Mayday At 40000 Feet!
Mayday At 40000 Feet!

Coming several years after the start of the Airport series, Mayday At 40,000 Feet is like the goofy TV version which aims itself firmly towards the campy drama side of the 70’s disaster movie spectrum. With swelling strings, gasping ladies and cheesy one liners we have everything the Airport series came to be remembered for in one homage flick.

Released: 1976

Running Time: 94 minutes

The Premise

Marjoe Gortner, not content with being a maniac in Earthquake, comes back with another amazing hair do to cause a ruckus on a flight 602 by getting involved in a shootout in the plane and making staying in the air and landing a rather difficult affair!

The Disasters Faced

Potential plane crash, being shot, bleeding to death, bad weather, bad hair dos, being struck off of work, being attacked by a handbag and “that second bowl of chilli I had last night!”

The Execution

What delights me about Mayday at 40,000 Feet is the script and all its bizarre quotable asides I could use for all eternity. From the cheesy pick up lines and the cowboy hat, to the aforementioned chilli and the “she’s got baby fat” line when describing his work mates. The cowboy guy Mike manages to woe and swing his Texan way into anyone’s knickers which prompts Terry to snap “oh tear into something else tonight”. The age difference is well… 40,000 feet. It’s this kind of base line snappiness including a tacked on sub plot about the captains wife being in hospital having a cancer op during the whole thing and a funny we’ve-met-after-six-“SEVEN”-years-and-we-will-be-in-love-before-the-flight movie. Essentially they flirt over a coffee, romp in a hotel and are suddenly best friends with the whole crew. I’m not sure if I’m in awe over the whole funniness of it all or actually if it’s just so likeable about it being a snap shot of time. All I’ll say is it’s so watchable it rivals Airport.

Everyone to your seats - crazed maniac aboard!
Everyone to your seats – crazed maniac aboard!

The Effects

There are a few good shots out of the plane windows to show landings and so on. The airport itself is well done but the sets are sometimes a bit ropey outside the plane itself. Even the characters comment “here’s the darn bed in the middle of the room” because the camera is placed on it. Worse still is the hospital – there is a door and a table with the women on. That. Is. It. There’s barely any actual effects but the film didn’t really need them aside from some camera shaking. Also notice how the snow is only falling where the actors are…

Why It’s Worth Watching

It’s a disarmingly camp film. Each character has a personality and I wish some of the modern-day films would bother to paint some real characters and then not kill them off after giving them a whole two scenes of character building. This film, like the original two Airport’s, focuses on characters more than the disaster which is a part of the journey, not what the whole things all about. How much more exciting and powerful can a film be when they take this course? I do like all the “that would never happen these days” things that happen too. Everyone pops into the cockpit to say hello! The score also wants to be so over wrought it adds comedy value. Yep, 70’s disaster movie fandom right here!

Drinking Game

Each time Mike uses a cheesy womanizing pick up line that someone makes you laugh with him, not at him.

Best Death

There’s only one and he dies of a heart attack – well… bowl of chilli.

A Movie Poster
A Movie Poster

Favourite Character

Very much enjoyed Susan Mackenzie who is oh-so-breezy in her customer service best, Marjoe is his bad best again with that perm but I’ll go with Mike played by Don Meredith because his character is not only every womans worst enemy but he actually is heroic and great under pressure making him the one you root for most. In fact most characters are extremely likeable in this film – making it a treat.

Weirdest Moment

The script accounts for a few but the weirdest is the plane itself. The logo for the airline is Transcon Airways but the letters are spaced out to for Trans and Airways, but there’s not enough space to properly space the con and so they’ve squished the letters all together. The result looks like a complete mess on the plane itself.

Random Trivia

Apparently this was released in cinemas in France. No idea why not anywhere else. Also IMDB has the film listed as 100 mins long but I’ve only seen a 94 min version. Where are the missing six minutes?

Goofy Quote

“You noticed that pretty little body sitting under the pretty little head of hers?”

“I noticed… I also noticed she still has her baby fat!”


Low budget, high on laugh count – Mayday at 40,000 feet has made its way into my heart by being one of the cheesiest movies I’ve seen in a very long time. Kudos where its due – it’s an entertainment on a whole different level.

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