When the 1970s were christened with tragedies at Altamont and Cielo Drive, on top of the still-raging war in Vietnam, the optimism of the 1960s turned to disillusionment, prompting a loss of faith both politically and spiritually, and a pronounced divisiveness within the U.S. The search for ‘America’ (and the patriotism inherent in that) was explored in counterculture road movie classics like Easy Rider and Two Lane Blacktop, but for the middle and upper classes that search took place not on the ground – but in the sky.
What we know as the disaster movie genre began with AIRPORT in 1970, based on Arthur Hailey’s best-selling 1968 novel. Airport established the now-familiar tropes of the disaster film — and this would be seen through both big screen and small screen versions of it – which was that a star studded cast of disparate characters would be brought together into a crisis situation and would have to work out their differences in this environment in order to survive. The average American would have to prove heroic, often overcoming not only incredible odds, but his or her own crippling feelings of incompetence. In the 1970s, though there were disaster films set on ocean liners and towering high rises, airplanes were the most popular arena for working out these differences – which was a direct result of the incredible number of airplane hijackings from 1967-1972, before airport security was first implemented.
This special presentation includes a short lecture by film writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse about the cultural context for the proliferation of airline anxiety films in the 1970s followed by a screening of the classic air disaster film AIRPORT 77. Jack Lemmon, Christopher Lee, Olivia de Havilland, Darren McGavin, Jimmy Stewart, Brenda Vaccaro, Lee Grant and series regular George Kennedy star in this third installment of the AIRPORT series, in which a 747 is hijacked and crashes, trapped 100 feet underwater in the Bermuda Triangle.