Airplane! (Paramount Presents) – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Airplane! (1980)
Release Date: 2020
Runtime: 87 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Distributor: Paramount Presents
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Aspect Ratio(s): 1.78:1
Version Reviewed: 2020 Paramount Presents Blu-ray
Blu-ray Release Date: 7/21/20
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Stack, Lorna Patterson, Stephen Stucker, Joyce Bulifant, Barbara Billingsley, Al White, Norman Alexander Gibbs
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Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at bottom
“Airplane!”, spine number 7 in the Paramount Presents Blu-ray series, was a comedy from 1980. The movie was written & directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker. The guys at that time were best known for writing “The Kentucky Fried Movie” (1977).
Together the three guys would go on to create and write on the TV show “Police Squad!” (1982), as well as write & direct the film spin-offs “The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” (1988), “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear” (1991), and “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994). The guys would go on to write & direct other films such as “Top Secret!” (1984) and “Ruthless People” (1986).
Jim Abrahams would go on to write & direct the films “Hot Shots!” (1991), “Hot Shots! Part Deux” (1993), and “Mafia!” (1998) on his own. David Zucker, on his own, would go on to direct films like “BASEketball” (1998), “Scary Movie 3” (2003), and “Scary Movie 4” (2006). Jerry Zucker, on his own, would go on to direct films like “Ghost” (1990), “First Knight” (1995), and “Rat Race” (2001).
The story of the film was based on and intended as a spoof on primarily the 1956 Canadian TV movie “Flight Into Danger” and film “Zero Hour!” (1957). For those reasons, the original writers who hold uncredited roles here as writers for this film spoofed.
“Airplane!” tells the story of an ex-fighter pilot “Ted Striker” (Robert Hays), who is still in emotional recovery as well has developed a drinking problem (of sorts). Ted’s love (girlfriend) is an airline stewardess “Elaine Dickinson” (Julie Hagerty), and she’s about to take off on a doomed flight that might need the help of a pilot. Let’s just say, just hope you didn’t have the fish if you’re on this flight.
The jet is being flown by an interesting named crew. First, there’s the pilot “Captain Clarence Oveur” (Peter Graves), the co-pilot “Roger Murdock” (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and finally the navigator “Victor Basta” (Frank Ashmore). Back down on the ground, you’ve got an air traffic controller named “Steve McCroskey” (Lloyd Bridges) and “Captain Rex Kramer” (Robert Stack) that will help the plane when trouble arises. There’s also thankfully a doctor onboard the flight “Dr. Rumack” (Leslie Nielsen) who proves to try to help as bet he can – mostly in the form of comedic relief. Speaking of which, this movie is simply put, a true comedy classic.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Airplane!” on its latest Blu-ray release via this Paramount Presents version, is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s slightly odd that it’s still in 1.78:1, just as it was on the 2011 Blu-ray debut, despite the fact it was presented originally in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio during its theatrical run (according to IMDb). This comes on a BD-50 (50 gigabytes dual-layered) Blu-ray Disc. To get rather a bit technical for a moment here, the film itself is using 24.5 gigabytes itself out of the 34.85 GB total used entirely on the disc.
This was shot on 35mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras with spherical lenses. The movie has received a new 4K scan and remaster that was actually supervised by the film’s three directors including Jerry Zucker, his brother David Zucker, and Jim Abrahams. Fun fact: Jerry Zucker had just worked with the studio supervising another one of his own films that also received the same treatment and that was “Ghost” (1990), which turned out great.
This is no exception to the other film mentioned above, as it looks admittedly the best that I have ever seen the movie look. That being said, I can’t help but applaud all of the touch-up work on dirt, debris, and whatnot, as well as the color correction. There’s also a bit more emphasized amount of film grain visible here throughout the movie than you saw before on the 2011 Blu-ray. I’ll use some side-by-side screenshot comparisons here to illustrate what I’m talking about a bit. For instance, you’ll notice how much of the dirt has been cleaned up from the very opening titles of the movie — namely its logo (as seen below). Then, there are scenes that in comparison in terms of color show more accurate representation, sharper detail, more emphasized shadows (at times), and again accuracy in the form of skin tones. Plus, things just seem brighter and in a great way.
Overall, this director supervised the new 4K scan, and the remaster of the film looks remarkably different at times, but in a great way. There’s more detail than I ever saw on the previous release in some facial close-up shots and it all really just looks perfect. That said, this earns itself a 5 rating for video quality and is (again) the best that this movie (in my opinion) has ever looked. Paramount really did a great job here on the video presentation. All of that work shows off from the new 4K scan even in just 1080p HD video quality. I can only imagine how great this would look if it would get a 4K UHD Blu-ray release at a later point. NOTE: This movie is actually available in 4K, but oddly enough, only digitally via Apple’s iTunes.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here, on the Paramount Presents Blu-ray of Airplane! is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core).
