George Kennedy FUCKS Case File #144/My Year of Flops II #41 The Concorde...Airport '79
One of the many wonderful, unlikely elements of The Concorde…Airport ‘79, the flop whose failure put the Airport franchise out of its misery, is that its plot and screenplay seem designed primarily to flatter the ego of star George Kennedy.
Kennedy, the only actor to appear in all four Airport films, always struck me as an egoless sort, the kind of consummate professional who give “journeyman” a good name. He seems like the kind of unassuming, unpretentious craftsman who shows up, does his job and then goes home and doesn’t make too much of a fuss about what he does for a living.
The Concorde consequently feels like a vanity project for a prolific and consistent character actor devoid of vanity. All Capt. Joseph "Joe" Patroni, the fuck-monster, pervert and American hero Kennedy plays here does in The Concorde is engage in acts of astonishing heroism, often involving upside-down flying and missile-avoidance, say gross things about all the women he’d like to fuck, reflect wistfully on his dead wife (in a lazy and astonishingly unsuccessful attempt to make him likable) and satisfy a sexy older woman multiple times over the course of a single night with what we can only imagine is a very large and skillful penis.
Oh sure, The Concorde is technically a disaster movie about an evil illegal arms dealer played by Robert Wagner trying to blow up a Concorde to keep his oblivious journalist girlfriend from blowing the whistle on his covert activities but I find it most fascinating and gross as the story of an intensely homo-erotic friendship seemingly only a few sexy adventures away from a full-on threesome.
Yes, The Concorde decided, reasonably, that what these lucrative, leaden exercises in 70s kitsch were desperately lacking was the intense sensuality of fifty-four year old George Kennedy, who begins the film by introducing himself to Paul Metrand (Alain Delon), the pilot he will be flying with for the first time the next day in a hotel room the night before their maiden flight together.
Ah, but he’s not just there to say hi. He’s also there to let the man he’ll soon be sharing a cockpit with that he knows that he’s a legendary cocksmith and thinks that’s great and would love to talk about sex any time he’d like.
Paul tries to hide the presence of the beautiful woman he’s having sex with, since it’s Isabelle, the flight attendant they’ll be working with the next day. But Horny Joe’s pervert senses flair up and alert him to a woman’s perfume lingering seductively in the air. So he rakishly tells a dude whose sex life he’s wait too invested in, “I’ve heard a lot about you. So I know that terrific perfume wasn’t yours!”
It’s Horny Joe’s way of saying, “I know you’re a big-dick fuck beast with a trail of sexual conquests around the globe, and I want to hear all about it!”
Paul, in turn, shoots him an indulgent smile, as is to say, “Yes, yes, I satisfy many women all over the planet with my elegant French penis. Thank you for noticing!”
In the airplane the next day, horny Joe’s perverted snout once again gets a whiff of that terrific perfume and he lets his co-pilot and new best friend know that he knows that Paul is making the beast with two backs with his co-worker—and he’s into it!
Paul never says, “I know you guys are fucking, and I think it’s hot”, “I know you guys are fucking and I want to watch” or “I wouldn’t mind getting involved some tipsy night after work” but that’s clearly the implication.
This is a George Kennedy that fucks. This is a George Kennedy that can’t stop thinking about fucking or talking about fucking. Judging by his behavior and his words, his beloved wife and the mother of his college-age son died a year earlier and he’s been hard as a rock ever since as he hunts for women to fuck.
When Isabelle sasses these two instant BFFS good-naturedly, “You pilot are such men!”, horny Joe fires back, “They don’t call it the cockpit for nothing, honey!”
Nowadays comments like that would constitute clear-cut sexual harassment. But The Concorde just sees it as hilariously ribald banter from a lovable widower you can’t help but adore and admire even before he redeems himself somewhat by saving everyone’s lives repeatedly with his incredible command of upside-down flying.
So instead of objecting or looking offended, Isabelle shoots him an approving, affectionate look that suggests she appreciates both his wordplay and the hilarious double entendre, and that being included in raunchy banter makes her feel like part of a team and should always be encouraged.
Horny Joe seems disturbingly invested in his co-pilot’s active sex life but in the third act the dynamic shifts and Paul becomes disconcertingly involved in Joe’s sex life. He introduces him to a sexy woman of a certain age who immediately takes him to a magical place in France known as Le Bone Zone, where they fuck on the floor multiple times.
The next day Horny Joe thanks Paul for introducing him to a woman he would go on to have rigorous sex with and the Frenchman tells him that the prostitute he hired to make love to his lonely, horny friend did a good job and earned her pay.
Rather than seem insulted or look shocked, Horny Joe is just happy that he got laid. He doesn’t care if his friend had to pay for the privilege: he just likes to fuck, and doesn’t care it’s gratis or at a sizable cost.
How horny is Horny Joe, pervert, sexual harasser and hero? He’s so horny that when he talks about the sexy curves of the Concorde they will be flying he sprinkles the words so liberally with Perv Juice that it becomes disturbingly apparent that he’s not waxing metaphorical and that he actually does want to literally have sex with the airplane he’s flying. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are deleted scenes of him getting liquored up and thrusting his manhood inside the plane’s tailpipe in a fit of misguided lust.
