The late Leslie Nielsen first gained comic notoriety for the 1980 film Airplane!, which is often portrayed as a parody of 1970s-era disaster films like Airport. In fact Airplane! was a satirical remake of the little-known 1957 film Zero Hour! Filmmakers Jerry Zucker, David Zucker, and Jim Abrahms were taping late-night television commercials, looking for material to spoof, when they realized the movie that was airing “around” the commercials — Zero Hour! — provided a riper target.
A number of scenes and dialogue in Airplane! are lifted directly from Zero Hour!, as this montage demonstrates:
The Zucker-Abrahms group acquired the legal rights to Zero Hour! to avoid any problems. But the point here is that far from devaluing the original film or “pirating” anyone’s “intellectual property,” the Airplane! creators took an otherwise forgettable movie and reworked it into a modern comedy classic. Sure, the initial idea wasn’t original. But artistic success isn’t about “originality” so much as it’s about having the talent to execute — or re-execute — an idea in such a way as to create value in the minds of consumers.