DVD Review: Airplane! “Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition

Airplane! (Don’t Call Me Shirley Edition)Airplane! (1980)
“Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition DVD (2005)

Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and June Cleaver

Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that this is not a full review of the new Airplane! DVD. I only had time to watch the movie twice last night, and I’ll need to watch it two more times before I see every feature on the disc.Maybe. I don’t know if it’s possible to watch the “Long Haul” version with the audio commentary turned on, but that might be a good way to kill two birds with one stone.

Speaking of features, here’s a list of what’s on the “Don’t Call Me Shirley” Edition DVD:

  • Original theatrical release (widescreen)
  • Trivia track
  • Extended “Long Haul” version (with deleted scenes, interviews and more)
  • Audio commentary by producer Jon Davison and writer/directors Jim Abrahams and David & Jerry Zucker
  • Theatrical trailer

Laura and I watched the original theatrical release last night, then Laura slept on the couch while I watched the trivia track, which is essentially the “Pop-up Video” version.As far as I can tell the “pop-up” effect is accomplished through the use of souped-up subtitles, which is pretty spiffy. I really wish they’d do this with more movies. The last time I saw something similar was on the MTV Spider-Man animated series DVD. The pop-ups point out where David and Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and pretty much everyone they’ve ever known appear in the film (in one form or another). They also point out little production and continuity goofs as well as providing mini-bios for many of the film’s stars.They mention, for example, that Ted Striker is wearing a Navy uniform when he meet’s Elaine in the bar, but later is in an Army hospital. What they don’t mention is that Ted says he was a pilot in the Air Force.

As transfers to DVD do, this one looks pretty clean, but I wasn’t really nit-picking audio or video quality because I was too busy laughing at jokes and sight gags that I’ve seen at least a dozen times before. No matter how many times I watch Airplane!, it never gets old to me. The same is true of the first in the Naked Gun series, but for my money Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan delivery just doesn’t get any better than Doctor Rumack in Airplane!Every time I see two people sitting in an office or conference room, I’m tempted to stick my head in the door and say, “I just wanted to tell you both good luck, we’re all counting on you.”

It’s not just Nielsen, either. Airplane! is like a gathering of good ol’ boys who—while certainly very accomplished thespians—weren’t (at that time) generally thought of as comic actors. Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and Robert Stack are all ridiculously funny, each bringing their own style, each delivering lines that I could quote in my sleep. Relative newcomers (again, at that time) Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays are equally hilarious as the headstrong-yet-clueless Elaine and the deeply troubled Ted Striker.

The Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team may not deal in sophisticated comedy, but there’s a lot to be said for their brand of outlandish, in-your-face humor. Airplane! holds the tenth spot in the American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time, though I would probably kick it up a notch or nine.