Review of Airport '77 in Time, 5/2/77
Airport '77 has almost nothing to do with airports and even less to do with the way anybody lives or thinks in 1977. The previous airport movies at least managed to plug in to common aviation anxieties (engine failure, mid-air collisions), but the latest flying misnomer fails even at that feeble level.
This time the 747-load of fools consists of rich folks being ferried to an art-gallery opening in Palm Beach at the lavish expense of its owner (Jam4es Stewart). Also aboard are many of his paintings and a gang of hijackers who gas crew and passengers and slip down below the altitude where radar can track the craft. Then they fly it smack into the ocean. The thing sinks but does not flood, thanks to some watertight compartments Stewart has thoughtfully provided for his artwork. Everyone behaves predictably. Pilot Jack Lemmon is valiant and resourceful, older character people like Olivia de Havilland and Joseph Cotten are stoic and gallant, while the hysteric (Lee Grant) is hysterical.
The Navy, employing techniques developed for raising sunken submarines, finally saves just about everyone, and that part of the film has documentary interest. Still, one cannot help feeling that something is wrong with the movie's value systems. Nary a word of regret is spared for the great art that ends up in Davy Jones's locker, while there is rejoicing over the salvage of the most expendable portion of the cargo--all those stale hams.