Color, 1979, 95m.
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Starring James Franciscus, Mimsy Farmer, Venantino Venantini, Joseph Cotten, Edmund Purdom, Francisco Charles, Van Johnson
Ascot Elite (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany RB/R2 HD/PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
One of the odder pop culture crazes in the waning days of the disco era revolved around the Concorde, a supersonic passenger plane inaugurated in 1976. With the ability to zip back and forth between Europe and America in half the time of a normal flight, it became an emblem of luxury and a cutting edge symbol of the future, though of course that didn't quite come to pass with the line eventually discontinuing in 2003. The Concorde even proved sexy enough to inspire the fourth entry in Universal's popular and wholly ridiculous Airport series, The Concorde... Airport '79, which was such a disaster it killed off the franchise entirely and paved the way for the spoof Airplane! one year later.
Never ones to miss a possible trend at the box office, Italian producers took note of the impending Concorde movie and decided to mount a production of their own: The Concorde Affair, shown in Europe as Concorde Affaire '79. Tossing in plot elements of that year's James Bond outing Moonraker for good measure, the film was directed by Ruggero Deodato (credited as "Roger Deodato") just before he went on to infamy with his 1980 double sucker punch of Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park, though it makes a little more sense considering he'd proven to be an adept action director earlier with Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man.
When a Concorde crashes down into the ocean off the coast of Martinique thanks to what may be an act of sabotage, corrupt industrialists Milland (Cotten, hot off of Airport '77) and Danker (Purdum) conspire to cover up the whole disaster to save face with the shareholders. The sole survivor, stewardess Jean (Farmer, who reteamed with Deodato for Body Count), is rescued by a couple of kindly fishermen who are killed for their trouble. She's spirited away to a nearby yacht and held captive, prompting an investigation from American journalist Moses Bordy (Franciscus) after he gets a tip from his ex-wife -- who also winds up murdered. Deadly scuba dives, shoot outs, car chases, and other mayhem soon follow before the next Concorde flight is also targeted for destruction, kicking off a frantic race against time to save a planeload of passengers.
As you can probably guess, the failure of the American Concorde film put a bullet in this one before it was barely out of the gate, with most only running into it on home video years later. That's a shame as it's actually a very entertaining little actioner with a unique cast, particularly a charismatic turn by Franciscus (in his first Italian film since The Cat o' Nine Tails) and a bizarre extended cameo by Van Johnson as the pilot of the second Concorde, who spends his time having panicky conversations with air traffic controllers played by New York porn actors Robert Kerman (also in Cannibal Holocaust) and Michael Gaunt. (Weirdly, Kerman had the exact same role in the Universal Concorde, too.) There's also an infectiously bouncy disco score by the great Stelvio Cipriani, sandwiched in between his better known work on Bloodstained Shadow and Nightmare City. In general it's a fairly clean film for all audiences in the spirit of those 007 and Airport films (i.e., no nudity and just a few splashes of blood), but characters also amusingly drop the f-bomb for no good reason. All in all, a trashy good time for everyone if you can get your hands on it.
Home video editions of this film have been fairly scarce and generally looked awful, including a handful of brutally cropped VHS tapes and a pathetic, overpriced DVD from notorious bootleg outfit Televista/Jef Films. Surprisingly, the first good edition actually came from Germany courtesy of simultaneous Blu-ray and DVDs from Ascot Elite under the title Das Concorde Inferno. To say it blows away any prior version would be a given considering the competition, of course, but it really does look quite satisfying with the original scope framing intact and a considerable boost in detail throughout. The film itself is visually inconsistent thanks to the occasional reliance on Concorde stock footage (including the ratty opening credits), but all the first generation material looks like genuine '70s celluloid through and through. Audio is presented in DTS-HD mono in German or English, with the latter preferable option containing the original voice performances for all of the leads. The sole extras are a bunch of unrelated random trailers at the start of the disc like Metallica Through the Never, which makes for a very odd viewing experience.
Reviewed on December 7, 2013.