When you think of 1970s blockbusters, that usually meant an over the top disaster movie. And no one did over the top, too outrageous to happen disaster scenario better that Arthur Hailey. So, let us fix our gaze upon the author, screenwriter and creator of the modern disaster movie and his contributions to the world of cinema.
Arthur Hailey (5 April 1920 – 24 November 2004) was a British/Canadian novelist, whose works have sold more than 170 million copies in 40 languages. Most of the novels are set within one major industry, such as hotels, banks or airlines, and explore the particular human conflicts sparked-off by that environment. They are notable for their plain style, extreme realism, based on months of detailed research, and a sympathetic down-to-earth hero with whom the reader can easily identify.
Critics often dismissed Hailey's success as the result of a formulaic "potboiler1" style, in which he caused an ordinary character to become involved in a crisis, then increased the suspense by switching among multiple related plot lines. However, he was so popular with readers that his books were almost guaranteed to become best-sellers.
Four of his books reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list (Airport, Overload, The Moneychangers and Wheels), with Airport alone spending thirty weeks in the top spot, and more than 170 million copies have been sold worldwide in 40 languages. Many have been made into movies and Hotel was made into a long-running television series. Airport became a successful film with dramatic visual effects.
He had begun his writing life as a journalist on a transport magazine, but got his break as a fiction writer when, during a flight, he began to ponder what would happen if both pilots fell sick from food poisoning. The storyline led to his first big success.
Hailey said he detached himself from his plots and characters once a book had been sold to Hollywood. Having tried script-writing at one stage in his career, he saw movie-making as a completely different discipline from novel writing and decided to stick with what he knew.
Zero Hour! (1957)
Zero Hour! is a 1957 movie with a screenplay written by Arthur Hailey. It was an adaptation of Hailey's 1956 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation play Flight into Danger. Hailey also co-wrote a novel with John Castle based on the same premise, titled Flight Into Danger: Runway Zero-Eight (1958).
Zero Hour! was used as the basis for the 1980 parody film Airplane!. Because Zero Hour! was owned at the time by Paramount, the makers of Airplane!, also a Paramount picture, were able to use the screenplay almost verbatim. In later years, the film was acquired by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film was released on DVD by Warner Home Video on June 26, 2007.
During the closing days of World War II, six members of pilot Ted Stryker's squadron are killed due to a command decision made by him. Years later, in civilian life in Ottawa, Canada, a guilt-stricken Stryker goes through many jobs and his marriage is in trouble.
Stryker finds a note at home: His wife Ellen has taken their young son Joey, and they are boarding a plane and leaving him. He rushes to the airport to board the same flight, which is Air Canada Flight 714 from Ottawa to Vancouver. He asks Ellen for one last chance, but Ellen explains that she no longer can love a man she does not respect.
The flight is routine until stewardess Janet Turner begins the meal service. Meat or fish are the options. When a number of passengers begin feeling sick, a doctor aboard determines that there must have been something toxic in the fish.
While attending to others, including Stryker's son, the stewardess and doctor discover that both the pilot and co-pilot have also become seriously ill. No one is left to fly the plane. Stryker is the only one with experience, but he has not flown for 10 years and has no familiarity with aircraft of this size. Due to dense fog on the ground obscuring the runway, Flight 714 must bypass Calgary and continue on towards its destination of Vancouver before it can land.
Stryker's superior in the war, the tough-minded Captain Treleaven, is summoned to Vancouver airport to instruct him how to land the plane. Ellen joins her husband in the cockpit to handle the radio. Ordered to remain airborne, Stryker makes another command decision to bring the airliner down because passengers will die if they do not get to a hospital soon.
The film, which earned nearly $100,500,000, focuses on an airport manager trying to keep his airport open during a snow storm, while a suicidal bomber plots to blow up a Boeing 707 airliner in flight. The story takes place at fictional Lincoln International Airport located near Chicago, Illinois.
This film was based on the novel by Arthur Hailey. With attention to the detail of day-to-day airport and airline operations, the plot concerns the response to a paralyzing snowstorm, environmental concerns over noise pollution, and an attempt to blow up an airliner.
Demolition expert D.O. Guerrero, down on his luck and with a history of mental illness, buys life insurance with the intent of committing suicide by blowing up Trans Global Airlines Flight Two, known as The Golden Argosy, a Rome-bound Boeing 707 intercontinental jet, from a snowbound Chicago-area airport. He plans to set off a bomb in an attaché case while over the Atlantic with the intent that his wife, Inez, will collect the insurance money.
