Film / San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International (Airport) is a 1970 NBC television series partially inspired by Airport. Similarly to other airplane-based disaster movies, it concerns the interpersonal interactions between the major staff of the airport. Unusually for an airplane disaster movie/series, the airlines are real, lending a sort of authenticity to the proceedings.

Jim Conrad (Pernell Roberts) is the general manager of the titular airport. Much like in other Disaster Movie entries, he must fight with several challenges, including getting the airport runways expanded, dealing with VIP s, protecting a shipment of cash that figures into a kidnapping caper, and talking down a troubled young man. All of these plot threads intertwine throughout the movie, so much so that each of the main cast gets a chance to interact with one another. Filling out the helpful assistance role would be Bob Hatten (Clu Gulager), the airport's security chief.

The series began with a 90-minute TV-movie, San Francisco International Airport, that served as a pilot. Though critical response was lukewarm, the pilot was picked up for six episodes (as part of NBC's Wheel Program Four in One) in the fall of 1970, but was not renewed beyond the initial six. In the series version, the network stipulated that Lloyd Bridges replace Pernell Roberts; only Clu Gulager was retained for the series. Interestingly, it's apparently the same character of Jim Conrad that Lloyd Bridges parodies in Airplane!.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.


Tropes present in San Francisco International Airport:

  • Batman Gambit: The plan for the robbers in the TV movie to make off with 3 million dollars.
  • Broken Aesop: Parents getting divorced? Steal a plane, nearly kill yourself, cause dozens of airline delays, and they'll get back together.
  • Car Chase: This movie probably has more chase scenes than any other Disaster Movie. One is even done with aid of a fire truck!
  • Cool Plane: And following the Law of Chromatic Superiority Davey picks the red one.
  • Crash Course Landing: Played with in the Davey subplot, as Davey stole the plane in the first place. The movie explains that the plane is "easy to fly" and earlier establishes Davey as an aviation nut.
  • Damsel in Distress: The pilot's wife spends the entire film held hostage. Late in the film, Conrad's secretary is also held hostage by the same group of people, but she is quickly released when she's no longer useful as a hostage.
  • Disappeared Dad: In defense of Davey, his dad is a real prick.
  • Disaster Movie: Kind of. Ever wonder what a disaster movie without a disaster would be like? Look no further.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Davey takes the "meddling child" aspect of this trope to a new level.
  • Emergency Services
  • Idiot Ball: The security personnel who fall for Tab Hunter's reverse Paper-Thin Disguise.note 
    • Also the pilot who left his plane unattended with the keys in it despite having just seen an unsupervised minor on the tarmac.
  • I Have Your Wife: Done twice in the scheme to smuggle the stolen cash to Mexico.
  • Karma Houdini: Davey commits a major federal offense by stealing an aircraft for a joy ride, but he gets off without even a slap on the wrist because he's "only" 14.
  • Neutral Female: Katie Barrett opens the film presented as some kind of tough as nails secretary who takes no crap from anyone. She then takes all the crap from the robber that kidnaps her and pretty much ignores any and all opportunities to get help (including letting him tell her to ignore the armed security guard.)
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: William Sturtevant, the Made-For-TV Hippie. He's also good for Narm Charm.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Clifford Evans
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Played in reverse with Tab Hunter's discarding his priest attire.
  • Pilot Movie: Pilot Movie?
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Bob Hatten (Clu Gulager) runs security at the airport. When an uptight businessman accuses a hippy of punching him, he clearly expects Bob to side with him. Instead, Bob calmly assesses the situation, recognizes the hippy couldn't have done it, shakes the hippy's hand and lets him go. The businessman is appalled that Bob could possibly believe the hippy over him.
  • Red Herring: An In-Universe one as Hatten originally planned to have Ross Edwards arrested as a potential accomplice for the thieves until learning Ross was being blackmailed due to his wife being a hostage.
  • Sequel Hook: Mr. Woodruff is an obvious intended recurring character.
  • Shown Their Work: The ERCO Ercoupe was an airplane designed after the end of World War II to be incredibly safe and easy to fly. It's nearly impossible to stall due to some very smart engineering. Nobody who designed it, however, probably envisaged its use as a setpiece in a dull 70s TV movie.
  • Society Marches On: Inevitably for the 1970's, but it's interesting to note that these days, the show would have had to pay to make reference to California state counties like San Mateo.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Even granting it was 1971 and decades before the 9/11 attacks that changed the security level of American airports, pretty much anyone can just stroll into the deepest levels of one of the world's most prominent airports without any setbacks. Nobody stops the big-eared guy from scaling a fence, a disguised pastor just waltzes into the airport offices with a gun without even a security check, and a gunman on the runway somehow doesn't trigger every federal agent in the county to immediately zero in on the place. On top of that, they don't even take the obvious tactic of shutting the entire place down while said gunman is known to be on the loose. Given that airport hijackings had seen a record high in 1969, surely nobody would be stupid enough to let a single plane in the air that day until they'd actually arrested him?
  • Token Minority: Chuck Daniel as Frank Davis.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: The Made for TV hippie vs. bald guy conflict never gets resolved.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Conrad's stunts really, really cheese off Evans.
  • What's a Henway?: This exchange.
    Hatten: What brought you here?
    William: The bus, my friend.
  • Workaholic: Mr. Scott at the expense of his family, which is what drives the conflict in the Davey subplot. It's summed up with this exchange:
    Mr. Scott: You don't get to the top of this business by worrying about being home every night at 5:30.
    Mrs. Scott: You're already at the top!

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/SanFranciscoInternationalAirport