"Airplane!... 30 years old?!? Surely you can't be serious?" "I am. And don't call me Shirley."
I will make no apologies for that, after all, as catch phrases go, that is up there in the all-time quotable comedy lines ever uttered. And of course, it was spoken with utter conviction by the man who sadly resides with us no longer - Leslie Nielsen, who for a generation will always be "that guy who was in the comedy films" and never realise the true surprise that the man who seriously acted his way through the likes of "Forbidden Planet" showed that he could deadpan like no other.
In a special screening (set up before Nielsen passed away) to celebrate the movie's 30th birthday in London, 2 of the 3 writers/directors - the Zucker Brothers - and a surprise guest of Robert Hays (the film's hero Ted Striker) joined a sold out performance of fans who appreciate THE best comedy film ever made. Sitting in with the audience watching and indeed laughing along with them to every joke that machine-gunned it's way across the screen, the 3 made their way up on stage afterwards to indulge in a little Q&A session to answer such questions as "who taught the old lady how to talk jive?"
What truly amazes is that the film is that old, and is still that good! The first really of its kind, it opened the flood gates for all manner of imitators, both good and bad. For every "Naked Gun" we were delivered we were unfortunately asked to also sign up for the likes of "Not Another Teen Movie," "Scary Movie," and "Superhero." Here though the jokes are all centered around the characters and their plight rather than the scatter-shot method of late of taking anything popular and making the mick out of it just for the sake of a possible laugh. Good comedy is hard but even harder is long life comedy - one that will make audiences laugh no matter how far down the line they are watching it. "Airplane!" will always make people laugh even if the level of what's right and wrong has changed. Seriously, can you imagine a comedy now involving a man asking a child if he's "ever seen a grown man naked?" It wouldn't get past the censors!
As a tribute to both Robert Stack and Leslie Nielsen who now look down from up above Flight 209-er to Chicago, dig out a copy of the greatest comedy ever made and treat yourself. Good luck, we're all counting on you!