Airplane II: The Sequel Blu-ray delivers great video and audio in this overall recommended Blu-ray release
There's a mad bomber on board, the first lunar shuttle is about to self-destruct, the engines aren't working and - worst of all - the flight crew discovers they are completely out of coffee! It's the high-flying lunacy of AIRPLANE! all over again as Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty fly totally out of the ozone to re-create their hilarious original roles. The crew of crazies includes Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, William Shatner, Chad Everett, Sonny Bono, Raymond Burr and many others. Can Hays save the day again - without caffeine? Fasten your seatbelt for a ride you'll never forget - AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL.
For more about Airplane II: The Sequel and the Airplane II: The Sequel Blu-ray release, see Airplane II: The Sequel Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on October 7, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Comics can be a rancorous lot. When the writing/directing team of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams
and David Zucker (sometimes known as "ZAZ") decided they didn't want to make a sequel to
their 1980 hit Airplane!, they also agreed that no one else
should make one. Unfortunately for
ZAZ, Paramount owned the rights and hired Canadian writer Ken Finkelman to continue the saga
of star-crossed Ted Striker and Elaine Dickinson in the same style of Borscht Belt standup
cinema that ZAZ had first created. (Finkelman received uncredited writing assistance from future
Simpsons producers Al Jean and Mike Reiss.)
Continuing Airplane! wasn't a particularly tall order. The film's rat-tat-tat profusion of sight
gags, one-liners, non sequiturs and movie parodies was original, but the jokes themselves were
not. ZAZ created something new by pitching gags, often several at once, so fast that it didn't
matter if one fell flat, because another was already on the way. Once seen, the style was easily
imitated—and still is to this day, though rarely as well as Finkelman did in Airplane II: The
Sequel. Still, ZAZ would have none of it. Shortly before the film's release, their PR agency
contacted all the nation's major film critics to advise them that ZAZ had nothing to do with the
sequel. This less-than-subtle attempt to poison the reception largely worked. Roger Ebert, who
had praised the first film, declared the second a "retread" without a "story". Either Ebert missed
the love triangle, the kickback scandal and the reconciliation with an old war buddy, or he'd
managed to find some deeper narrative in the first film that I've somehow missed in dozens of
After the ZAZ publicity stunt, reviews were generally negative and the box office was so weak
that Paramount abandoned plans for Airplane III, of which it had previously been so certain that
an announcement was included at the end of Airplane II. (It still appears in the version on this
Blu-ray, although it has been removed from some video editions).
Once again, a flight full of innocent passengers is headed into life-threatening peril, only this
time it's the lunar shuttle, Mayflower One, commanded by our old friend, Captain Clarence
Oveur (Peter Graves). The flight crew includes First Officer Dunn (James A. Watson, Jr.) and
Navigator Dave Unger (Kent McCord), and the confusions of Oveur-Unger-Dunn are just the
beginning of the "who's on first?" variations that replay throughout Airplane II. Also along for
the ride is the ultra-macho Simon Kurtz (Chad Everett), who looks great in a uniform but doesn't
seem to have any function other than to be the fiancé of computer officer Elaine Dickinson (Julie
Hagerty), who dumped Ted Striker (Robert Hays) after he crashed a prototype of the shuttle
during a test flight.
The company blamed Striker's negligence and had him committed to the Ronald Reagan Home
for the Mentally Ill ("We Cure People the Old Fashioned Way") after a rigged trial presided over
by a judge who looks suspiciously like Perry Mason (probably because he's played by Raymond
Burr). Most damning of all was the testimony of Striker's psychiatrist, Dr. Stone (John Vernon),
whose idea of mental illness is anyone who complains about his bill. In fact, Striker found
serious problems with the shuttle's manufacture, a situation suspected by the hard-boiled head of
the ground crew, the Sarge (Chuck Connors).
When Striker sees a headline announcing the shuttle launch, he breaks out of the asylum
(bypassing Jack Jones singing the theme from Love Boat) and buys a shuttle ticket. Sure enough,
Mayflower One's cut-rate wiring overheats, causing its sophisticated computer, ROK (voiced by
director Finkelman), to kill or incapacitate most of the crew. The sole exception is Simon Kurtz,
who reveals his true cowardice by turning to Jello (literally) and fleeing in an escape pod. Just as
over Chicago in Airplane! (but will Striker ever be over Chicago?), it's up to Striker and Elaine
to land the crippled shuttle safely at lunar base Alpha Beta. (Anyone old enough will remember
the name as that of a southwestern grocery chain long since acquired and rebranded.) Guiding
them from Mission Control is their crazy old controller, Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges),
hauled out of mothballs for the occasion and still tormented by useless retorts from air controller
Johnny, now known as "Jacobs" (the inspired Stephen Stucker, who does double duty as a court
reporter with a mean Ray Charles impression at Striker's trial).
