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Section Header
1997 Bootleg

2005 Bootleg

2009 La-La Land

Composed and Conducted by:
Elmer Bernstein

Orchestrated by:
David Spear

2009 Album Produced by:
Dan Goldwasser

Labels and Dates:


La-La Land Records
(May 19th, 2009)

Also See:

Audio Clips:
2005 Bootleg:

1. Opening Titles (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

2. LAX (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

14. Elaine and Ted (0:33):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

38. The News Spreads (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

There has never been a commercial CD release of Airplane!. The 1997 bootleg was released under the 'Jaws 80.78.97' label and sold from soundtrack specialty outlets for upwards of $40. The 2005 bootleg is a rip from the isolated DVD score. The 2009 La-La Land album was limited to 3,000 copies and, despite selling out from the label quickly, remained available at soundtrack specialty outlets for some time after.


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Buy it... on either the 2005 bootleg or the 2009 limited album if you seek an adequate survey of this humorous and popular Elmer Bernstein parody score in very strong sound quality.

Avoid it... on the original 1997 bootleg at all costs (due to atrocious sound quality) or if you expect, despite all logic in this case, to hear anything resembling a consistent listening experience through dozens of short, genre-defying cues.

Airplane!: (Elmer Bernstein) The ultimate anthology of cliches from classic comedy films, Airplane! is a production that defied the direction of modern comedies in an era when the genre was dominated by the kind of satirical and cynical ideas of Woody Allen. The object of this parody was the rash of airplane horror films that arose with Airport and lasted through all the variants of its sequels, as well as Paramount's own Zero Hour from 1957. The trick to Airplane! that made it such a fantastic parody was its purely unashamed use of sophomoric humor, with jokes so dumb and tasteless that they actually became funny in unison. So predictable (and successful, grossing upwards of $100 million) was the 1980 film that it led to its own sequel, though the original Airplane! will be long remembered for, among other things, changing how people react to the word "surely." Composer Elmer Bernstein was at a point in his career when his comedy-writing skills were in high demand. The early 1980's are recalled by Bernstein collectors as the era of Airplane!, Trading Places, and Ghostbusters, a trend that somewhat baffled those collectors and even occasionally the composer himself. His vast experience in action and Western scores from the 1960's, however, would prove to serve him well when writing these more ridiculous parody scores, of which Airplane! is likely the crowning achievement. Underneath the comedy is an airborne horror plot that Bernstein uses to insert a plethora of militaristic action motifs, and the love story between the lead stewardess and a former pilot who has lost his wits allows the composer to expand on some of his sappy romance writing. The key to the enduring popularity of this score rests in Bernstein's proper decision (as is often the case in similar films with effective scores) to handle the story as though it were completely serious. Interspersed throughout the score are references, for instance, to John Williams' theme for Jaws, which was a highly popular tactic for films to take in the late 1970's.

Like many parody scores, however, the quality of the score in the film is vastly different from that on album, and Airplane! is one of those highly effective scores in context that loses some of its punch without the punch lines that go with it. On album, an endless series of short cues cause the score to jump almost incoherently between genres and conflicting motifs. It makes sense on the whole, but it remains a frenetic listening experience. A sappy love theme for the characters of Elaine and Ted is the most enduring memory from the score for Airplane!, though it serves as almost an annoyance in the film, its rising strings at the outset setting the stage for yet another intentionally awkward flashback. The orchestra hits that represent the "tension theme" are mixed almost indiscriminately into the film, and they don't do the score much justice on album. There are few lengthier cues of development; the ones led by snare drums and brass rips represent the militaristic element well and offer some of the more listenable moments. A classical waltz-like rhythm announces the "Resolution" cue (otherwise known as "Success") with much of the same deliberation as cues in Trading Places. Ironically, the best performances of the film's heroic title theme come early, with the LAX-related cues (starting with "Ambulance Arrives") offering bold brass rhythms mocking John Williams' disaster scores with good humor. Interestingly, though, Bernstein plays much of the score without the twist of jazz or other pizzazz that often influences his comedy works (despite some genre-hopping in the source cues), and Airplane! thus becomes as score that seems more functional in its attempt to play it serious rather than purely funny. The film also makes use of source lounge music and a 'native' cue (for the "Molumbo" tribe, a nice deviation) by Bernstein, as well as several song staples of the era. Ultimately, an appreciation of the composer's music for Airplane! depends on the same level of appreciation for the film, a circumstance that again exists in correlation with many of Bernstein's comedy scores of the era.

