Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Shot just before his brutal masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust (1980), 1979's The Concorde Affair is one of Italian director Ruggero Deodato's strangest and most disjointed productions; a deliberate and mostly unsuccessful take off on the American disaster films that were nearing the end of their heyday as this film appeared and quickly disappeared in the Spring of 79.
While the film itself never fully comes together, one can't blame the team in front of and behind the cameras that Deodato assembled for the production. Fans of both Italian and American cinema of this period will find much to savor in the opening credits as the names of famed screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi and wonderful composer Stelvio Cipriani appear, as do the listings of several legendary actors ranging from Joseph Cotten to Mimsy Farmer.
The Concorde Affair's biggest problem lies in its convoluted plot (scripted by Gastaldi and Renzo Genta from an idea by Alberto Fioretti) that simply attempts to squeeze too much story into just over 90 minutes. The film, centering on a Concorde that has gone down in the ocean and a surviving stewardess being held hostage by members of the mob, seems to bury itself almost immediately and, even worse, it fails to ever generate a real sense of the fun that was inherent in so many of the films it is attempting to ape, with David Lowell Rich's infectiously silly Concorde: Airport 79 being chief among them.
The cast and Cipriani's propulsive score are the film's best attributes. Farmer gives a suitably hysterical and neurotic performance while leading man James Franciscus seems to be greatly enjoying himself. Other members, such as Cotton and Van Johnson, give professional if un-noteworthy performances but it is great to see them here none the less. Look out for cult-figure and future Cannibal Holocaust star Robert Kerman in a small uncredited role as an air traffic controller.
My copy of the film comes from an old Greek VHS and it looks fairly dreadful so I am unable to really comment on Federico Zanni's cinematography. I can only imagine that a crisp widescreen print of the film would help immensely. Deodato's direction is fine if slightly uninvolved, and one gets the idea that he knew the film was not destined to be one of the key works in his important filmography.
Released in Italy under the title Affare Concorde and in other parts of the world as Concorde Inferno '79 and S.O.S. Concorde, The Concorde Affair crash landed fairly quickly and remains one of Deodato's hardest to see productions in a good quality print, as apparently the DVD that has been released is a full screen version transferred directly from an old VHS copy.