From the ostentatious opening titles coupled with Elmer Bernstein's dramatic score, the beginning of Airplane! screams hyper-dramatic disaster movie.
TED STRIKER: I came home early and found your note. I guess you meant for me to read it later. Elaine, I've got to talk to you.
ELAINE: I just don't want to go over it anymore.
These lines, like many others through the film (as you'll soon see), are lifted word for word from Zero Hour!. Without the ZAZ punch lines added on, however, it's just bad dialogue.
TED: My orders came through. My squadron ships out tomorrow. We're bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri at 1800 hours. We're coming in from the north, below their radar.
ELAINE: When will you be back?
TED: I can't tell you that. It's classified.
This scene, a parody of From Here to Eternity, complete with soaring strings and crashing waves, references the classic war movie cliché of the soldier leaving his lover to depart on a secret mission. Of course with Ted's last line, ZAZ throw in a bit of their own absurdist flavor.
RANDY sings "River of Jordan" to the sick young girl, LISA, and accidentally knocks out her IV with the guitar.
A direct parody of a scene from Airport '75,
here's another example of ZAZ using established material as launching points for their own gags—gags which still hold up whether or not you're familiar with the origins.
DR. RUMACK: This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
ELAINE: What do you think it is?
DR. RUMACK: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.
The first two lines are poached explicitly from Zero Hour!, but Rumack's response is classic ZAZ. Here, the filmmakers utilize an otherwise unfunny bit of unoriginal dialogue as setup for a very funny, original joke—a common theme throughout Airplane!.
TED: I flew single engine fighters in the Air Force, but this plane has four engines. It's an entirely different kind of flying. Altogether.
DR. RUMACK & RANDY: It's an entirely different kind of flying.
Guess what movie Ted's line comes from? Yep, it's another tidbit of Zero Hour! dialogue. But once again, ZAZ are able to recognize the potential for humor and add their own punny punch line for another joke.
STEVE MCCROSKEY: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.
ZAZ saw the comedic potential in this cliché one-liner from Zero Hour!, expanding it into a four-part snowballing punch line concerning substances of escalating hazard.
REX KRAMER: Ted, that was probably the lousiest landing in the history of this airport. But there are some of us here, particularly me, who'd like to buy you a drink and shake your hand.
One final totally cliché line from where else but Zero Hour!.Soon Kramer's words of encouragement devolve into an aimless rambling about his own personal problems to which nobody is really listening, a hilariously ironic spin on the grizzled tough guy motif so common in the disaster movie realm.