(directors/writers: Jim Abrahams/David Zucker/Jerry Zucker; screenwriter: Arthur Hailey’s teleplay “Flight Into Danger”/from the Zero Hour! screenplay by Hall Bartlett & John C. Champion;cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: Patrick Kennedy; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Robert Hays (Ted Striker), Julie Hagerty (Elaine), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Roger Murdock), Lloyd Bridges (McCroskey), Peter Graves (Capt. Oveur), Leslie Nielsen (Dr. Rumack), Lorna Patterson (Randy), Robert Stack (Rex Kramer), Stephen Stucker (Johnny), Maureen McGovern (Nun), Ethel Merman (Lt. Hurwitz), Frank Ashmore (Victor Basta), Barbara Billingsley (Jive Lady); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Jon Davison/Howard W. Koch; Paramount; 1980)

A hyper spoof of disaster films.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A hyper spoof of disaster films such as the Airport series and Zero Hour! (1957), using that film’s teleplay “Flight Into Danger” by Arthur Hailey. It seems like a Mad comic book cartoon, with wall-to-wall juvenile and moronic gags. Yet the overall effect reflects a corny but funny film. It plays like a TV skit, but its rapid fire jokes hit home with viewers willing to let down their hair for such low-brow broad comedy. The film was a commercial hit, that still remains funny despite the passage of time.It’s written and directed byJim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker (“Top Secret!/”Ruthless People”).

Ted Striker (Robert Hays) is a former Air Force pilot whose World War II flying errors caused the deaths of seven men in his squadron, and the guilt-ridden pilot has since become damaged goods (a nervous wreck and an alcoholic) not able to fly again or hold down a job. His long-suffering stewardess girlfriend, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), breaks up with him and says she won’t return to LA on her flight. Ted buys a ticket on her Chicago flight in order to talk her into staying with him.

Disaster is afoot for the flight when the bad fish served leads to a severe case of food poisoning among some of the passengers and also strikes the entire flight crew: pilot (Peter Graves), the co-pilot (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Laker basketball star) and the navigator (Frank Ashmore). Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen), treating the poison victims, takes charge and talks Striker into flying the plane with ‘a win one for the Gipper speech.’ At the Chicago airport, the air traffic control chief McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) and ace commercial pilot, Kramer (Robert Stack), communicate with Striker on how to land the plane. Kramer and Striker hate each other from the war where they served together in the same unit, but work together in the emergency as Kramer guides Striker in for a safe landing in a comically deadpan manner.

Filled with disaster movie cliches and some gags that hit a home-run (like a hospitalized Lt. Hurwitz who thinks he’s Ethel Merman, a passenger who asks for “light reading” and is given a leaflet titled “Famous Jewish Sports Legends,” and an elderly white lady who translates black jive for two young black passengers to communicate with the stewardess). As a result, the spoof lands with enough jokes to make the comedy passable fare.