Great comedy like this doesn’t just fall out of the sky. Much should be remembered about how the three directors worked for years to build a style of comedy in a theater group they would later mold into the 1980 film Airplane! In addition to being laugh-a-minute hilarious, it also stands as evidence that hard work pays off in Hollywood.
“A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick.” -IMDB
Jim Abrahams, David Zucker
Wed 02 Jul 1980 UTC
IMDB Rating: 7.8
The directors of this film, David and Jerry Zucker as well as Jim Abrahams Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (abbreviated ZAZ) made something to be quintessentially proud of here. They had worked on the Kentucky Fried Theater group together so they had a lot of experience riffing and coming up with improv stuff before they ever directed any movies. John Landis took their humor they had developed and made it into a film called The Kentucky Fried Movie. It is full of dichotomous humor juxtaposing serious settings and scenes with surreal and slapstick humor. Watching the Landis film yields all sorts of influences seen in Airplane! It is a lot more racy however, specifically in its nudity.
This film stars Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty and features Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Lorna Patterson. There are several other cameos by then well-known actors and celebrities. Robert Hays, the lead actor, was an unknown at the time. He does a good job but his role is more of a cog in a larger machine of comedic actors. Leslie Nielsen is by far the most memorable actor in the film. He had been in loads of episodic television as well as films like The Poseidon Adventure. Though he hadn’t done comedy before, Airplane! showed the world he was a closet comedian.
The film is a fairly simple plot derived from the 1957 film, Zero Hour! Note the exclamation mark in both titles. His serious look helps the deadpan humor work so well. The rest of the cast is side-splitting making the film a must watch for any filmcritic or lover of films.
As a kid growing up in the 80’s, this film was alluring to me. Older kids would talk about it and how their parents let them see it. After all, there is a bare breasted woman in it for about 2 whole seconds (the scandal!). Unfortunately I didn’t see it until after I was 10. I don’t recall my exact age but I know it was in my teens. It was the funniest film I had ever seen. Others have come close since, but I think it still hovers around that ranking with me still.
It’s no wonder Airplane! is one of the worlds funniest films. Its three directors took years to hone their comedic skills and work together. Finally, they put their own money up to pitch the idea to movie studios. After persistence and hard work, the film was made and it remains to this day one of the most exciting and funny films ever made. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.