Learn about

A belated LP release in 1980 was not a product faithful to the score (it was a song-riddled irritation with limited Bernstein material included), and it took until 1997 before the first bootleg of the score was filtered to soundtrack collectors. That bootleg combined 40 minutes of Airplane! music with Bernstein's score for the 1978 television adaptation of Little Women that aired on NBC. As expected, Bernstein's tone for this Alcott story is quietly restrained, often limited to solo woodwinds and whimsical string themes, with occasional honky tonk Western rhythms breaking the monotony. Unfortunately, this bootleg suffered from terrible sound quality, ruining Airplane! completely and doing slightly more justice to Little Women. As such, the pressing was completely unacceptable and an item to be ignored. Several years later, a more loyal bootleg with Bernstein's almost complete Airplane! score appeared from the isolated DVD score track, breaking the cues into film order, supplying the source songs, and, most importantly, presenting the score in glorious sound quality. For several years, that 2005 album was a very satisfying entry in many Bernstein collections, though to give the score the legitimate treatment it well deserved, La-La Land Records included Airplane! as one of its limited offerings (of 3000 pressings) in 2009. Advertised as the first of the label's foray into the vaults at Paramount, the product sold out from the label within a month but was still available from soundtrack specialty outlets for about $20 thereafter. Rearranging the cues a bit and providing alternative takes and rejected material amounting to only about ten minutes of notable additional music, the 2009 album is a comprehensive and carefully assembled product that still suffers from inherent continuity issues due to the score's wildly shifting personalities. For casual collectors, the 2005 bootleg will suffice, for the sound quality on the 2009 product is not significantly different. Either is a vast improvement over the 1997 bootleg that held the spot on the shelf warm for these far more engaging and loyal presentations. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Airplane!: ****
    Little Women (TV): ***
    1997 Bootleg: *
    2005 Bootleg: ****
    2009 La-La Land Records Album: ****

Bias Check:For Elmer Bernstein reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.33 (in 18 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.13 (in 9,591 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.38 Stars
Smart Average: 3.31 Stars*
***** 61 
**** 52 
*** 38 
** 25 
* 34 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
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 Track Listings (1997 Bootleg): Total Time: 64:40

• 1. (2:26)
• 2. (2:42)
• 3. (2:56)
• 4. (2:58)
• 5. (2:51)
• 6. (2:30)
• 7. (2:10)
• 8. (1:37)
• 9. (1:26)
• 10. (3:15)
• 11. (2:49)
• 12. (2:22)
• 13. (2:10)
• 14. (1:52)
• 15. (1:06)
• 16. (3:47)
Little Women:
• 17. Suite I (7:19)
• 18. Suite II (6:25)
• 19. Suite III (11:16)

