The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 1970
MPAA Rating: G
Feature running time: 137 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French DTS 5.1, Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Dean Martin, Burt Lancaster, Helen Hayes, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Jean Seberg, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson, Lloyd Nolan, Dana Wynter, Barbara Hale
Written & Directed by: George Seaton based on the novel by Arthur Hailey
Music by: Alfred Newman
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 28, 2012
Combining a gripping story, intense action and ground-breaking special effects, Airport paved the way for a whole new style of disaster film and became a trend-setting box office blockbuster. The tension-filled adventure stars Burt Lancaster as the manager of an international airport who must juggle personal crises with professional responsibilities as he attempts to keep his blizzard-torn facility open to rescue a bomb-damaged jetliner.
I am a fan of the 70’s disaster films. Based on Arthur Hailey’s novel of the same name Airport was Universal’s first to feature an all-star cast ensemble combined with elements of action, drama and thrills which set the stage for a plethora of similar films that would utilize the same concept. There are four films in the “Airport” series, after this one, “Airport ’75, ’77 and ‘79” followed. I actually saw Airport ‘75 first and loved it which made me want to see Airport. ’75 remains my favorite but this one is special not only because it’s the first but for its multi-layered narrative that nicely ties the seven subplots to the main storyline.
Watching Airport today is so much different. Back in the day the idea of a bomber on the plane and how it was depicted seemed so much more plausible. Now, in light of all the measures taken against terrorism and the sophistication in ways in which terrorism is carried out, the briefcase bomb consisting of three sticks of dynamite, a clothespin trigger and a flashlight battery is pretty tough not to snicker at. Speaking of laughs Dean Martin’s lines after they confront the bomber onboard the plane? Talk about causing panic, not to mention the plan they used to distract him in order to gain control of the case is about as far fetched as can be. The film's effects, state of the art back then, don’t hold up too well. In truth I shouldn’t pick on the script or the production elements as watching today I found them to be part of the film’s charm.
The development of the various stories and characters is done nicely. The cast is chock full of notables, including Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin and George Kennedy. I noticed a few un-credited familiar (not so famous at the time) faces like Marion Ross and Christopher Lloyd. Helen Hayes is a terrific scene stealer. I liked the Burt Lancaster, Dana (Invasion of the body snatchers) Wynter and Jean Seberg storyline the most. George Kennedy is a personal favorite and owns the Joe Patroni persona, a character he would reprise in each of the Airport films.
As I alluded to earlier, watching Airport now it has lost some of its gripping edge. Luckily it still benefits from a strong screenplay, engaging performances and for me a healthy dose of nostalgia fueled by a time when the world wasn’t forced to live in fear but only had to worry about a man trying to provide financial security for his family (no matter how misguided his efforts may have been). I am pleased to see Universal bring this and other classic films like it to Blu-ray. I hope to see Airport ’75 follow…
The film contains mature themes and some content that make its G rating questionable. I would say that a PG rating would be better suited when considering this for young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Airport comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Studios HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 33 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate 3.2 Mbps.
This 2.35:1 framed high definition presentation looks great on Blu-ray. Blacks are punchy with appreciable dynamic range that makes them pop while onscreen with both light and dark elements. Skin tones have good tonal depth, delineated highlights and lifelike texture. Color balance is good as both primary and secondary hues aren’t overly vibrant but are cleanly rendered with a pleasing level of saturation and depth. Resolution and overall clarity is quite good although sharpness can be minimally inconsistent. This appears innate and generally affects sequences which include special effects shots. Shadow detail isn’t definitive but depth of field during low level segments is satisfactory. I didn’t see any signs of the application of unwanted noise reduction or excessive manipulation. Images are well resolved with discernible definition and fair rendering of fine detail during close up and mid level camera pans. Grain is rendered in fine, even layers that can become more noticeable against dark backgrounds. I never found it to be objectionable. The print is in excellent shape and shows no signs of deleterious wear. I thought this was a solid encoding that appeared to faithfully represent this film.
There are audio options in both mono and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound. I opted to use the surround track which has no trouble handling the film’s recorded elements. The front three channels carry the majority of the film’s audio. The mix is spread across the front three channels with primary focus on the center channel with ambience bled to the right/left speakers. The orchestrated music and occasional panning effects is spread to the rear channels which mildly broadens the sound field. Clarity and detail are excellent which pays dividends during the film’s active and quieter moments. Bass frequencies are held to the upper registers which doesn’t leave much work for the subwoofer but I never missed them. The dated components in the recording are apparent but I thought it sounded fine.
- Theatrical trailer
- (HD) 100 years of Universal: The 70’s – 11 minute featurette
- (HD) 100 years of Universal: The Lot – 9 minute featurette
- My scenes bookmark feature
- D-Box Motion Code enabled
- Bonus DVD
- Digital Copy
Based on the novel by Arthur Hailey Airport may be thought of as the disaster film that started it all and perhaps it is but in reality it is a well crafted drama with elements of suspense/danger that revolve around a character driven story that is quite good. Airport isn’t my favorite in the series but watching it now was an enjoyable and nostalgic experience. Universal Studios brings it to Blu-ray as part of their 100th Anniversary home video release series and the results are quite good. The high definition video/audio quality appears faithful and I found the two studio featurettes to be interesting. If you enjoyed this film back in the day you’ll want to pick this one up.
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Good review, Ralph. I plan on replacing my dvd with the Blu-ray. I wonder if you're aware that Hailey, who was an ad exec in Canada, got his start with a TV play he wrote for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, who aired it on August 20th. 1956. It was called Flight Into Danger ( who, BTW, starred James Doohan of Star Trek fame ). It was later picked up by Paramount and made into a feature film. The success of the tv play and the feature film ( which starred Dana Andrews ) led to Hailey becoming a novelist. The teleplay was basically the seed for the novel, Airport.
George, I wasn't aware of that. Great and interesting stuff! Thanks..
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