I can report that it enraptured and delighted, and most importantly, made quiet, the houseful of little kids and their nannies with which I watched…
Everybody seems to love a ‘disaster.’
The Report: We received nearly 200 entries, almost all of them longer than our 100-word limit (one ran to nine pages). The most common suggestions had the threatened airliner (a) running out of gas while circling over an earthquake, (b) being captured by a flying saucer, (c) flying through a time warp, usually into 1984, and (d) being impounded by Lincoln Towing.
The Winner: (who gets a copy of the year's worst sequel, "Oliver’s Story," by Erich Segal):
Gerald J. Dadich of LaGrange: “Charlton Heston, the pilot, approaches O'Hare on a routine landing in a 747. Upon receiving instructions from the control tower, Heston realizes that the weather is perfect, runway’s in great shape, and there are no other flights in the area. A look of stark terror sweeps across his face. He realizes that he does not know how to land in ideal conditions.”
The Runners-Up: (who each get a free book of our choice, and boy, do we have bad taste):
Frederick T. Pishotta of Chicago: “A Boeing 707 heads toward Krakatoa with a cargo-hold full of chickens, when a cataclysmic volcanic eruption destroys the island and punctures the airplane's fuel tanks. The craft runs out of fuel as it nears Singapore International - its last possible hope. It's too far from the runway to glide to a safe landing, but George Kennedy says, ‘Don't worry, guys! I've got a plan to keep this plane up!’ Disappearing into the cargo hold, Kennedy redirects the plane's electrical generators into the metal cages housing the chickens. He throws the switch, the chickens fly from their perches, the plane's gross weight is reduced by 33 percent, and the plane is able to reach the end of the runway.”
John Anderson of Chicago: “A planeload of white suburbanites crash-lands in an inner-city neighborhood, and while no one is hurt, the passengers are terrified to leave the plane. The cops haven't been in there for so long that they can't find the area, let alone the plane. Desperate, the city council plans to build an expressway through the area in a search for the plane, but the state government, suspecting a patronage grab, freezes the funds. Finally, helicopters from a multinational oil company are called in to airlift the plane to a suburban airport, where the passengers are rushed to a fast-food restaurant.”
Jean Ikezoe of Chicago: “During the unveiling in Chicago of Claes Oldenburg's giant baseball bat sculpture, a Boeing 707 crashes into it and becomes precariously suspended in midair with the tip of its left wing stuck in the top of the bat. A heated battle between art critics ensues as to whether the sculpture looks better this way. Will the passengers be saved, or enshrined in a new masterpiece?”
Edith Pattou of Chicago: “A Boeing 727 crashes into Mt. Rushmore and is impaled on Abraham Lincoln's forehead. The only mode of escape is to swarm down the mugs of our founding fathers. A hemophiliac movie queen is trapped by a piece of burning fuselage in George Washington's nostril; two drunken louts perch on Teddy Roosevelt's upper lip making sick jokes about the stewardesses’ vital statistics and five o'clock shadow; and George Kennedy goes head to head with the chairman of the Bicentennial Commission over the issue of human lives versus historic monuments.”
A. T. Silinis of Chicago: “Dean Martin is pried away from the bar at O'Hare long enough to pilot a 747 to Tibet. Psychotic air controller Anthony Perkins takes over the tower and orders all planes to taxi continuously in a figure eight pattern, demolition derby style. David Carradine, one of the passengers, takes over the controls from the drunken Martin and uses his skills as a race car driver to avert danger long enough for passenger O. J. Simpson to sprint from the plane, through the corridors, past Avis and into the control tower, where he finds Anthony Perkins and George Kennedy comparing stamp collections.”
Joe Ravida of Chicago: “A 747 loaded with movie stars gets its wing tangled in the spoke of a ride at Disneyland. The impact leaves the copilot, Marcel Marceau, plastered against the ceiling, possibly nude, as the ride drags the plane up and down at 240 m.p.h. Ann Landers, the only one able to walk or talk in this picture, discovers that the stewardess is Renee Richards. Charlie O. Finley, playing the priest, is convinced that the plane has been strapped to the Dow-Jones averages and chokes himself at the bottom of the third hill. Sadly, there is no little lost girl in this sequel. Jodie Foster, who was supposed to play the part, canceled her plane ticket when she heard that Roman Polanski, playing himself, was booked on the flight.”
Great Moments from Other Entries:
Bill Bodell, Batavia: “Pilot Mickey Rooney, operating without his mandatory seat cushions, fails to see the mountain top while flying through the Alps…”
Martin Kantor, Evanston: “A group of militant nonsmokers plan to hijack the smoking section of a jumbo jet…”
Eric Boardman, Evanston: “Flight 505 to Chicago is in trouble when the Pub Pong jams and the pilot ditches the plane into Great America Amusement Park. Lines form quickly as park-goers mistake the 747 for a new ride…”
Joseph E. Heimer, Elmhurst: “While the first SST jumbo jet is making its maiden flight to the United States, a scientist makes the startling discovery that anyone within 50 miles of the landing site, upon hearing the sonic boom, will become sterile. No city will allow the plane to land (at this point, continue with the plot of “Voyage of the Damned”).
JoAnne White and Richard Raymer, Park Ridge: “…other passengers include some trip-winners from a daytime TV game show, thus assuring out-of-control screamers during the crisis.”
Bob Bishop, Chicago: “…the plane miraculously sustains only minor damage. However, the combination of heat and cold has caused the Jell-o to jell, trapping the passengers…”
Evelyn D. White, Chicago: “…I prefer a woman as the pilot. Any mountain will do.”
Bruce Cantwell, Tinley Park: “Several movie critics are on their way to a film festival. Upset with their in-flight entertainment (the “Airport” trilogy), they announce there are three bombs on board. George Kennedy does not realize they're referring to the movies.”
Tim Cuprisin, Stevensville, Michigan: “If I should win the contest, don't send me a copy of Oliver's Story. I don't think I could bear to have such a cerebral work in my home.”
A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
The RogerEbert.com staff picks for the Oscars.
Our resident awards expert predicts who will go home with an Oscar on Sunday night.