No track titles

 Track Listings (2005 Bootleg): Total Time: 45:06

• 1. Opening Titles (1:44)
• 2. LAX (0:53)
• 3. Elaine and Ted (0:46)
• 4. LAX Continued (0:33)
• 5. Donation and the Plane (0:19)
• 6. Tickets (0:50)
• 7. Ted Finds Elaine (0:29)
• 8. Take Off (1:25)
• 9. Airborne (0:19)
• 10. Reminiscing (1:00)
• 11. Bar Fight (0:43)
• 12. Love Theme (Lounge) (0:23)
• 13. The Beach (2:02)
• 14. Elaine and Ted (1:10)
• 15. Flashback Dissolve (0:08)
• 16. The Molombo Tribe (0:44)
• 17. Remembering George Zip (0:28)
• 18. First Illness (0:34)
• 19. Clarence is Out (0:23)
• 20. Roger is Out (0:48)
• 21. Declaring an Emergency (0:19)
• 22. Oveur is Out (0:56)
• 23. Otto to the Rescue (0:40)
• 24. "Get Me Rex Kramer" (0:18)
• 25. Elaine Services Otto (1:14)
• 26. Elaine on the PA (0:16)
• 27. Tension Theme (0:04)
• 28. Cockpit Controls (0:39)
• 29. Kramer on the Road (0:14)
• 30. Ted at the Controls (0:28)
• 31. Nose Dive (0:29)
• 32. Ted Recovers (0:14)
• 33. Attacking Solicitors (0:33)
• 34. Kramer Signs On (0:38)
• 35. Off the Autopilot (0:50)
• 36. Got to Concentrate (0:12)
• 37. Radar Range (0:21)
• 38. The News Spreads (0:50)
• 39. Ted Loses Confidence (0:30)
• 40. Win One for the Zipper (2:28)
• 41. The Decision to Land (0:22)
• 42. Elaine Confesses Love (0:28)
• 43. Preparing to Land (0:12)
• 44. The Landing (4:05)
• 45. Success (0:33)
• 46. Finale (1:15)
• 47. Airplane Suite (4:19)
• 48. Lounge Music - source music (0:28)
• 49. Stayin Alive - source music (3:42)
• 50. The River of Jordan - source music (1:24)
• 51. Respect - source music (0:15)
• 52. WZAZ - source music (0:09)

 Track Listings (2009 La-La Land Album): Total Time: 52:21

• 1. Main Title## (1:54)
• 2. Kiss Off (0:48)
• 3. Ambulance Arrives* (0:32)
• 4. Hari Krishna/Ticket/Nervous** (2:45)
• 5. Lisa/Farewell/Take Off**/Another Meeting (3:18)
• 6. Fighting Girls (0:47)
• 7. Love Theme from Airplane! (1:07)
• 8. From Here to There (2:08)
• 9. Head/Memory (1:14)
• 10. Shimmer/Molumbo (1:02)
• 11. Zip/Eggs/Roger, Take Over (2:34)
• 12. Wild Violins/Sickness/Idea (2:26)
• 13. Thar She Blows!/Flash/Panel (2:23)
• 14. "Where the Hell is Kramer?"*/Trouble (1:02)
• 15. Mayday (0:56)
• 16. Punch-Up/Kramer (1:14)
• 17. Clumsy (0:56)
• 18. Dog Fight/Failure/Pep Talk/ Notre Dame Victory March***/Master (3:45)
• 19. News (0:56)
• 20. "Runway is Niner"*/"The Gear is Down and We're Ready to Land"** (1:03)
• 21. Crasher (4:02)
• 22. Resolution/Tag# (1:52)
• 23. Notre Dame Victory March*** (2:01)

Bonus Tracks:
• 24. Tavern (0:35)
• 25. Everything's Coming Up Roses* - written by Stephen Sondheim and Jule Steyn (0:20)
• 26. Instruments (0:13)
• 27. Disco** (0:31)
• 28. Kiss Off (Alternate)* (0:47)
• 29. Fighting Girls (Alternate)* (0:44)
• 30. From Here to There (Instrumental) (2:08)
• 31. Molumbo (Alternate)* (0:52)
• 32. Zip (Original Version) (0:32)
• 33. News (Alternates)* (1:49)
• 34. Dog Fight (Short Version) (0:37)
• 35. "Runway is Niner" (Alternate)* (0:31)
• 36. "The Gear is Down and We're Ready to Land" (Alternate)* (0:30)
• 37. Tag (Instrumental)# (1:15)

* entire track not contained in film
** contains music not used in film
*** contains "Notre Dame Victory March" by Michael J. Shea, J.H. O'Donnell & John F. Shea
# contains "1812 Overture, Op. 49" by Peter Tchaikovsky
## contains "Theme from Jaws" by John Williams

 Notes and Quotes:  

Neither bootleg's insert includes extra information about the score or film. The 2009 La-La Land album contains extensive notation about both the film and score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Airplane! are Copyright © 1997, 2005, 2009, Bootleg, Bootleg, La-La Land Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/16/97 and last updated 7/12/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.