Airplane! (1980)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer

’I can’t believe you paid for this!’ is the last thing heard on the audio commentary for ’Airplane!’ The question is, ’Why not?’ We’ve got one of the funniest movies ever made presented in its letterboxed format with surround sound. What’s not to like? Of course, the person who uttered this apparent put-down is a member of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (better known as ’ZAZ’) and I’m sure that this was all meant in good fun. Paramount’s long-awaited DVD of ’Airplane!’ brings us the film not only letterboxed at 1.85:1, but enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The picture is very crisp and clear, showing few defects on the source print. However, the image is a bit dark and displays some graininess at times. This, of course, is a direct result of the film’s low-budget origins. That having been said, this is the best that ’Airplane!’ has ever looked and it sure beats the muddy print that’s shown on TBS every week. The transfer shows no complications from artifacting or compression problems. The audio on ’Airplane!’ is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, that offers some nicely placed surround sound effects. The razor-sharp dialogue is always clear and audible and there is no apparent hissing on the soundtrack.

The only real shortcoming of this DVD is the brevity of its extras. The main special feature is an audio commentary featuring the writing/directing ZAZ team and producer Jon Davison. This commentary is very interesting as the ZAZ team sets out to trash their own movie, as they are quick to point out all of the visual flaws, such as crew-members being in-frame or sets falling apart. They do give us a good background story on how the film was conceived and financed and most of the anecdotes about casting are funny. They are also quick to point out that they had nothing to do with ’Airplane 2’. Although the ZAZ guys sound as if they aren’t proud of the film, it’s obviously all in jest, as they mentioned the film’s impressive box office performance (except in Buffalo?!) and how it influenced their future films. This commentary isn’t as funny as the one on ’The Naked Gun’, but it’s still very entertaining. The only other extra on the DVD is the original theatrical trailer. One obvious oversight on the DVD is that there are no deleted scenes, despite the fact that the quartet on the audio commentary discuss extra scenes which are included in the TV cut.

’Airplane!’ is truly one of the funniest movies ever made. Sure, it’s stupid and you’ll be ashamed of yourself for laughing at the jokes, but you just can’t help it. There is so much going on and so many different kinds of humor thrown at the audience, that everyone will find something at which to laugh. Granted, some of the jokes in ’Airplane!’ are dated, and the slew of imitators that came in the wake of the film have ruined this style of humor, but the film is still a classic, making this DVD a must-have. And don’t call me Shirley.