Airplane is given a theatrically correct 1.85:1 aspect picture anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. The first thing that strikes you is how much like seventies TV the picture looks like. It is all rather flat and mono-tonal. The colour pallet is towards the beige and that really sums up the picture, the contrast and brightness do their job but the blacks are never really black. The detail level is all rather soft, never to the point of loosing an edge but just loose. Digitally there were no compression problems neither did I spot any edge enhancement, but the picture did suffer from a few spots of print damage and film grain was evident throughout. In all a slightly below average print, even if the film itself was of limited budget.
Airplane II is given a theatrically correct 1.85:1 aspect picture anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. The increased budget shows in the picture as a much more vibrant colour scheme which in turn shows up as suitably bold and thick. Gone too is the relative flatness of the contrast/brightness level to be replaced with a far richer black level. Detail is still not as sharp as I would have liked but improves upon the first disc. Print damage is far less though grain is much the same. Digitally no compression problems or edge enhancement was visible. Although an improvement over Airplane, the Airplane II picture was still no more than average at best.
Airplane has two Dolby Digital sound tracks English 5.1 and German 2.0 mono. The English track has reasonable separation but few instances of directional effects. There is a good overall range but the bass is slightly lacking. It is a very subtle mix, with few areas of rear action open the stage, such as in the airport, but really it is a front heavy experience. Not surprising given the source material. The score is given a decent representation, as is Staying Alive in the disco flash back sequence with all the speakers given the chance to work. Dialogue is clear, from the front and never in any danger of being drowned out. It is free from distortion and hiss. Overall an average mix, it will never push your system and considering its age and origins is in all pretty good.
Airplane II has an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track only and is really nothing more than functional. It is all rather mid range, seriously lacking in bass, and this gives little depth to the sound. There are few stereo effects even with the dialogue which is thankfully well reproduced if borderline tinny. The score, shamelessly stolen from Battlestar Galactica (1978) could really have done with some decent bass, as it is it sits firmly in the midrange becoming neither impressive nor dull, much like the entire sound track as a whole.
The Airplane disc has the only extras of the set, pretty poor considering this is marketed as a 'collectors edition'. First up is an audio commentary from producer Jon Davison and director/writers Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker and David Zucker. This is a pretty jolly affair with everyone not afraid to speak their mind about the films short comings, while simultaneously praising their own good work. We learn much about the origins of the film, how chunks are taken direct form its inspiration, how it was developed and eventually produced. I was surprised by the amount of gaps, it's as if the four suddenly become captivated by what they are watching and sit back, before remembering they are supposed to be commenting. I found it all quite enjoyable and interesting. The only other extra is the theatrical trailer for the film.
Airplane rightly deserves its place as a comedy great. Its legacy remains to this day, and parody with always be compared to it. As a DVD Airplane is able to carry is rather poorer sequel without damaging its own reputation and as such this set is recommended; it's just a shame about the lack of any significant extras.
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