This comes in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation, just as was featured on the original 2011 Blu-ray release. However, is it the exact same 5.1 mix or has it been remixed? Well, let’s see. First off, let us note that during its original 1980 theatrical release (IMDb lists) that this film received a 4-track Stereo mix, so this has been originally remixed to make for a 5.1 surround mix, to begin with. So, its source material makes for actually a good 5.1 configuration remix, as it can try to fill the room again as it did originally with 4 speakers. Whereas now, it’s just six speakers.
It’s impressive, with great rear channel presence as well as bass represented via primarily the subwoofer (if you’re on a proper 5.1 setup). Dialogue is delivered distinctly from the center channel and never misses a beat, besides: it’s not music, so it’s not supposed to keep the beat. That’s its job. Speaking of the music, Elmer Bernstein’s original score sounds great here and makes full use of the front (left and right) speakers, as well as the rear channel speakers and the subwoofer. The sound effects come across pretty realistic as they can for a movie made on just a 3.5 million dollar budget. They really had to scrap by on this one, ya know? They could only get Elmer Bernstein to do the music, so that should tell you something.
It seems, to me, to be the same audio mix found on the original 2011 Blu-ray release. Now, an audio mix nine years in age might upset some (if that’s the case) but I really doubt it is. Paramount actually really goes to great lengths on these Paramount Presents releases to not only do new 4K scans (or remasters) but also focus on remastering the audio as well. Chances are that this is a newly mastered 5.1 mix, as I don’t remember it really having as much balance and oomph last time I watched it: last week. That’s not a joke. I was preparing for the review and looking for a great laugh.
All and all, this is one impressive lossless 5.1 mix and it does the film as much justice as possible. This earns every bit of a 4.5 rating for audio quality, which is itself impressive for a comedy even if it is one that involves an airplane and its share of action.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release, are presented in HD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (@224kbps).
The bonus materials that are on the Blu-ray Disc include:
- Audio Commentary by writers/directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and producer Jon Davison — previously appeared on the original 2011 Blu-ray and the original DVD as well. It’s a bit dated, by today’s standards (or is it?), but it still proves to be extremely funny and informative. For instance: Bruce Jenner and David Letterman did screen tests for this film, as you’ll learn from this audio commentary. No joke. There really are some excellent facts and trivia here in between the stories the guys have. Again, for example, Pete Rose was originally going to play the co-pilot instead of Kareem. Yikes. All of the could have been cast choices were a bit crazy, especially now in 2020 hindsight, as it may be. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the jive was actually written by the two actors (gentlemen) that played the parts — and not these guys.
- NEW Isolated Score Track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and as a result is of course not in a lossless sound format. However, it is the first time that we get this isolated audio mix of the film’s original score composed by Elmer Bernstein. Talk about one legendary composer. I suggest you check that man out on IMDb and realize that as l have, yes, that man did the music to a silly comedy like this. But, it’s a comedy classic and I think he knew that. Else, I don’t think he would have put such beautiful music to it. He could have never agreed to do the project or just gave them a weak score. Instead, he composed just incredible melodies that start out playing off as parodies and then are unforgettable bits you’ll forever have stuck in your head along with the stuff it is parodying. NOTE: The theme music to “JAWS” and other films is silent during this track, as it was not composed by Bernstein — but instead by John Williams (in that case). They’re not trying to get into a lawsuit here. But, the music is so eerily haunting at first, in all due seriousness. It feels like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock film and then has this almost less threatening change up in melody. It’s just great music, it’s got a beat, you’ll be humming it in your head, but you’ll probably never be dancing to this. Sorry, Elmer. There is also that loved melody for Ted and Elaine that feels like something out of the old classic films you’d see airing on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). That was the entire point really, to use musical styles of filmmakers and film genres they were blending together along with the comedy.
- NEW “Filmmaker Focus: Writers/Directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker on Airplane!“ (8:42 – HD) is short but very informative and entertaining. These dudes are legends, each in their own right. Jerry talks alone, while David and Jim sit together and discuss the film. Why? Who knows, Shirley, you’re overthinking things. Plus, I am serious, and don’t call me, Shirley! Wait, who am I talking to?! The Zucker brothers discuss their cameo in the intro of the film. I’m kidding, they don’t. They do discuss the opening bit where they make their cameos though, so that is why I mentioned it. They do discuss it in the audio commentary if you’re a completionism-type of person. I am. Of course, you wanted to know that.
- NEW “Q&A with the Directors of Airplane! [Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood – January 10, 2020]” (34:49 – HD) has Grant Moninger (film programmer at The American Cinematheque) as host of this panel discussing the film as well as taking questions from the audience. It’s crazy to think that this took place right before the COVID-19 virus put the world in a shutdown, where events like this are hard to imagine seeing again anytime soon. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a downer there as much as I think we all should just face the fact that this is as recent as you could get in terms of a discussion of the film, in celebration of its 40th anniversary. We also need to appreciate how lucky we are to have this recorded and here as an amazing new extra.
