"Airplane!?" you'll wonder. "That old movie?"
Yes. That old movie.
Sure, it's an old chestnut. But is it any good?
It's been many years since I used to watch it on a near-weekly basis on my local UHF station's "Saturday Movie Matinee" and I wasn't sure how viewing it again on DVD would improve or degrade my opinion of a childhood favorite, losing out in later years to a fondness for the Zucker/Abrahams collaborations Top Secret! and Kentucky Fried Movie.
Strangely, there's something more enjoyable about Airplane! now, though it's hard to gauge the merit of the comedy after so many viewings over the years. But it's a much more solid film now than it was in my youth and its history is even more interesting.
What started out as Kentucky Fried Airplane, a script written in the mid-70's to mock a late night movie the comedy trio had seen by the name of Zero Hour, a 1957 "thriller" that shocked them with its stupidity, took nearly a decade to get made and ended up as a comedic remake of the original, going so far as to option the rights to the original film and use specific lines from it to comedic effect. This follow-up to Kentucky Fried Movie came to be known as their masterpiece, but it was nearly never made, amidst studios' unwillingness to make the film, almost turning it into a proto-Amazon Women On The Moon, until it changed into what seemed to be a clever parody of the 1970's air disaster movies that had been so popular, instead of a parody of a 50's film.
The features on the latest DVD iteration pump up the rewatchability, but the movie doesn't require it. It's still just as fun and most of the silly jokes subside to allow viewers to respect the layers of surreal and witty comedy that slipped past us when we were young.
Gone seem to be the days when viewers could enjoy a smart, if a bit silly, comedy such as this. Now we're buried in the stupidity that the Scary Movie series has wrought on the cinematic landscape, though, at least, Airplane!'s David Zucker was brought in to helm parts 3 and 4, easily the best of the series.
But now we're left awash in the purile idiocy of a world of Date Movie and Epic Movie clones, retarded stepchildren of the Z/A/Z vision. Very few, if any, come close and most are nothing more than juvenile and scatalogical, perversity replaced with gross-out humor.
Sure, I sound old saying "things were better back in my day," but, Jesus Christ, things were better. And they rarely got better than Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker at their peak.