When the Golden Argosy crew is made aware of Guerrero's presence and possible intentions, Captain Vernon Demerest, acting as a check pilot to evaluate Captain Anson Harris, goes back into the passenger cabin and tries to persuade Guerrero not to trigger the bomb. Meanwhile, airport manager Mel Bakersfeld deals with personal, weather, runway and stowaway problems from the ground.
When confronted by Captain Demerest, Guerrero briefly considers giving the attaché containing the bomb until a male passenger yells out to a passenger exiting the lavatory that Guerrero has a bomb. Guerrero, holding the case close to him, runs into the lavatory at the rear of the aircraft and triggers the bomb. The detonation blows a hole in the wall of the lavatory and Guerrero with it. Chief Stewardess Gwen Meighen, who is having an affair with the married Demerest and is pregnant with Demerest's child, is injured in the explosion and subsequent rapid decompression. With all airports east of Chicago unusable due to bad weather, the plane returns to Lincoln International for an emergency landing, even though another airliner stuck in snow has closed the primary runway. TWA (Trans World Airlines, an actual airline of the time) chief mechanic at Lincoln, Joe Patroni is enlisted by Bakersfeld to lead the efforts to move the stuck aircraft, another Boeing 707, even though it belongs to a different airline, TGA (Trans Global Airlines, a fictional airline and the parent company of the film's Golden Argosy jet). Patroni, who is "taxi-qualified" on Boeing 707s, is trying to move the stuck aircraft in time for Demerest's damaged aircraft to land. By exceeding the Boeing 707 flight manual's engine operating parameters, Patroni frees the stuck jet, allowing Lincoln International's primary runway to be reopened just in time to permit the crippled Golden Argosy to land.
The film is characterized by personal stories intertwining while decisions are made minute-by-minute by the airport and airline staffs, operations and maintenance crews, flight crews, and Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers.
Terror in the Sky (1971)
Terror in the Sky is a low budget 1971 television movie remake of 1957's Zero Hour!, which itself was based on the 1956 television play Flight into Danger. Arthur Hailey recycled the premise in his book Runway Zero-Eight which was co-written with John Castle in 1958.
Passengers on a plane headed from the Midwest to the West Coast (Winnipeg to Vancouver in the book; Minneapolis to Seattle in the film) get quite ill after eating the chicken pot pie entree. Both pilots also ate the chicken. A man who has not flown since the Vietnam War (single-engine planes in the book, helicopter/war choppers in the film) is reluctantly pressed into flying the plane, where he makes a very neurotic, but survivable landing. The theme would be used again in Airplane!, which was a spoof of the movie classic Zero Hour!.
Airport 1975 (1974)
Derided by critics upon its release, Airport 1975 was nonetheless a massive commercial success. With a budget of $3 million, the film made over $47 million at the box office, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 1974 and the year's third highest-grossing disaster film, behind The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. The film was included in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time published in 1978. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
Columbia Air Lines' Flight 409 is a Boeing 747-100 on a red-eye route from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. Scott Freeman, meanwhile, is a New Mexican businessman flying his private Beechcraft Baron to an urgent sales meeting in Boise, Idaho. However, an occluded front2 has the entire West Coast socked in, with Los Angeles reporting zero visibility. Columbia 409 and Freeman's Beechcraft are both diverted to Salt Lake City International Airport.
Salt Lake air traffic control assigns Columbia 409 to land ahead of Freeman's Beechcraft. As Columbia 409 is making its final approach, First Officer Urias unlocks himself from his seat to check out a vibration. Just then, Freeman suffers a massive heart attack and descends into the approach of Columbia 409. The Beechcraft impacts Columbia 409 just above the co-pilot seat, blowing Urias out of the plane to his death and killing Flight Engineer Julio. Captain Stacy is struck in the face by debris and is blinded. Nancy Pryor, the First Stewardess, rushes to the flight deck, where Captain Stacy is able to engage the autopilot and the altitude hold switch before losing consciousness.
Pryor informs the Salt Lake control tower that the crew is dead or badly injured and that there is no one to fly the plane. She gives an assessment of the damage as a large hole on the right side of the flight deck that wiped out most of the instrument gauges over the engineer station. Joe Patroni, Columbia's Vice President of Operations, is apprised of Columbia 409's situation. He seeks the advice of Captain Al Murdock, Columbia's chief flight instructor, who also happens to be Nancy Pryor's boyfriend, even though their relationship was "on the rocks" at that time.
