Hollywood Air Force

Itís simply a question of not underestimating your opponent. Congressman Balljoy takes a tour of an Air National Guard Unit in Van Nuys and sees the men busy illuminating a joke from Fanny and Alexander and Blazing Saddles. Itís 1961, the Russians are playing footsie in Berlin, heís shocked at so much unreadiness.

The 73rd Air Transport Wing mainly comprises actors, choreographers, studio people of all sorts, with the odd gossip columnist or journalist. The Congressman threatens to ship them out to the Pacific on an island so remote and warhead-laden that preparedness becomes the watchword of the unit, with a final inspection imminent.

Convy and the screenwriters pull out all the stops at various points, with material from The Nutty Professor and High Anxiety, and at least one number that later appeared on Saturday Night Live. The commanding officer is Lloyd Bridges as Col. Archer, a cowboy star who rides the range in a jeep at the close to rescue a Wizard of Oz munchkin from certain death, awing the Congressman no end, not to mention the Romanian ambassador.

Bridges takes off from Airplane! in ten thousand shades of nuance. Graham Jarvis as Balljoy makes a leap from dutiful support to the grand manner. Vic Tayback as Sgt. Burdge is all roar and bluster. The rest of the cast is excellent.