Monday, August 17, 2015

4: Airplane!

In contrast to the last movie, this is probably one you DON'T want to watch while flying over the ocean. Actually I take that back. I'd watch this film anywhere.

I know it's not for everyone. I know the humour is too simple/repetitive/even crude at times for everyone's liking, and I know it's not as clever or random as Monty Python, and I know lots of the jokes are just simple puns but it works because everyone - and particularly the brilliant Leslie Nielsen - treats every joke response as if it's exactly what they were expecting. Case-in-point: the "smoking or non-smoking" scene where Striker decides to get a ticket for the plane:

Airport Salesperson: Smoking or non-smoking?
Ted Striker: Smoking.
Airport Salesperson [handing Striker a boarding pass that is belching out smoke]: Have a nice flight!

 - and they both treat it as if it was totally normal and completely what was expected. THAT is where the subtle humour really comes in - deadpan, dry, whatever you wish to call it - THAT is what makes it funny.

Naturally I'm going to offer more quotes here:

Lady in seat: Nervous?
Ted Striker: Yes.
Lady in seat: First time?
Ted Striker: No, I've been nervous lots of times.

Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.
Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

Rumack: You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.

Rumack: I won't deceive you, Mr. Striker. We're running out of time.
Ted Striker: Surely there must be something you can do.
Rumack: I'm doing everything I can... and stop calling me Shirley!

Rumack: Captain, how soon can you land?
Captain Oveur: I can't tell.
Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor.
Captain Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure.
Rumack: Well, can't you take a guess?
Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours.
Rumack: You can't take a guess for another two hours?

And you'll of course notice the emergence of Dr Rumack in those quotes, who doesn't appear until halfway through the film. Leslie Nielsen himself was of course a well-established character actor who had played straight roles over many years on both film and TV. Shortly afterwards, however, he appeared as a certain Frank Drebin in a short-lived TV spoof series called "Police Squad", basically playing the same Dr Rumack character and which, of course, he would go on to reprise directly in the 'Naked Gun' series of films. Indeed until his recent death he never really played any other character again, just Dr Rumack/Frank Drebin over and over, and it never got old. If you ever want to know anything about deadpan comedy, just watch later Leslie Nielsen films.

The man was a comedy genius. And this was the best of them all.

No comments: