Tag Archives: Mercedes McCambridge

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

Echoes (1982)

mercedes mccambridge 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Haunted by dead brother.

Michael (Richard Alfieri) is a young artist who is plagued by reoccurring dreams dealing with a menacing man out to get him. He goes to a psychic and learns that this is actually his dead twin brother who died at birth and is now reaching out in attempt to possess him.

This is a unique idea that is reminiscent of the later film (and book) The Dark Half and is some ways more intriguing. Unfortunately instead of approaching it like a thriller, occult, sci-fi, or mystery it instead treats it like a social drama(!?!). The majority of the film is spent on how his obsession with these dreams affects his relationship with his girlfriend, job, and other friends. There is no suspense or chills whatsoever. The ‘visions’ are unremarkable and non-distinctive. The music is too loud and way too heavy for what ends up being very dramatically trite stuff. The climax is hooky and laughable and there is never any explanation for why this happened or how.

There are also a lot of dramatic lulls that really hurt the film’s momentum. The whole first half hour is spent on his budding relationship with his girlfriend Christine (Nathalie Nell) before it even gets to the story and the way they get together is quite stodgy to begin with. By and large the characters and dialogue are bland even the menacing spirit of the dead brother is sterile.

Star Alfieri, who also co-wrote the screenplay, just doesn’t have a strong enough presence to really carry a picture. He also has one of those annoyingly pouty pretty boy looks. Co-star Nell helps add a little contrast by having a French accent and some very practical sensibilities.

Gale Sondegard, Ruth Roman, and Mercedes McCambridge whose picture you see at the top of this post and is probably best known as the voice of the demon in The Exorcist give the film some distinction and are fun to watch even if they are given little to do. This was for all three their final film appearance. Mike Kellin has a great part as a terse art teacher who has a rather intense confrontation with student Alfieri during one of his classes that is pretty good and ends up being the film’s best moment.

You also get a chance to see a John “West Wing” Spencer. He is much younger here with more hair and a mustache and you might only recognize him through his voice.

Overall the movie is ineffective. The direction is competent enough to make it watchable, but there’s no excitement or thrills. With such an interesting idea it could have been and should have been a lot better.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Alternate Title: Living Nightmare

Released: May 31, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Allen Seidelman

Studio: Film Corp

Available: DVD as ‘Living Nightmare’