It’s never been a secret that the Zucker-Abraham-Zucker parody classic, “Airplane!,” was largely inspired by a not-that-frequently seen 1957 disaster flick called “Zero Hour!.” Audiences were, however, familiar with countless other similar films that combined possibly immanent death with various types of melodrama. The definitely included the then-recent series of hugely successful airborne movie suspense-soaps that started with 1970’s “Airport.” It may have helped that “Zero Hour!” had been co-written by Arthur Hailey and “Airport” was based on a best-seller by Hailey.
Still, having never seen “Zero Hour!,” I had no idea just how close the two movies could be until I saw the following. Shirley Surely, you’ll see the resemblance.
We were very sorry to hear of the passing at 83 of Peter Graves this morning, best known to older generations as the ultra-stoic Mr. Phelps of the “Mission: Impossible” TV series. He didn’t do that many movies, but the passing of Peter Graves is still notable for the movie world because of his appearances in two great films. Yes, of course, his perfect turn in “Airplane” but also “Stalag 17.” (And why does every article except the brief one I linked to contain a fairly major spoiler for the film about Graves’ character?)
Unfortunately, I can’t find any good clips from “Stalag” and, well, there’s one thing most of you want to see at a time like this. So, with apologies to the late Mr. Graves, who initially found these scenes in poor taste for some reason, we have the moments I know you want to see. I hope he appreciated how brilliantly he sold these jokes. It was worth the stretch.
So, while I was procrastinating conducting in-depth research for this post, covering a promotional screening for the rather glorious “Inglourious Basterds,” I found myself going over numerous reviews and think pieces. One piece for a very respectable and staid looking website started out normally enough but, while praising “Pulp Fiction” and other older films in the Quentin Tarantino catalogue, it quickly became unusually vicious. Tarantino is a filmmaker who has a special gift for generating a certain degree of critical anger, the cinephile hubbub kicked up by critic and film historian Jonathan Rosenbaum over the film’s non-portrayal of the Holocaust being one prominent example, but this was different.
As I noted the attention this particular review seemed to be paying to the ancestry of the cast, crew, and characters, I realized that the hate was not over anything so conventional as concerns that “Basterds” might be trivializing the Holocaust or World War II. I was reading a “white nationalist” web site. Yes, even more than some overly sensitive liberals, Nazis hate “Inglourious Basterds.” Considering it’s a movie in which a bunch of Jews, a part Cherokee good ol’ boy lieutenant, an African-French projectionist, a traitorous movie star, and a few odd others defeat the Third Reich in a painful and fiery manner, displeasing Nazis is kind of the whole idea.
Certainly, no one was feeling conciliatory towards facists or racists of any stripe as a good portion of the “Basterds” cast and crew turned up at the last of L.A.’s revival houses, the legendary New Beverly Cinema, to celebrate the DVD/Blu-Ray release of the the award-winning, genre-blending war flick. Indeed, as neighbors from the heavily Hasidic West Hollywood-adjacent neighborhood ignored the commotion, a few of us less observant entertainment scribes got the chance to talk to a select group of not-quite superstar basterds, including players in two of the more acclaimed sitcoms of all time, a personable musician and Tarantino-buddy turned actor, and a passionate producer who is not about to let any conservative climate deniers take away his Oscar…but that’s all ahead.