Directed by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker
Starring: Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lloyd Bridges, Peter graves
The Zucker Brothers was a name synonymous with a very certain brand of humor in the 80’s with films such as Police Squad, The Naked Gun films, Top secret, and of course Airplane. Airplane was the film in 1980 that really started it all. The Zucker’s along with Jim Abrahams seemed to just sort of come up with a patchwork story about an airplane trip and as they chatted they came up with some of cinema’s most classic jokes that were stitched together to become the film. This is by no means and insult. Airplane is one of those films that just seemed like it came together like a locomotive starting with some great jokes and ending with an incredible ensemble cast that made took the script to the next level.
Watching Airplane now forty years later the film feels like a period pice on top of a period piece. Of course the film feels very late 70’s early 80’s in look and feel, but the comedy actually feels like a much racier Marx Brothers tyle of skits. Leslie Nielsen steals the film because he’s the absolute best at being completely ridiculous but playing it serious. This film led him into Police Squad and the Naked Gun films playing the same style of comedy.
The story here is barely a story, and it’s pretty stereotypical, but it’s really just a reason to stitch the comedy together and it works film for the most part. The filmmakers gave themselves a fantastic opportunity for a variety of jokes and character types just by cutting between the various passengers. Many of the jokes in this film would defintiely not pass muster today, they can be very edgy pushes every boundary you can think of. That said, shows such as Family Guy and The Simpsons owe their very existence to this film, especially Seth McFarlane’s brand of weirdness.
Airplane does often come off dated and it just doesn’t play as well today as it did in the 80’s then again their are jokes such as “don’t call me surely” that are still in the zeitgeist forty years later. Plenty of young people make the joke today and don’t even know where it came from.
This transfer is as good as the film has every looked. It’s far from perfect with some really soft scenes and grainy sequences here and there but colors look great and well balanced and black levels are fairly consistent. Skin tomes look accurate and the overall grain structure is pleasing. This presentation comes from a new 4k master and is a worthy step up from the previous blu-ray.
Te DTSHD audio on the 2011 release is held over for this one and pverall, it’s good. It’s not a demo disc or surprising in any way but it’s clean, crisp, well balanced and dialogue is natural and dynamic. A few times the film does span the soundstage but not a lot. It’s a solid comedy transfer.
The Packaging, Bonus Features, and Collectability
This is another Paramount Presents release and you know we love the slipcovers. We have previous home video art on the cover then it unfolds to reveal the classic poster, very aesthetically pleasing. The inside art also features cast images and cool quote filmmakers quotes, very nice.
The Filmmaker Focus offers some great insight from the Zuckers and Abrahams on how the film came to be, from writing to filming, to screening. It’s too short and doesn’t really offer enough about the careers of the filmmakers but their are some great stories here nonetheless. There’s also a lengthier Q&A from a screening that offers some more tidbits but also repeats a lot of what is in the filmmaker focus featurette.
The audio commentary from the previous releases is brought over to this new release thankfully because there’s much more behind the scenes depth and scene specific information. A new commentary looking back forty years would have been great though.
Airplane is a classic film that brought us so many jokes and cinematic moments that still riffed on today. Not all of it holds up, but it remains an important piece of cinematic history that ushered in an entire generations of comedy creatives in film.