Physical bonus material here includes the collectible slipcover that features the film’s original 1980 poster art as a fold-out on the front. It also features new art (as pictured below) for the interior packaging.
Overall, these new extras all are great and you do importantly get that wonderful audio commentary track (previously found on the 2011 Blu-ray) included. However, this release is lacking some great extras that didn’t make it to this release. I mean this only as constructive criticism. I totally love the new interview (“Filmmaker Focus”) and the Q&A from earlier this year, as well as getting that isolated Elmer Bernstein musical score. Trust me. I do. It’s just that as a huge fan of this film, having owned it on various home video formats over the years, that I may be a little over critical here but, again, in a constructive manner. I both love this film and the studio that made it.
Let me explain though, for those who didn’t previously own this film on the format. And I apologize ahead of time, as I know this may seem excessive but I really want to discuss some obvious things that are missing here in terms of extras, that was on the previous (2011) Blu-ray release. Again, I want to be clear: these were extras that are not on this release.
First off, there was a feature that was called “Long Haul Version” and it included interviews with the cast & crew, as well as some deleted scenes. In my honest opinion, this footage was all great and should have just been put together as one entire little documentary of sorts, as it all totaled up to well over 40 minutes, at least. Finally, the other feature that is missing here’s a trivia track that would also play alongside the film itself. So, why weren’t these two features, including the film’s original theatrical trailer, not included on this new Blu-ray but were on the debut 2011 Blu-ray release? I have really no idea.
Honestly though, with these cool new extras combined, if they had included those previous features and the original trailer that were found on the previous release I can say that I would have come close to giving this a near-perfect rating for the bonus. There were some excellent interviews and deleted scenes there that are all missing here, as well as that trivia track, and the trailer. All and all, this still makes for a pretty good set of extras but it is admittedly lacking the most in that area.
Lastly, a few other things again with constructive criticism and partial questioning. I wish that this Paramount Presents release, like the 40th Anniversary SteelBook Blu-ray (also available), would have featured a digital copy of the film. That as well leaves me a tad bit confused from both a reviewer and consumer’s perspective as to why this did not get a digital copy but the SteelBook did? I think it is why Paramount Presents just recently announced that there will be digital copy included on all of their future titles for this line, with the next spine number in the series. I’ll end by saying, I’m sure I maybe sound like I’m complaining a bit too much here, but in all due respect, the new extras are really good and they do add something that had truly been missing in the form of a modern retrospective – via the featurette and Q&A session.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.25 (out of 5)
“Airplane!” as a film celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, proves to still be just as funny as the first time you saw it. In fact, the film is like a fine wine and gets better with age becoming better with each viewing as well. It’s no wonder that this movie is in the American Film Institute (AFI) top ten funniest movies (comedies) ever made. This movie is at #10 on that list (which you can find here), right alongside some other true comedic classics. Personally, I regard this movie as one of my favorite films of all time (of any genre), and I’d go as far as to say it makes my top 5 list. Now sure, some might find a few jokes in there a bit offensive by today’s standards of political correctness, but I’m sorry: it’s still one hilarious film. If you have never seen this, you owe it to yourself to do so immediately!
This movie made one hell of a financial return for the studio (Paramount). How much of a success was it? Well, according to the filmmakers, Airplane! was made on a budget of 3.5 million, and then ended up grossing 83 million worldwide at the box office. So, that is a pretty good return investment on a silly little comedy that is still revered forty years later as a classic of that genre.
Here, in this 2020 Paramount Presents Blu-ray release of Airplane! comes with a director supervised 4K transfer and remaster that looks remarkable, especially with all of its color correction and such thrown in. The audio mix in a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA container, while the same tech spec-wise as the original 2011 release, seems to have been slightly reworked in my opinion. That said, the audio mix still holds up or it’s sounding better than ever? Either way.
Finally, there are some great new bonus materials here in the form of a “Filmmaker Focus” interview with the film’s writers & directors, Q&A sessions with the writers & directors from January of this year (2020), as well as an isolated score (of Elmer Bernstein’s original score). They have also kept the original audio commentary with the filmmakers, which is relieving, as it is incredible and totally proves to be a must-listen track. The problem here is that some extras that were originally on the 2011 Blu-ray have not been ported over. Even the film’s original theater trailer is missing here. It just feels that the bonus materials section here is lacking, because it obviously is in the form of previous extras.
Still, missing things or not, the new extras prove to be very informative and enjoyable. If you’re like myself and a huge fan of this film and you still own the original 2011 Blu-ray or any other version on the format that contains the bonus materials missing here, I’d totally suggest holding on to it. This new Blu-ray release of the film does come from a new 4K scan and such, which has most complaining that a 4K UHD Blu-ray didn’t come out as well. That doesn’t mean that you don’t see the benefits of it having a new 4K scan here in 1080p hi-def video quality. This is, in my opinion, a highly recommended upgrade of the film on the Blu-ray format and, yes, it does make me anxious to someday perhaps see it get a physical 4K release.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials