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SONIC BOOM (1975).

Years before Hollywood started satirized the disaster movie genre with THE BIG BUS and AIRPLANE!, a bunch of U.C.L.A. whippersnappers beat them to the punch with this incredibly ambitious school project (presented "In Total Sensaboom"!). They even managed to sprinkle their 31-minute comedy with recognizable character actors and B-level celebrities. Is it any good? Er... not really... but there's enough scattershot cleverness and offbeat casting to make it a genuine cinematic curiosity... When a French supersonic jet requests permission to land in the tiny California community of Twin Cities, residents are fearful that their children's ears will be blown out by this foreign aircraft's sonic boom and protest before the oblivious county council (chaired by AIRPORT franchise alumnus George Kennedy!). Kristin Harmon (older sister of future NCIS-star Mark Harmon, who we'll get to later) stars as local do-gooder Audrey Maginni, who's so busy trying to "Ban the Boom" that she doesn't realize her frustrated husband (Robert Hogan) is schtupping the Lori Truck (the lovely Tisha Sterling, from COOGAN'S BLUFF and THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL!). Meanwhile, Audrey unsuccessfully attempts to rally the media and even bravely ventures into the "Black community" for the film's biggest, legitimate laugh. With this SST scheduled to land near the mall in only minutes, who will survive?! Absurd cameos abound, with OZZIE & HARRIET teen-heartthrob Ricky Nelson (then married to Kristin Harmon, and who also supplied tunes like "Nighttime Lady" and "So Long, Mamma") getting his van knocked off the road by this super-low-flying jet, that's piloted by smoking, womanizing, baguette-and-garlic-loving French stereotypes played by future LOVE CONNECTION host Chuck Woolery and Ricky's older brother David, with Jo Ann Pflug (Lt. Dish from the big-screen MASH, as well as Woolery's then-current wife) as their stewardess. We get LAUGH-IN's Dick Martin as the local newspaper editor, Kaye Ballard is a greasy spoon waitress with her own laugh track, Firesign Theatre's Phil Proctor dances about as town old fart Bob Bangles, GLEN OR GLENDA's Lyle Talbot plays a French representative, and crooks (led by ADAM-12's Kent McCord) try to tunnel into the local bank. Want more? A doctor (heavily made-up Keith Moon) testifies about this boom's harmful effects, accompanied by footage of an eardrum-burst patient (unrecognizable Sal Mineo), plus Jonathan Winters even pops up an air traffic controller (as well as voicing a seven-year-old pilot he's talking down), with his nervous assistant played by 23-year-old Mark Harmon in his film debut. Yikes! Director Jeff Mandel (ELVES) keeps coherence to a bare minimum, and one of its highlights is a surreal sequence where Audrey and Lori run into each other in a supermarket, wearing identical clothes, with eerily-similar little boys (played by twin brothers Gunnar and Matthew, from the '90s band Nelson), and bonding over a seductive slow-dance. Capped off with a huge shaggy dog joke and theme song crooned by Andy Williams, it's all blissfully irreverent and surprisingly slick, due in large part to cinematographer Baird Bryant (who shot portions of GIMME SHELTER and EASY RIDER, plus Shirley Clarke's THE COOL WORLD). At the opposite end of the artistic spectrum, associate producer Eric Louzil later directed Troma's CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3 and LUST FOR FREEDOM.

© 2013 by Steven Puchalski.