Patroni and Murdock take the airline's executive jet to Salt Lake. En route, they communicate with Pryor, learning that the autopilot is keeping the aircraft in level flight, but it is inoperable for turns. The jet is heading into the Wasatch Mountains, so Murdock starts to guide Pryor by radio on how to perform the turn when radio communications are interrupted and the Salt Lake tower is unable to restore contact.
Unable to turn, leaking fuel and dodging the peaks of the Wasatch Mountains, an air-to-air rescue attempt is undertaken from a jet-powered HH-53 helicopter flown by the USAF Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service. While a replacement pilot is preparing to be released on a tether from the helicopter to Columbia 409, Captain Stacy is able to give a cryptic clue regarding the decrease in airspeed during a climb in altitude. Pryor realizes that she must accelerate to be able to climb over the mountain and successfully does so. After Columbia 409 has leveled off, the replacement pilot is released towards the stricken airliner. Just as Pryor is helping him in, the release cord from his harness becomes caught in the jagged metal surrounding the hole in the cockpit. As he climbs in, his harness is released from the tether and he falls from the plane..
The only other person on the helicopter who can land a 747 is Captain Murdock. He is tethered to the helicopter, lowered to the jet and successfully enters it through the hole in the cockpit. He then lands the plane safely at Salt Lake City Airport, where the flight attendants successfully conduct an emergency evacuation of the passengers via the inflatable slides as Pryor and Murdock reconcile.
Airport '77 (1977)
Like its predecessors, Airport '77 was a box office hit earning $30 million, making the film the 19th highest-grossing picture of 1977. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and was directed by Jerry Jameson.
A privately owned luxury Boeing 747-100, Stevens' Flight 23 (call sign two-three Sierra) complete with piano bar, office, and bedroom, is used to fly invited guests to an estate in Palm Beach, Florida owned by wealthy philanthropist Philip Stevens. Valuable artwork from Stevens's private collection is also on board the jetliner, to be eventually displayed in his new museum. Such a collection motivates a group of thieves led by co-pilot Bob Chambers to hijack the aircraft in the hopes of landing it on an abandoned airfield on St. George Island.
Once Captain Don Gallagher leaves the cockpit and is knocked unconscious, the hijackers' plans go into motion. A sleeping gas is released into the cabin and the passengers lose consciousness. Knocking out the flight engineer, Chambers puts the plan in motion, and Stevens' Flight 23 "disappears" into the Bermuda Triangle. Descending to virtual wave-top altitude, Flight 23 heads into a fog bank, reducing visibility to less than a mile. Minutes later, a large offshore drilling platform emerges from the haze, Flight 23 heading straight for it at close to 600 knots.
Chambers pulls back on the yoke in a banking left turn but the engine number 4 clips the derrick, causing the engine to catch fire. Chambers immediately hits the fire extinguishing button and flames are momentarily extinguished. However, because the aircraft is at such a low altitude, the sudden loss of airspeed threatens to stall the airplane. As the engine reignites, Chambers is forced to use another fire-suppression bottle. But by this time, the aircraft stall alarm goes off and the aircraft's tail hits the water. All the passengers wake up, and most start to scream and panic. Chambers is able to pull up, but soon the plane's right wing hits the water again, and the plane lifts into the air for another moment, then hitting the water again. Because of the impact being so hard, the plane becomes grounded in the ocean. Eventually, the plane begins to slip beneath the waves.
The ocean bottom is fortunately above the crush-depth of the fuselage. Many of the passengers are injured, some seriously. Two of the would-be thieves are killed in the initial crash. Banker is in the hold securing the art for the transfer when a cargo container causes a breach of the outer skin, crushing and drowning him. The second fatality is Wilson, who is killed when he is slammed into the flight panel on impact.
Since the aircraft was off course, search and rescue efforts are focused in the wrong area. Involved in these efforts are Phillip Stevens and Joe Patroni. The only way to signal rescue efforts to the proper region is to get a signal buoy to the surface in a small dinghy. Captain Gallagher and diver Martin Wallace enter the main cargo in the attempt, but an unexpected triggering of the hatch crushes Wallace. Gallagher, out of oxygen provided by the reserve mask, makes it to the surface, and activates the beacon after he climbs into the dinghy. Getting a fix on the new signal, an S-3 Viking overflies the crash site, confirming the location of Flight 23.
