In this paper we contrast the early impact stage of a highly viscous drop onto a liquid versus a solid substrate. Water drops impacting at low velocities can rebound from a solid surface without contact. This dynamic is mediated through lubrication of a thin air layer between the liquid and solid. Drops can also rebound from a liquid surface, but only for low Weber numbers. Impacts at higher velocities in both cases lead to circular contacts which entrap an air disc under the centre of the drop. Increasing the drop viscosity produces extended air films for impacts on a smooth solid surface even for much larger velocities. These air films eventually break through random wetting contacts with the solid. Herein we use high-speed interferometry to study the extent and thickness profile of the air film for a large-viscosity drop impacting onto a viscous film of the same liquid. We demonstrate a unified scaling of the centreline height of the air film for impacts on both solid and liquid, when using the effective impact velocity. On the other hand, we show that the large-viscosity liquid film promotes air films of larger extent. Furthermore, the rupture behaviour becomes fundamentally different, with the air film between the two compliant surfaces being more stable, lacking the random wetting patches seen on the solid. We map the parameter range where these air films occur and explore the transition from gliding to ring contact at the edge of the drop dimple. After the air film ruptures, the initial contraction occurs very rapidly and for viscosities greater than 100 cSt the retraction velocity of the air film is s ∼0.3 m s−1 , independent of the liquid viscosity and impact velocity, in sharp contrast with theoretical predictions.