July 29, 2005

The Cockpit? What Is It?

Y'know, I've long held the view that in its utterly perfect send-up of the genre, Airplane! made it absolutely impossible to ever watch any of the old air disaster epics with a straight face again. I mean, yes, they were Truly Bad Films (C) to start with, but now every time I see something of which Airplane! made fun, I'm instantly reminded of it and start to snicker. (This bubbles over. Try watching The Poseidon Adventure without smirking in expectation that Leslie Nielson's Captain Harrison is going to say something like, "Yes, a giant tidal wave is going to overturn this ship. And don't call me 'Shirley'."

With that in mind, I was positively delighted when I caught some of The High and The Mighty last night. It's a rarely-seen John Wayne movie about a commercial flight trying to make it from Honolulu to San Francisco at night, in a rainstorm, with an engine out and skosh fuel.

Why my delight? Because the plane's captain was played by Robert Stack. And damme if I didn't see before my eyes the genesis of Airplane's! Capt. Rex Kramer, the straight character that the later one would lampoon, the Vito Corleone to Jimmy the Tucan, if you will. It was exactly the same feverish manner, the same brooding intensity and sudden outbursts. Every time one of the crew suggested some operation to aid the plane, I kept expecting him to say, "No! That's just what they're expecting!"

Ha, ha, ha. I love it when a satire's anticedents come together.

Posted by Robert at July 29, 2005 10:02 AM | TrackBack
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