McCloud is sent to the City of New York’s Remount School of Horsemanship, where he is mistaken for another visitor, Sheriff Ben Thornton of Tempe, Arizona (who wears a suit and smokes a pipe). “We don’t have a mounted unit in Taos,” McCloud points out.
The robbery is carried out by street thugs wearing Hudson Power Company uniforms. As he already knows how to ride, McCloud is left in charge as acting instructor, and takes his class of tyros to Manhattan for “field training.”
Curious details abound in a lively script. Chief Clifford says, “someone’s out there sitting on enough firepower to turn this whole city into another My Lai.” The revolutionary leader reveals his motivation to Packy, the fence, by handing him a book about “the martyrs of the Spanish Inquisition” (“maybe it’ll give you some insight into what’s happening today,” he says). Packy drops it in a garbage can.
McCloud and Sgt. Cross go undercover to trace arms being sold off willy-nilly, while negotiations continue for the block sale. Their revolutionists’ pad has posters of Lenin, Marx & Engels, etc.
Frank follows McCloud home to blow him up with a hand grenade. McCloud slips out on the fire escape, and you get a nice view of how high up he lives.
The finale is a shootout with the revolutionaries, while the Mounted Unit charges out after the gang. The bravura of this scene inspires Stu Phillips to his score’s best moments.
The actor who plays Chief Clifford in the pilot, Peter Mark Richman, is seen as Capt. Dettmer. Even for John Finnegan, this is unusually brilliant work, but the script brings out the best in everybody, notably Victor Campos as Hector, who claims he found his brand-new sidearm “in a garbage can on 114th Street.” Capt. Dettmer interrogates him, “we’re going to trace the serial number, and that’ll take us to the Armory robbery, and you know where that’s going to take us?” Hector replies, “to 114th Street!” And then, the show is full of actors (Julie Sommars, Michael Parks, Bert Freed, George Murdock, Rafael Campos, etc.).
The main focus of Airport ’77 is in development of the visual theme (hijacked and submerged aircraft) which drives Terence Young’s Thunderball, with a resolution repeated and extended in Jameson’s Raise the Titanic!
Two noteworthy performances carry dramatic weight at key points. Before the plane filled with art and VIPs crashes, Robert Foxworth as the hijacker pilot is called upon to deliver manifold expressions of horror, and proves himself to be very inventive.
Later, Christopher Lee provides a brilliant corollary of this as a horrid-looking corpse floating away in a touch of Grand Guignol reportedly cut from British prints.