Finkelman brings back as many popular bit players as he can fit in. The Krishnas make a brief
appearance, although only one of them (David Leisure) is an Airplane! veteran. Lee Bryant's
Mrs. Hammen still needs to be slapped by everyone in sight to prevent her hysterics. Ann Nelson
repeats her role as a sweet elderly lady who makes the deadly mistake of listening to Striker's
troubles, and Al White returns as one of the "jive dudes" to be a character witness at Striker's
trial (though admittedly he isn't nearly as funny without Barbara Billingsley as his translator).
Leslie Nielsen's Dr. Rumack is surely missed—I should probably phrase it differently—but
Nielsen was off making Police Squad for ZAZ.
Finkelman does have a few fine additions besides the Sarge, Dr. Stone and the Judge. The first is
Sonny Bono's Joe Seluchi, who buys a bomb at the airport store and carries a suitcase studded
with stickers from garden spots like Nagasaki and Dresden. His presence on the shuttle actually
pays off in a late plot development. My personal favorite, though, is Buck Murdock, commander
of lunar base Alpha Beta, played by William Shatner in full-on Kirk mode. One of the few
survivors of Striker's ill-fated wartime raid over Macho Grande, Murdock despises the pilot but
finds that fate has brought them together again. As he races around the station barking
contradictory orders and "shh'ing" the sliding doors to sound like those on the Enterprise,
Shatner does the best self-parody of his career (and that includes his appearances on Saturday
Night Live). He gives the whole last act of Airplane II a jolt of electricity, just like the machine
with red lights that serves no purpose but shows up in numerous sci-fi films, including The
Wrath of Khan and, yes, Airplane II.
Cinematographer Joseph F. Biroc shot Airplane! and returned
for the sequel. Somehow it seems
appropriate that the cameraman who lensed two sendups of disaster films was also the DP on one
of the greatest movie parodies of all time, Blazing Saddles, while sharing an Oscar for
photographing one of the Seventies' greatest disaster films, The Towering Inferno.
Biroc had worked in both movies and TV, and he could suit his photography to any style. For
Airplane II, he continued the same look established by ZAZ in the first film, which was
essentially a TV style of bright lighting, an ordinary color palette and heavy reliance on close-ups
and medium shots. Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of this Paramount film delivers a
faithful rendition of Airplane II's style, very much on a par with Paramount's previous Blu-ray of
Airplane! Blacks are solid, detail is well-rendered, grain is natural-looking and there is no
evidence of filtering, artificial sharpening or other inappropriate digital tampering. With no
extras on the disc, the average bitrate of 25.93 Mbps is sufficient to avoid any compression
The film's original mono soundtrack has been formatted as lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0, with
identical left and right front channels. It's a serviceable affair with clear dialogue, well-rendered
(though obviously cartoonish) effects and a great parody score composed of Elmer Bernstein's
cues from the first film, plus additional music by arranger Richard Hazard. Key themes from the
original Battlestar Galactica are heard at
the opening and elsewhere during the film, and they
complement the comic style better than any attempt to compose a new heroic theme in the style
of John Williams' Star Wars score.
One indication, at least to me, that Finkelman aptly captured the anarchic spirit of the first
Airplane! is that I often can't recall whether a favorite line occurred in the first film or the
second. Many of Airplane!'s running gags keep running well into the sequel, and I find them just
as funny there. The sequel isn't as original as the first, but few films are. It's too bad that
Airplane II remains such a poor stepchild in Paramount's catalog that not even the extra scenes
used in TV broadcasts have been included here, because some of them are quite good (especially
the discovery of McCroskey in the asylum in scuba gear, where he thinks he's Lloyd Bridges).
But the Blu-ray treatment is capable and won't disappoint fans. Recommended.
Blu-ray bundles with Airplane II: The Sequel (1 bundle)
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of writer/director Ken Finkleman's Airplane II: The Sequel, starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Chad Everett, Peter Graves, Rip Torn, Chuck Connors, Stephen Stucker, Wendy Phillips ...
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