I am not here to sex-shame Horny Joe. I am here to celebrate his earthy sexuality. If he wants to fuck airplanes that go twice the speed of sound and pleasure lucky sex workers with his incredible sexual prowess, more power to him.
All I’m saying is that Horny Joe is a total Mary Sue: he’s obviously just a surrogate for its narcissistic screenwriter and the audience, a total fantasy figure with an extremely unlikely yet incredible skill set.
Horny Joe mentions that he fought in three wars; judging by what a preposterously accomplished pilot he is, he probably single-handedly won at least one of them.
Ah, but Horny Joe is just one character in Airport 79: The Concorde. He’s a lead in a large, silly ensemble but he dominates the film to the point where it becomes a George Kennedy vehicle by default.
Airport 79: The Concorde is a disaster movie, so it has a cast straight out a seventies variety show. It's as if the casting director took a random issue of People and decided that everyone in it should be in the film: Emmanuelle sex goddess Sylvia Kristel! Sassy old lady Martha Raye! Eddie Albert! Ingmar Bergman muse Bibi Andersson! John Davidson, a variety performer and future Hollywood Squares host who was all teeth, hair and blinding whiteness! Charo! Comedy superstar Jimmie Walker!
Walker, who would cameo in Airplane! a year later, plays Boise, a rich tapestry of well-worn racial stereotypes who comes onboard the Concorde carrying a saxophone that is both the way he makes a living and an inanimate object he loves even more than Horny Joe loves his plane. When a stewardess tells him he’ll have to stow it, he spits back, “Obviously my dear, you don’t congeal the sit-iation! This is my Siamese twin. We go everywhere together!”
That includes the Concorde bathroom where Boise sneaks off to smoke some reefer sticks. He’s all about getting high, and I’m not talking about altitude: I’m talking about the marijuana he’s constantly smoking. (Billy Crystal jazzman voice) Can you dig it? I knew you could!
Ah, but The Concorde is not interested in Boise’s emotional arc, or any of the other characters, really, other than fuck monster Horny Joe and villain Kevin Harrison (Robert Wagner), a powerful illegal arms dealer who decides that the best way to keep journalist girlfriend Maggie Whelan (Susan Blakely) from exposing his sinister illegal activities is to use one of his experimental drones to shoot down the Concorde she’s flying to France on and kill everyone on it.
That’s like being annoyed at your neighbor’s Christmas display so you decide to drop a nuclear bomb on your neighborhood to get rid of it: over-kill.
It’s the perfect plan, and by “perfect” I mean “unbelievably stupid and convoluted.” Unfortunately for this nasty arms broker this luxury plane is being flown by the world’s greatest daredevil pilot.
That would be Horny Joe, who gets his Flight on by flying his plane upside down in order to avoid being killed by a drone with a formerly impressive 100 percent success rate. Let’s just say that in the conflict between the most impressive, advanced military craft known to man and the instincts, daring and skill of Horny Joe, sophisticated military hardware doesn’t stand a chance.
Thanks almost entirely to Horny Joe, the Concorde somehow survives myriad attacks to bring it down before it makes an emergency landing.
Now if I’m the bad guy’s journalist gal pal I’m using my training to put two and two together and figure out that maybe it’s not coincidental that she knows all manner of incriminating details about her arms dealer lover’s secret life and suddenly drones and missiles are trying to take down the Concorde I’m on.
Maggie is nowhere near as savvy. After somehow surviving her flight across the ocean she has dinner with her boyfriend and does not ask pertinent questions about whether he has recently tried to murder her repeatedly. For me, that would be a dealbreaker, but for a reporter, Maggie seems impressively oblivious.
It’s a good thing that The Concorde—whose flying scenes are so primitive that they look like 1979 video game-level recreations of planes being slowly pulled across a blurry green screen of clouds—never attempts anything in the nature of suspense because sequences like a stand-alone comedy showcase for Charo where she tries unsuccessfully to smuggle a cute little dog onto the Concorde would kill any tension the film might have whipped up.
I’ve seen 1970’s Airport but I remember absolutely nothing about it, and it was hugely influential, a massive box office hit and, preposterously, was nominated for nine Academy Award, including Best Picture, and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Helen Hayes.
I vastly prefer The Concorde to Airport. Hell, I even prefer it to the movie that won The Concorde screenwriter Eric Roth an Academy Award fifteen years later, Forrest Gump.
Roth has been nominated for five Oscars, most recently for co-writing A Star Is Born but if I interviewed him every question would be about this particular motion picture.
The Concorde is only slightly more serious than Airplane! and Soul Plane. Watching it you can all but feel the disaster movie dying a wonderful, deserved death right before your eyes as the third sequel to the 1970 blockbuster takes the pulpy idiocy of the disaster movies to ridiculous heights of accidental camp comedy.
A year before Airplane!, a brilliant parody of the Airport series and the 1957 film Zero Hour!, made such a seismic cultural impact that it became impossible to take these ridiculous movies seriously, essentially killing the disaster movie genre, The Concorde made a merry mockery of this tackiest and most leaden of genres.
Airport 79’: The Concorde took the Airport series out in a blaze of glory as a deliriously entertaining, impressively stupid exercise in self-parody.
Failure, Fiasco or Secret Success: Secret Success
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