The navy then dispatches a sub-recovery ship, the USS Cayuga (LST-1186) along with the destroyer USS Agerholm (DD-826) and a flotilla of other vessels. The aircraft is ringed with balloons and once inflated, the aircraft rises from the bottom of the seafloor. Just before the plane breaks surface, one of the balloons breaks loose, prompting the Navy captain to reduce the air pressure of the remaining balloons, thus keeping the plane just beneath the waves. At that moment, one of the doors in the cargo hold bursts open, causing the plane to flood. The cascade of sea water sweeps through the passengers; First Officer Chambers is killed when he is pinned under a sofa. The deluge also sweeps away Wallace's widow, who drowns just as the Navy captain orders more air pressure into the balloons, finally raising the plane successfully. Once on the surface, the passengers are evacuated. With the survivors on their way to waiting ships, Captain Gallagher and Stevens' assistant, Eve are the last to evacuate from the aircraft as it slips under the waves for the last time.
The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979)
The Concorde ... Airport '79 is a 1979 American disaster film (in the UK, it was released a year later as Airport '80: The Concorde). The film was the fourth and final installment of the Airport series. Panned by critics, the film also flopped at the box office. Produced on a then high budget of $14 million, it earned a little over $13 million, thus ending the enormous financial success of the Airport franchise.
Kevin Harrison, an arms dealer, attempts to destroy an American-owned Concorde on its maiden flight after one of the passengers, Maggie Whelan, learns of his weapons sales to communist countries during the Cold War.
The Concorde takes off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Captain Paul Metrand makes conversation with Isabelle, the purser. They land at Dulles Airport.
Maggie Whalen recaps the arrival of the Concorde and reports on the "Goodwill" flight on the Concorde the following day, which leads to a story of future boyfriend Kevin Harrison and his Buzzard missile project. Carl Parker shows up at Maggie's house with a claim about documentation of illegal arms deals. Carl is shot before a passerby triggers a fire alarm, scaring the assailant away.
Capt. Joe Patroni introduces himself to Captain Metrand. The next morning, Maggie tells Harrison about her ordeal and the rumor of documents. Kevin claims someone is framing him. He sends Maggie off in a limo while he waits for his business partner Willie Halpern to arrive. Kevin tells Willie that Parker is dead, but they do not have the documents. Kevin asks what time the next launch of the Buzzard is. Willie replies 6:30; Kevin wants it delayed until 8:00 and the drone test reprogrammed.
Paul and Joe board the Concorde. It is difficult to determine the Pilot-in-Command as both of them are captains. Peter O'Neill, the 2nd officer and flight engineer, is living with a controlling girlfriend.
Kevin surprises Maggie at the airline check-in desk to see her off. He asks if the documents showed up, but they have not. As he is walking away, Carl Parker's wife delivers the documents to Maggie as she steps on the mobile lounge. She looks them over on the lounge and realizes that Kevin lied to her.
The Concorde takes off from Washington/Dulles en route to Paris where, unbeknownst to the flight crew, an off-course SAM is headed straight for them. At company headquarters, Kevin tells his controllers to alert the government. The USAF scrambles F-15 fighter jets to intercept the missile just as it locks onto the Concorde. An F-15 shoots down the missile before it collides with the Concorde.
As the Concorde is approaching the European coastline, an F-4 Phantom sent by Harrison engages the Concorde as French Air Force Mirages scramble to help the Concorde. The Mirages shoot down the F-4 and the Concorde continues to Paris, although to Le Bourget instead of Charles de Gaulle. The Concorde reaches the French coastline, landing with a damaged hydraulic system and just barely stopping at the last safety net. Captain Metrand and Isabelle invite Joe to dinner. Kevin arrives at de Gaulle, where an associate meets him, stating that he has another plan.
Joe, Paul and Isabelle meet for dinner with a date for Joe as promised by Paul. Maggie meets Kevin for dinner. He promises to go public with the documents but attempts to bribe Maggie into "polishing" his statement. After being paid by Kevin, a mechanic, Rollie, places a device in the Concorde's cargo door control unit, timed to open during flight.
As the passengers board the Concorde, a well-dressed woman (played by Charo) attempts to smuggle a dog aboard. She is caught by an alert Isabelle and leaves the aircraft. Inside the terminal, Rollie is in line at the security checkpoint when his money falls out of his pant leg. The X-ray technician attempts to return it, but Rollie pretends not to hear and runs off. The security guard tells his partner to call security before chasing Rollie. Rollie runs onto the runway where the Concorde is taking off. The aircraft's wake scatters the money he received from Kevin.
