Sinking but succeeding

Airport ’77 skips over character development. Where Airport 1975 drifted between bit players, the follow-up clones characters from the predecessor (an older boozer, excitable child) and quickly slams them into the ocean. “Getting on with it” could have been the tagline.

The plane is sheer luxury, a maiden flight on a high-class, high-dollar machine. Full of the overly rich and smugly privileged, there are but a few who aren’t pre-destined to perish. Hollywood’s tradition of placing affluent folk in terror always has a place on screen.

In 40 intervening years, the vehicle isn’t so classy. Two Oscar nominations were given to Airport ’77, one of them for set decoration which means the Academy had a thing for brown shag carpeting. Or, it was the massive Laserdisc player, spinning an introductory speech by Jimmy Stewart whose role only requires him to stare worryingly at the camera.

… it’s less about who’s underwater than how they’ll survive.

While not a grand disaster film, Airport ’77 isn’t ineffectual either. While tormented by exposition and a copycat slate of passengers, the underwater scenario poses a number of dynamic close calls. Dumping the cast into the ocean requires eye-rolling screenwriting – art thieves gas the passengers and hijack the plane, bumping the extravagant vehicle into an oil rig. The crooks didn’t think of everything.

This calls for heroics on the part of Jack Lemmon, pilot and amateur scuba diver. How fortunate. Capable pacing keeps Airport ’77 moving toward greater drama. The plane shifts on the sea floor, cracks develop, and no one knows their location after drifting 200 miles off course. Because Airport ’77 is the kind of film it is, of course they’re sinking drowning in the Bermuda Triangle – to no thematic effect.

However, by skipping the manipulative ways of Airport ’75, Airport ’77 rests above the other sequels in this four-part series. Outside of the disaster set-up itself, there’s notable restraint – it’s less about who’s underwater than how they’ll survive. Conversations lean less on developing soapy personalities. Airport ’77 concerns itself exclusively with the situation – three films in, and the studio realized what audiences paid to see.

Universal would dump an extended cut to television, adding an hour of incongruous flashbacks and small dialog bits. Extra minutes sold commercial time, while their impact on the story sunk the film faster than the plane. Airport ’77 doesn’t need people, just the disaster.

Airport '77 Blu-ray screen shot 3


While the cleanest of the Airport sequels on Blu-ray, tampering remains. Sharpening takes a clean film print and removes fidelity. At distance, this digital processing leaves images watered down and murky. Coarse grain buzzes and notable halos sprout up on contrasting edges.

Coloring tweaks leave flesh tones with a case of redness, although other primaries naturally saturate. You cannot miss the vomit-colored carpet lining the floor. Yellow life jackets, pin-striping on the plane, and other pieces add plenty of pop to the images, elevated or not.

Crucial are black levels, keeping the sense of being underwater even with emergency lights in the cabin. Some crush is necessary, although a touch of contrast boosting isn’t impossible. Early scenes strike with heavy sunlight, bleaching small areas.

With the issues, it’s still facial detail which signals the improvements over DVD editions. Tense and often sweaty close-ups produce gorgeous detail. When someone dons a fake mustache, you can spot it by looking for obvious clues when the camera moves in. A fine print exists under the problems.


Over the opening credits, the score sounds choked and flat. A poor sign, but clarity slides upward in fidelity as the film moves on. Inside the cabin, dialog carries an expected echo. Music sits under the action, keeping source issues less apparent.

Cast in DTS-HD mono, the mix doesn’t allow for excess. Age has left an impact, although this tracks stays serviceable when considering the age and unlikeliness Universal will ever do better.


The lesser extended cut has never made it to official home video, and this Blu-ray won’t change history. As such, the disc offers a lonely theatrical trailer.

  • Airport '77
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Improbable and still thrilling, Airport ’77 ignores character development and gives space to the disaster people paid for.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.

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