|Brenda Benet and Chuck Connors|
Movies began being made just for TV, spearheaded by CBS and ABC in the US, who were committed to producing family fare much removed from an increasingly explicit mainstream cinema. Probably it was a more cost-effective way of exploiting the newer medium – a low-cost ad-revenue-based model.
|Buddy Ebsen, Lynn Loring, France Nuyen and Paul Winfield are shocked!|
So it was that films like The Horror at 37,000 Feet were unleashed on the Saturday night public with special effects strictly limited to a not too convincing model 747, moody gurgling carpets and the odd flash of light.
This may have been the first time I’ve seen this film in over forty years (yikes!) and it still projects a residual impact: Shatner’s acting, David Lowell Rich’s well-disciplined direction and what I can now see as more than just fresh-faced charm from the lovely and then ubiquitous Darleen Carr… This is a visit to my primal televisual state when that tiny curved screen in the living room opened up the World to my pre-teen eyes.
The flight is captained by Captain Ernie Slade (chiselled Chuck Connors) a man of heroic bearing who you’d trust to ride any horse and fly any plane… he’s aided by second-in-command Jim Hawley (Russell Johnson) and navigator Frank Driscoll (H.M. Wynant).
Naturally, there are two pretty
stewardesses, super Sally (Brenda Benet) and the lithe Margot (Miss Carr) whose
short skirt and tight-fitting, leg-revealing stewardess uniform provokes that
instant connection with youthful response: topped off with her regular
open-featured prettiness and you have the epitome of the American TV girl of
the period. It may be just me but… I remember you well Darleen.
|Darleen and Buddy|
Of course she’s also a fine actress and she’s going need to be if we’re to survive the next 73 minutes…
|Jane Merrow and Roy Thinnes|
Objecting to all this, in the weirdest-possible terms, is the earnest Mrs. Pinder (Tammy Grimes) a woman from Sheila’s parish who understands far more about the true significance of the remains… she makes one last plea for O’Neill to abandon his plan before promising that he will regret it… In practical terms her intervention is a little late as the relic is all packed up in the hold and they are about to take off but… you know. Mrs Pinder has brought her dog along which is odd especially given the British control on animal movement… she must be thinking of more than a short stay in America as these things take so long to sort out…
|Mrs Pinder issues a grave warning...|
Sheila tries to distract herself with music but her headphones don’t work allowing garish ageing cowboy actor, Steve Holcomb (Will Hutchins – an ageing cowboy actor…) to try it on… he strikes out but those headphones… there’s an other-worldly noise coming through… it’s chilling, she can’t listen and pulls the phones off: it’s been a stressful few days but she ain’t seen nothing yet.
There’s kindly Doctor Enkalla (Paul Winfield) and a young girl Jodi (Mia Bendixsen) who is travelling alone – why is there always a young girl travelling alone? All part of the arcane conventions of the airplane movie…
|Bill is always brilliant!|
All is now in place for the demonic dance to begin…the mysterious object in the hold gets cold and freezes Mrs Pinder’s dog in an instant, as the cold mist spreads it’s also clear that the plane simply isn’t moving… almost as if something didn’t want to be flown from England to America… The emanating evil spreads and soon the body count begins: as the passengers become more revolting is there any way out that avoids human sacrifice and their reversion to savages?!
Dusty verdict: In truth it’s hard not to enjoy this film. The story may be as thin as Gaelic mist but the cast certainly believe in it and give their all with some fine character work. Of course no harm is done by the frequent deployment of Darleen Carr’s legs in key shots but she also acts up a storm as do Jane Merrow, Chuck Connors and Tammy Grimes in particular. Bill Shatner? He does very well – yes there’s the occasional mad-eyed glint, like Kirk under alien influence, but he’s having a ball and hasn’t overlooked the fact that this stuff needs to be fun.
Well worth seeking out on DVD from Amazon and elsewhere…
|This ain't Texas Tea...|
|Not a real plane|
|Here's the holding bay|
|More storage over here.|
|Wide aisles for passenger comfort|
|Exceptional all round.|