The Horror at 37,000 Feet
Year of Release: 1973
Running Time: 73 minutes (1:13)
Director: David Lowell Rich
Chuck Connors ... Captain Ernie Slade
Jane Merrow ... Sheila O'Neill
Roy Thinnes ... Alan O'Neill
William Shatner ... Paul Kovalik
Lynn Loring ... Manya
Tammy Grimes ... Mrs. Pinder
Buddy Ebsen ... Glenn Farlee
Paul Winfield ... Dr. Enkalla
France Nuyen ... Annalik
Will Hutchins ... Steve Holcomb
Darleen Carr ... Margot
Brenda Benet ... Sally
Russell Johnson ... Jim Hawley
H.M. Wynant ... Frank Driscoll
Mia Bendixsen ... Jodi
On a flight from London to Los Angeles, a wealthy architect and his wife have rented out a jumbo jet's entire cargo hold to transport a precious artifact - an altar from an ancient abbey. But they're unaware of its deadly secret.
The Horror at 37,000 Feet, remindin' us why you should always slap a "Jesus is my Co-Pilot" bumper sticker on your 777. Pretty much gotta do it or else evil Druid spirits from Manchester get the idea they can just waltz into your cargo hold an start broadcastin' Satanic madlibs over the complimentary headset an turn the flight engineer into a frozen Banquet TV dinner.
An speakin' of needin' Jesus, Billy Hilliard an me finally got our day in court over that little scuffle we had at the dump last summer with those two Idaho Speds that tried stealin' our scroungins. I tell ya, the wheels of justice in this town'd turn a whole lot quicker if the guy runnin' it'd quit feedin' that hamster so many Big Macs. I don't wanna be rude or anything, but when it takes the judge 20 minutes an a step ladder to get onto the bench, it might be time to put the guy out to pasture. Anyway, I think the easiest way to summarize the proceedins'll be to just copy/paste the court transcript, so if you don't wanna be spoilered before Monday's Chickawalka Talka comes out, stop readin' here (Incidentally, I apologize if the review's late. It took forever to delete all the stupid numbers in the left hand margin. The heck're those things for anyway?)
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Mr. Prosecutor, your opening statement, and justification for that ridiculous getup, please.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers (aka, the jackass in the Jimmy Swaggart telethon suit): Yuh honah, I intend tuh prove beyond a shadah of a doubt that these two men assaulted mah clients with malice in theya hahts and profits on theya mahnds on the day in question, and that they ah both psychologically damaged and unfit to reentah so-ciety as a result of theya employment at that dey-un of antiquity; the Grahm Tahm Drahv Ey-un. Ya see yuh honah, it's these "feelms" that's done this to these boas. Fuh instance, the very week of the attack, the defendunts ah known to have witnessed somethun' called "Moon of the Wolf" at theya place of employment. A feelm that depicts a wayahwulf killin' innocent suthunahs without propah cause oah justification, now I ask yew yah honah, what kinda "may-un" would call somethun' like that "entahtainmunt?"
(Court proceedings are temporarily halted as a half dozen individuals in the gallery stand up and begin hooting and hollering their approval of the aforementioned film)
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Order! Order! Sit down you punks! Or I'll cite you for contempt of court and have the bailiff turn you all into Mr. Potato Heads with half the pieces missing!
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Nuthin' furthah, yuh honah.
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Would the defense like to make a statement?
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: Thank you your honor. Let the record show that the defendants, two local boys, raised right here in Chickawalka County (Cletus fires an accusing glare at the two dickweed foreigners upon having made the previous declaration), who have never been convicted of a single felony in their lives, are prepared to open themselves up to the scrutiny of the court, and have invited numerous character witnesses to testify on their behalf, in light of the fact that the prosecution hasn't got diddly squat in the way of evidence and is essentially wasting the court's time. Not to mention the fact that you'd have to be a complete moron to think either one of those two dweebs (as he gestures towards the prosecution table's occupants), or both of them together, could fell Mr. Hilliard with anything less than a Pearl Harbor attack.
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: (after looking over at the two beanpoles with mange and nodding in agreement with Cletus' assessment) Mr. Prosecutor, your first witness.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Yah honah, prosecution calls Mistah Festus Bartholomew Scraggs.
(Scraggs is seated and sworn in)
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Mistah Scraggs, would yew mahnd terribly tellin' the court what happened on the aftahnoon of Monday, June 20th of this past yeah?
Festus Scraggs: Yeah huh, them two (pointing at Billy and me) guys ambushed Spud an I whiles we was lookin' for a birthday present for my liddlest'un, Shakira May.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: So it was the defendunts that brought yew to this lowly state, unable to support yuh eight little 'uns, is this correct?
Festus Scraggs: (after rubbing just above his back brace) That's right, the big black one done it. Done hucked a coffee table at me, he did. Then the little guy jumped on it whiles I was down.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: (to Cletus) Yoah witness!
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: Mr. Scraggs, how many times have you been convicted of assault?
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Objection yah honah!
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Can it Colonel Sanders! The witness will answer the question.
Festus Scraggs: 19 your honor, but I didn't start 6 of them fights. It was them other guys.
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: (facing the jury) Let the record show that the accuser has 19 more assault convictions than my TWO clients put together. Now, Mr. Scraggs, can you tell the court how far away Mr. Hilliard was from you when he "hucked" the coffee table at you?
Festus Scraggs: He was far away as you is.
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: About 15 feet then, you'd say.
Festus Scraggs: Yeah, 'bout that.
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: And you couldn't avoid a 5'x3' piece of furniture being thrown from that distance after observing Mr. Hilliard rare back? It's not exactly a frisbee, Mr. Scraggs. One would have to assume Mr. Hilliard, strong as he might be, would have telegraphed the throw, wouldn't you say?
Festus Scraggs: Oh, so it's my fault that big ox threw a table at me then?
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: Not at all. But if it happened as you said, one might get the impression that your reflexes may have been impaired at the time of the incident, given the distance between the two of you, and the amount of time the table took to traverse the distance.
Festus Scraggs: Yeah, maybe I had a few beers that mornin', so? That a crime 'round here?
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: When Sheriff Hardassian... err... Sheriff Arbuckle arrived on the scene you blew a .26 into the breathalyzer Mr. Scraggs.
Festus Scraggs: And? My personal best is a .31
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: (after rubbing the bridge of his nose) You must be very proud, Mr. Scraggs.
Festus Scraggs: Goll dang right! It was on my boy Elwood's first huntin' trip.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Yah honah, I'd like that last remahk strickun from the recahd.
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: On what grounds?
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Yah mean we gotta have reesuns now?!
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Sit down, Ratlock, before I make a call to the IRS and have your Stryker hip replacement class action fees audited!
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: No further questions your honor.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Yuh honah, the prosecution calls Mistah Spud Tiberious Wiggins.
(The court finally notices the accuser's chair closest to the wall is empty)
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Uhm... Mistah Wiggins? Has anyone seen Mistah Wiggins?
Cleave Furguson: (from the audience) If you mean the guy with the Bud Light bottle cap tattooed between his eyes, he crawled over to the window and slipped out right after his buddy rattled off the number of assault charges he'd been booked for.
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Furguson, if you knew about this why didn't you say something sooner?!
Cleave Furguson: (Cleave shrugs) He seemed like a jerk. Plus I wanted to see the look on his face when he remembered we're on the 2nd floor.
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: (Wrathis face-palms and speaks through his hand) Will the defense call its first witness... and get me a scotch, please.
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: The defense calls (censored at defendant's request).
Defense Attorney Cletus Rubenstein: (Cletus points at Smothers) Have at him, champ, he's all yours.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Mistah... this name cain't be real, yuh honah.
Me: Wouldya mind gettin' to the point, Johnny Schlockran, I gotta get home before my dog dumps on the floor.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Ya see yah honah?! No respect for his bettahs!
Me: I left somethin' better'n you in the can before the hearing, Lionel Putz.
Judge Lawrence "Wrathis" Cudgelson: Might I remind you both, that if I die of apathy while you two bitch at each other like a coupla old bitties in the bingo parlor, I *will* be haunting you for the rest of your miserable lives? Because I will. Now shut up and get on with it!
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Young man...
Me: I'm only 4 years younger than you, dumbass.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: (trying to keep the vein in his forehead from bursting) Suh, would it be fay-ah to say that yew struck mah client with a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta hubcap with the een-tent to may-am him fuh lahf?
Me: You expect me to defend myself against somebody who's layin' in the rose hedge outside prayin' for death? If you expect me to answer that you'd best haul his filleted fanny back in here, otherwise, your case against *me* has literally gone out the window. An it was a 1973 Olds Delta cap, ya schmuck.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Yayus, whale, yuh frey-und ovah theya is a little hahd for us nohmal folks to undahstand.
Me: Cause he's black?
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Heavens no boah! Ah love tha black people of this fawn nation! I meant on accounta his tongue disfiggament.
Me: I understand 'im fine. Hey, Mabel! (speaking to the court reporter) You know Billy here, you have a hard time understandin' 'im?
Court Recorder Mabel McGarnagle: His English is fine. Which is more than I can say for Foghorn Leghorn over here (gesturing towards Smothers).
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Yayus, whale, there's still the little mattah of yoah jumpin' on Mistah Scraggs. Nayow, did yew, oah didint yew, break this man's ree-ubs to incapacitate heeum?
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: Ah-ha! He ayd-mits ut!
Me: Yeah huh. Just like in the police report. But you go ahead an finish up that little end zone dance you've been lettin' loose, I think juror #5 (Richard Fawner) is diggin' it.
Prosecutor Archibald Smothers: So yew offa up no defey-unce for yuh axyuns, they'n?
Me: The guy chop blocked my friend's knee cap when his back was turned. If my friend were Dolly Parton or Merle Haggard you'd be on my side, you country fried rube. What's the bar exam like in Arkansas anyhow? They sit you guys down in front of a TV watchin' Judge Judy reruns for 100 hours an anybody who manages to assign the correct outcome 60% of the time passes?
This's about the point where Smothers finally lost it an took a swing at me, effectively endin' the proceedins, an earnin' himself a 3-day coolin' off period in the Crossbar Hotel. Final verdict: Billy an I cleared on all charges, an if Smothers ever sets foot in Wrathis' courtroom again, the judge is gonna call up Richard Moll to twist off Smothers' head faster'n a Hello Kitty gear shifter knob in Arnold Schwarzeneggar's Jeep. Skunky Hernandez even had this big presentation prepared as part "our" defense that showed how everybody who ever went on a murderspree after watchin' a drive-in movie did so as a result of skank rocks or "an unstable living environment," an that the movies had nothin' to do with it. Course he got thrown out for tryin' to give it after Wrathis had already cleared the courtroom, but I guess he meant well. Anyhow, the important thing is that Billy an me regained our dignity in time for Skunky's screenin' of The Corpse Vanishes at the Grime Time. I also learned that the price tag on dignity runs exactly $1247.68 for a case that lasted approximately 24 minutes, which means I'm gonna be projectin' movies for Skunky for the next... 23 years to foot the bill. I may needa look into sellin' my dignity over at Walleye's Topless Dancin' & Bait Shop in case I decide I'd like to retire someday.
Course I don't wanna let a little thing like almost goin' to prison for eight years get in the way of what's really important in life, so we should prolly get down to business an talk about The Horror at 37,000 Feet. Not to be confused with Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, where William Shatner gets upstaged by a guy in a suit from a community theater production of The Teddy Bears' Picnic. In this flick Shatner gets upstaged by Jed Clampett tryin' to sacrifice Jane Merrow to Stonehenge to save his own greedy hide so, as you can see, we've got very different dynamics at work in this one. Now I know whatcher thinkin'; you're thinkin' "It's a PG rated made for TV flick from 45 years ago starrin' out of work series actors who only did it to make their mortage payments. There's nothin' we can learn from this, an besides, you prattled on for so long about your stupid court case that the least you could do is get to the gott-danged movie!" But that's where you're wrong, cause the least I could do is review The Neverending Story an make you all throw up into your keyboards. We're gonna do this BY THE BOOK, so straighten up an absorb the following information, cause nobody else is gonna have the guts to include 'em in the airplane safety instructions. First, there are certain exceptions to the law that forbids destroying currency, an pretty high on that list is usin' said bills to fuel the fire that's keepin' vengeful Celtic phantasms at bay. Second, religious persecution on board an airplane is suddenly a big problem when it happens to Christians. An third, nobody who's ever been in a Walmart is likely to find fault in a religion that employs child sacrifice.
But ya know, there's more to this flick than just a buncha character actors wanderin' around an airplane cabin for 70 minutes. Matter of fact, I think this movie features one of the most practical, untapped ideas in the age of modern aeronautics. All we need is somebody with entrepreneurial vision an a big wad of cash to get this idea off the ground, an I guarantee it'll revolutionize the travel industry. Now, ask yourself: what's the worst thing about air travel? Go ahead an think it over. I know the list is pretty long, but you'll eventually come to the answer, an I think that once it hits you'll it'll be pretty obvious we're talkin' about kids. They kick the back of your seat, run up an down the aisles an knock over the cocktail cart (thus depriving you of your one means of escape from their intercontinental carnage), an play water park in the can, but what can you do? I'll tell ya what - make the sacrificial child altar from this flick a standard feature for all airlines, an just watch how quick those little bastards straighten up. Maybe have the stewardesses lead all the passengers down to the cargo hold during the pre-flight safety rules an toss a Betsy Wetsy onto it to demonstrate what'll happen to the little boogers if they don't mind their manners, then point out some random kid an say "that could be you, Billy." There won't be a peep outta any kid over four years old for the duration of the flight, guaranteed, an the best part is, everyone wins. The passengers get a relaxing flight, an the vengeful dead get placated with the souls of the occasional loud-mouthed monster. At least SOMEBODY'D be gettin' fed on the flights this way. So if any airline executives're readin' this an wanna get in on the ground floor, just shoot me an email an we'll hammer out the details.
The movie begins at the London airport where this snotty well-to-douche couple (Sheila an Alan O'Neill) is payin' to have the wife's ancestral Celtic altar carted back to America so they can set it up in the backyard of their suburban bungalow an see how long it takes for the neighbors to call the homeowner's association an claim they're Satanists. Also on board are Mrs. Pinder (the woman who spends the entire movie lookin' like Marilyn Burns durin' the last 20 minutes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), William Shatner (the defrocked alcoholic priest who speaks entirely in metaphors and/or haiku), Manya (Shatner's lady friend who looks an acts exactly like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, only with a red wig), Buddy Ebsen (who's apparently still got all the money he made while shootin' at some food, but who's also become a complete dick after bein' cancelled), Dr. Enkalla (the live an let live voice of reason whose nickname at the hospital hasta be "Switzerland"), Steve Holcomb (the rhinestone cowpie), two stewardesses (Margot an Sally), a model who don't talk much cause photographers hate that (Annalik), Jodi (the child tragically born without parents) an the flight crew consisting of Captain Chuck Connors, co-pilot Frank Driscoll, an The Professor from Gilligan's Island (flight engineer Jim). So anyway, once the luggage monkeys forklift Tiahuanaco into the cargo hold an tank the plane's miles per gallon ratio to about 30' per, the plane takes off an Pinder drags 'er proletariat hinder up to first class so she can tell the O'Neills that movin' the altar is sacrilege an basically act like Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th, until Margot forces 'er back to coach with the rest of the rabble. Then Margo hasta hassle Will about the homemade WD-40 & Vodka cocktail thermos he snuck on board (they call it a "Shatnered Dream"), but he just kinda ignores 'er an puts on this smug "my other ship is the Enterprise" look, an while that's goin' on Alan get's P.O.'d at Sheila an leaves 'er to listen to one of those headsets they used to pass out on airlines back before all the pilots started gettin' hammered before their flights, but the only station she can get tuned in sounds like a buncha old women in the nursing home pawin' an pinchin' at a baby. Meanwhile, in the cockpit, Chuck an The Professor're gettin' just a little bit weirded out by the fact that the plane seems to be fightin' a jetstream of hot air seldom witnessed outside a Sean Spicer press briefing, which is literally stopping the plane from moving forward, an causin' a rash of U.F.O. sightings to flood the offices at the British Ministry of Defense.
This does not go unnoticed by Buddy, who tells Margot to go talk to Chuck an find out why the plane's circlin' around like the baggage carousel at Heathrow, only while she's doin' that, somethin' inside the shipping container is threatenin' to bust out like Jayne Mansfield out of a bra from Dollar General. Then Sheila starts hearin' the ants from Them! inside 'er skull an ends up faintin' an speakin' in Klingon an causin' Will's career to flash before his eyes, while Dr. Enkalla goes to ask Alan if that's normal. Elsewhere, Margo's in the kitchen thawin' out the in-flight jellied eel meals for the passengers, when she starts hearin' what sounds like an 8-track of the Stones' "Mother's Little Helper" bein' chewed up by the tape deck in an AMC Matador. She tries takin' the elevator upstairs up to warn Chuck, but pretty quick it quits movin' an starts fillin' up with dry ice fog an purt'near freeze dries 'er like a jar of Folgers Classic Roast before some of the passengers hear 'er screamin' an haul 'er up through the ceilin' hatch. Then Margo storms the cockpit like an Iranian hijacker an tells the flight crew there must be a blow out on account of 'er just about freezin' 'er English muffins off in the elevator, an Chuck gets this look on his face like Kellyanne Conway just walked in wearin' a dominatrix outfit an started slappin' the palm of 'er hand with a ridin' crop. So now Chuck an The Professor hafta head down to the cargo hold to find out who's brilliant idea it was to convert the elevator into a freeze tunnel, an once they force their way into the hold they find Pinder's dog cryogenically frozen like Walt Disney's head an the next thing you know The Professor gets turned into an Otter Pop. Then whatever-it-is grabs Chuck an gives 'im the coldest shoulder on record prior to the one Prince Charles got when he told Mama he was datin' Camilla Parker Bowles, an pretty quick Chuck's discarded jacket starts burpin' up seaweed facial products all over the shag carpet. By this point, it's pretty obvious that whatever's in the hold wants to ground Chuck, an after a cursory examination of his arm, Dr. Enkalla tells 'im that he's got third degree freezer burns an that he's prescribin' the use of the Ziploc "yellow and blue makes green seal" if he intends to spend anymore time in the hold. Meanwhile, Pinder's back in the cheap seats with the other passengers gleefully explainin' all about the sacrificial altar in the hold an how the Druids used to host H.P. Lovecraft book club meetins an worship the "old ones." Then the door to the hold blows open an starts blastin' the AC an freezin' everybody to death like the toilet seat in a Norwegian outhouse an just about turns Sally into the Minnesota Icema'am.
So, with that little incident in the books, His Shatness decides it'd be a good time to down another carafe of Gin & Lighter Fluid an inform everybody that the speech Sheila made while she was passed out was part of a black mass, at which point Pinder helpfully informs everyone that Sheila's great to the 6th power granddaddy was burned at the stake for worshippin' Cthulhu an conductin' child sacrifices, an that the evil hippy nature ghosts down in the bagcave want Sheila. From this, the wise council of defunct sitcom stars determines there's only one thing left to do; dress Jodi's doll up like Sheila, paint its face to resemble Hawk from The Legion of Doom, an sacrifice it to the gods of Fischer Price. Unfortunately, the offering proves light, an when Sheila goes upstairs to redeem her frequent cryer miles, Pinder follows 'er an reminds 'er that everyone's about to be Stonehenged to death if she doesn't get with the program an offer 'erself to the ghost of Aleister Crowley. Course, Shatner's also staggered upstairs by the time Pinder uncorks her rant about the greater good, an once he finishes waxin' skeptic about 'er tales of theological karmic realignment, he risks blowin' up the entire plane by lightin' a cigarette just inches from his 90 proof breath. Any sensible person could see why Pinder might recoil from The Shat's flick of the Bic, after all, she don't wanna end up lookin' like Richard Pryor after a freebase binge. But Will can smell 'er fear through the cloud of Avon perfume an pressurized cabin stank, an pretty quick his booze-addled brain starts thinkin' back to seminary where he an the resta the priests'd light bonfires on the Solstice an ignite Resusci Anne dolls to practice their witch burnin' skills to prepare for any potential Pagan incursions, an so he an the rest of the passengers light a fire next to the cargo hold in blatant defiance of the No Smoking lights. Unfortunately, The Shatman's really done a job on the mini-bar, an since it'd be unethical to murder the priest an wring out his liver like a wet towel to keep the fire goin', Alan heads into the cockpit an instructs Chuck to point the plane's nose toward the heavens so's they can get closer to the sunrise an vanquish the horrible night like Simon Belmont. Bad news though, cause despite the fact that the fire's broken the Druids' tractor beam an allowed the plane to rise high enough to see daylight, none of the ladies're willin' to burn their bras when it really matters to keep the fire goin', an pretty quick Buddy starts tryin' to stuff Sheila into the hold to save his lily white Clampett keister. Gonna cut it off here, but you might wanna check this thing out for yourselves just to find out whether or not Captain Kirk goes down with the ship.
Alrighty, well, The Horror at 37,000 Feet is another toothless made-for-TV movie from the '70s that relies heavily on the unseen with the hopes that you'll believe it's a legitimate choice, when the reality is that there wasn't any money to do special effects even if the network executives had the gumption to risk their precious PG rating. Which was kinda dangerous back in 1973 because there was no PG-13, so essentially if you went too far and they slapped an R on ya the movie generally ended up in that coveted 1am time slot on a Tuesday night. Not exactly something the director wants to happen when you figure he needs folks to actually see his movie in hopes that somebody'll call him up and offer to let him direct a coupla episodes of Magnum P.I. while the regular studio director's in drug rehab. But what I wanna know is; who thought it was a good idea to freeze the dog to death? I mean, they don't actually show it bein' turned into a head of iceberg lettuce, but you do see the *aftermath* of the freeze dried Fido situation, so why do that in a movie you know isn't gonna be allowed to push the envelope? One of the big rules of horror is that you never kill the dog unless you're makin' a flick twisted enough to score laughs at Michael Vick's house. So normally when the director decides to kill the dog it's to let the audience know that the seas are about to get rough, which actually makes sense, because if that kinda thing bothers somebody they're then able to change channels in disgust. Here, they murder the pooch and proceed to kill off just ONE person throughout the entire movie, which they don't even bother to show. You can only generate so much outrage in ANY movie, and the exchange rate on dogs to people is generally about the same as the number of human years bein' converted to dog years, so when you kill the dog, that's about six less people you're allowed to kill, and ironically, this flick coulda used a lot more senseless death to help trim down on all the character backstories. I'm prolly overthinkin' this, but that's what happens when the story slogs along like a mammoth caught in a tar pit. These days we expect a little more than a 620mph head wind, spooky voices over the airplane headsets, and herbal essences face gunk bubblin' up outta Chuck Connors' jacket, ya know? It's also one of those flicks where you don't have a well defined central character, which generally doesn't work. See, I watch this thing and assume Jane Merrow is the main protagonist, but the credits actually list Chuck Connors first, and given the way the editing bounces around almost equally between six people it's difficult to say who's truly the focal point here. That approach worked pretty well for Hide and Go Shriek, but that movie was based on the tried and true slasher premise that states: "if you kill them, the fans will come," where this flick is supposed to be story driven. I really don't understand exactly what they were going for on this, but I do know it's slooooooooooow.