The aircraft is en route to Moscow when the automatic device opens the cargo door. When Captain Metrand investigates, he sees the carpet tear down the middle of the aisle, signifying the fuselage is under tremendous stress and the aircraft is about to break apart. The cargo door is ripped off, extensively damaging the aircraft and ripping the floor of the cabin from the aircraft as it spirals toward the ground. The airline founder's seat lodges in the hole, acting as a plug. The pilots attempt to fly to Innsbruck for an emergency landing, but realize they do not have enough fuel. Paul realizes they are flying towards a ski area he used to go to in the Alps; they could make a gear-up landing on a mountain-side.
The aircraft approaches the landing site while the ski patrol marks a runway. The aircraft lands successfully. Maggie gives a report of the accident to a news reporter and gives details about a major story she is about to release. Kevin hears the newscast and commits suicide. At the crash site, the last of the crew leaves the aircraft shortly before fuselage caves in and explodes from leaking fuel.
Airplane! (titled Flying High! in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the Philippines) is a 1980 American satirical comedy film directed and written by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker and released by Paramount Pictures. The film is a parody of the disaster film genre, particularly the 1957 Paramount film Zero Hour!, from which it borrows the plot and the central characters, as well as many elements from Airport 1975. The film is known for its use of absurd and fast-paced slapstick comedy, including visual and verbal puns and gags.
Airplane! was a financial success, grossing over US$83 million in North America alone, against a budget of just $3.5 million. The film's creators received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Comedy, and nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and a BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay.
In the years since its release, Airplane!'s reputation has grown substantially. The film was voted the 10th-funniest American comedy on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list in 2000, and ranked sixth on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies. In a 2007 survey by Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, it was judged the second greatest comedy film of all time.
In 2008 Airplane! was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time and in 2012 was voted No. 1 in The 50 Funniest Comedies Ever poll. In 2010 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
Ex-fighter pilot and taxi driver Ted Striker became traumatized during an unnamed war, leading to a pathological fear of flying. As a result, he is unable to hold a responsible job. His wartime girlfriend, Elaine Dickinson, now a flight attendant, leaves him. Striker nervously boards a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago on which she is serving, hoping to win her back, but she rebuffs him.
After dinner is served, many of the passengers fall ill, and fellow passenger Dr. Rumack deduces that the passengers have contracted a deadly parasitic worm called Anisakis from the fish. The cockpit crew, including pilot Clarence Oveur and co-pilot Roger Murdock, have also been affected, leaving no one to fly the plane. Elaine contacts the Chicago control tower for help, and is instructed by tower supervisor Steve McCroskey to activate the plane's autopilot, a large inflatable pilot doll (listed as "Otto" in the end credits), which will get them to Chicago, but will not be able to land the plane. Rumack convinces Ted to fly the plane, though Ted feels unable to handle the pressure and the unfamiliar aircraft.
McCroskey knows that he must get someone else to help talk the plane down and calls Rex Kramer. Kramer was Ted's commanding officer in the war, and despite their hostile relationship he would be the best choice to instruct Striker. As the plane nears Chicago, Ted is overcome by stress and can only land the plane after a pep talk from Dr. Rumack. Lightning strikes the plane, disabling some of its engines. With Kramer's advice, Ted is able to safely land the plane with only minor injuries to some passengers. Ted's courage rekindles Elaine's love for him, and the two share a kiss. "Otto" takes off in the evacuated plane after inflating a female companion.
1. A potboiler or pot-boiler is a low-quality novel, play, opera, film, or other creative work whose main purpose was to pay for the creator's daily expenses—thus the imagery of "boil the pot", which means "to provide one's livelihood". Authors who create potboiler novels or screenplays are sometimes called hack writers or hacks. Novels deemed to be potboilers may also be called pulp fiction, and potboiler films may be called "popcorn movies."
2. An occluded front is a composite of two frontal systems that merge as a result of occlusion. Cold fronts generally move faster than warm fronts. In fact, the speed of a cold front is about double that of a typical warm front. As a result, a cold front will sometimes overtake an existing warm front. Essentially, an occluded front forms as three air masses meet.
- Arthur Hailey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Potboiler - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Zero Hour! (1957) – IMDb
- Zero Hour! - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Airport (1970) – IMDb
- Airport (1970 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Terror in the Sky (TV Movie 1971) – IMDb
- Terror in the Sky - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Airport 1975 (1974) – IMDb
- Airport 1975 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Occluded Fronts - Types of Fronts - Warm Occlusions - Cold Occlusions
- Airport '77 (1977) – IMDb
- Airport '77 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979) – IMDb
- The Concorde ... Airport '79 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Airplane! (1980) – IMDb
- Airplane! - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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