing a goofball who boards the plane while still carrying his saxophone, which would never be allowed in reality, and even starts playing it creating worse noise pollution than the singing nun did in Airport 1975 and should’ve been enough to have had him thrown off the airline…while it was still in the air. Tacky B-celebrity Charo appears briefly as a nutty lady who tries bringing her dog on board. Fortunately she gets booted off before the plane takes off because otherwise I would’ve been rooting for it to have crashed.

The only interesting aspect about the movie is the plane itself. The Concorde was the fastest commercial jet built that had maximum speeds that were twice the speed of sound. I thought it was cool the way the plane light up signs informing the passengers once they had reached Mach 1 and made me wish I could’ve flown on one, but sadly the Concorde ceased operations in 2003 even though flying in one was quite safe. Ironically the only crash that occurred during its 30 year history happened with the plane that was used in this film, Flight 4590, which crashed minutes after take-off on July 25, 2000, killing all 109 on board.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: August 17, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: David Lowell Rich

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Heartbreak Kid (1972)

the heartbreak kid 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Newlywed cheats during honeymoon.

Lenny (Charles Grodin) meets Lila (Jeannie Berlin) at a bar and after a brief courtship decides to take the plunge. However, while traveling to Florida for their honeymoon he becomes aware of all of her annoying habits and quickly realizes he’s made a terrible mistake especially after coming into contact with Kelly (Cybill Shepherd) a statuesque blonde college girl who appears to have the hots for him.

It’s hard to tell what the moral of the story is supposed to be whether its date someone for an extended period of time before jumping into marriage or the idea that being with someone for ’40 or 50 years’ as the Lila character says constantly throughout is just not a sexy or romantic notion for some. Either way it’s a funny concept and the Lenny character with his self-serving needs is highly relatable. Grodin is perfect for the part and one of the main reasons the film succeeds. His facial expressions are great and his running excuse about visiting an ‘old army buddy’ every time he wants to see Kelly is hilarious.

Shepherd is good as well playing a snarky character that seems to closely resemble her persona. However, the motivations of her character seem all wrong. Had Lenny initially approached her I might have bought into it, but instead she is the one who makes the first move, which seemed hard to believe that this beautiful young woman would be attracted to such an average looking guy or why he even caught her attention out of the hundreds of other men already on the beach. Her character also comes off as a bona fide cocktease, someone who enjoys leading a guy on for the attention it gets her, but will quickly bail once it gets serious, which makes their eventual dreamy relationship seem all the more farfetched.

Eddie Albert gets one of his best latter career roles here and was even nominated for the Academy Award in the part as Kelly’s stubborn father who takes an intense dislike to Lenny. However, I wished their confrontations had been played up a bit more and felt cheated when Albert tells Grodin he will never agree to him marrying his daughter only to have the film immediately cut to showing him giving Kelly away to him at their wedding, but what exactly did Grodin do to win Albert over? We are never shown what it is and this in the process makes the viewer feel frustrated and confused and the film seem incomplete.

This same story was remade in 2007 by the Farrelly brothers with Ben Stiller playing the Grodin role and although that movie was overlong, poorly paced and filled with a lot of running jokes that weren’t funny it at least was a little more plausible especially with the way Stiller meets the other woman.

the heartbreak kid 1

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Elaine May

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS