It’s time once more to venture back to the small screen of terrors that consumed one’s attention throughout the 70s and 80s with such creations known as Duel (1971), Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981), and of course Trilogy of Terror (1975), these were average classics, not that of the Syfy questionable taste faire. On Tuesday, February 13th, 1973 CBS, premiered director David Lowell (Satan’s School for Girls ), a scant 73-minute long feature, he was well-accomplished in creative entertainment for TV-movies and understood the formula for those productions. While this film, is clearly about an airplane, it’s interesting enough David would go on to do three other films on the subject from 1977 to 1980, and obviously swept up in the disaster-craze films that dominated the dramatic market for a while.
Airplanes is just one place for horror to take genre fans to new heights (pun intended), flight always has been an arena for anxiety and fear, from the recent spread of virus and contagions, to animals running amok from Snakes on a Plane to Ghosts and relations to ancient cultures. The monsters come in all forms Altitude (2010), Airborne (2012), Flight 666 (2018) and no one can forget the zombies, of the fun b-movie Flight of the Living Dead (2007), however before all this it was The Horror at 37,000 Feet.
The story begins at London’s Heathrow Airport, where a flight crew prepare for a lengthy night-time jaunt to Los Angeles, among them Captain Ernie Slade (Chuck Connors (Summer Camp Nightmare )) , his assistants Jim Hawley (Russell Johnson (Attack of the Crab Monsters )) and Frank Discoll (H.M. Wynant); his two flight attendants Margot (Darleen Carr) and Sally (Brenda Benet) since not many passengers for the trip. As always the case with flight movies, it becomes an easy and yes, cliché manner to introduce the passengers in a proficient and quick manner. Among them and most notable is a boozer and defrocked priest named Paul Kovalik (William Shatner (Range 15 )) and his friend Manya (Lynn Loring (Don’t Go to Sleep )), then know-it-all rich bossy guy named Glenn Farlee (Buddy Ebsen) enjoys drinking and calls the ladies ‘honey’. A few other notables is a strange woman named Mrs. Pinder (Tammy Grimes) and very important married couple architect Alan O’Neill (Roy Thinnes (The Norliss Tapes )) and his wife Sheila (Jane Merrow), who has placed an ancient artifacts from the Druids in the cargo hold which came to his wife’s family property, this results in Mrs. Pinder spouting numerous warnings, all disregarded. The takeoff is smooth, everything is humming along nicely until suddenly (oh my) the pilots notices they aren’t making any progress, possible strong headwinds, changing direction doesn’t help and worrisome thoughts mount as the fuel dwindles. Herein the story begins to also develop the occult cliché toybox, coldness coming from the cargo hold, oozing slime, a mysterious death and a woman speaking in Latin but not knowing the language; fret not Shatner’s on-board he’s the hero. Nonetheless, what actually makes the story very interesting in that it takes flight from the television series episode on The Twilight Zone: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963), that starred none-other-than Shatner with an evil aboard the plane; too. As which is often in a movie that has priest or any clergy who loses their faith, there’s a situation or occurrence that compels them to return their faith it happened in From Dusk Til Dawn (1996), the character Jacob, and Paul reaffirms his faith and self-sacrifice to protect both the damned and innocent from the evil forces.
There’s some aspects in the film might offend the viewers of today’s political correctness and standards such flight attenders referred to as stewardess, that they wear skimpy looking mini-skirts, boots (style called go-go, it’s the early 70s), in addition referred to ‘baby’ or ‘honey’. Also, one can’t overlook the smoking on a flight aided by style of dress by some of the passengers who stereotypical and full of clichés, but the camp makes it an effective variation in horror, though acknowledge lack of any depth to characters or story, all commonplace for this type of entertainment. The special effects are dated, along with the setting atmosphere, but nothing beats the unintentional laughable smirking conclusion.
If you haven’t seen it, but can’t spare the time, then I have attached the free movie below, and if you’re fan of William Shatner why not, see him in a movie clearly inspired from the Twilight Zone version. There’s no doubt the movie contains silly or even goofy occult themes, and the evil that exists in the ancient carvings never in any manner is explained, and for this short feature it doesn’t require that level of detailing. Sometimes a horror film doesn’t need a lot of explanation just the ability to pass the time and although, note the year 1973, in ten months The Exorcist unleashes itself with all its devilish power, the year had a lot of occult themes being born.
IMDb Rating: 5.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10