In any event, let's thaw this thing out and see if it's still got any life in it after all these years. The plot, slow as it may be, is certainly different. At least in the sense that they've put good use to that time-tested gimmick of changing absolutely nothing but the setting and hoping no one notices. Cause really, when you get down to it, it's basically just The Haunting on a plane. I dunno about anybody else, but for my money, evil spirit movies work much better when they're possessing someone's body. That's a good, basic indicator for whether or not to get your hopes up about any movie with the word "haunting" in its title. There's also way too much plot gettin' in the way of the story here, particularly in the form of supporting cast backstory. This movie's got more padding than Melissa McCarthy's backside, only with none of her more redeeming qualities, and for that reason a movie that's only 73 minutes long feels like 173. The acting is kinda disappointing when you consider the sheer number of TV stars the cast boasts. Granted, it is interesting to see Buddy Ebsen playing a self-centered jackass after his years on The Beverly Hillbillies, but most of the cast is either outright dull, or playing a role you've already seen before. Lynn Loring for instance, is pretty much doing the Mia Farrow thing from Rosemary's Baby, sans baby, and both Shatner and Connors are essentially just going through the motions. The one saving grace is Tammy Grimes as the unbalanced, "not sure if she's possessed, a religious whackadoo, or both" Mrs. Pinder. She's definitely the best thing the movie has going for it, and she does most of her best work without even speaking. Almost reminds you of Jack Nicholson in The Shining after he finally goes psycho, only a lot more restrained. Still, at the end of the day, the big TV names really only serve to make the movie an interesting time capsule, rather than adding any kind of life to the movie.
Here's who matters and why (less William Shatner and Buddy Ebsen, who should be familiar to most people): Chuck Connors (Soylent Green, High Desert Kill, Maniac Killer, Werewolf the series, Tourist Trap, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City), Tammy Grimes (The Stuff), Lynn Loring (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun), Jane Merrow (Hands of the Ripper, The Appointment, Island of the Burning Damned, The Woman Who Wouldn't Die, The Phantom of the Opera 1962), France Nuyen (Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Deathmoon, Dimension 5), Roy Thinnes (Invasion of the Mind Benders, Rush Week, Satan's School for Girls, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun), Paul Winfield (The Terminator, Star Trek II, Mars Attacks!, Dead of Night, The Legend of Gatorface, The Serpent and the Rainbow, White Dog, Damnation Alley), Darleen Carr (Piranha 1995), Russell Johnson (This Island Earth, The Space Children, Attack of the Crab Monsters, It Came from Outer Space), H.M. Wynant (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Trail of the Screaming Forehead, Solar Crisis, Earthbound, Hangar 18, The Stranger 1973), Mia Bendixsen (Prophecy), Gerald Peters (Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again), Robert Donner (Damnation Alley). Of course, being a made for TV movie, it's comprised almost entirely of series stars, so the list of mainstream credits is fairly lengthy as well. But let's not be too hard on 'em, after all, not everyone has what it takes to be a horror genre regular, so here's the list of the sinners and their respective sins: Chuck Connors (The Sarge in Airplane II, Jason McCord on Branded, Lucas McCain on The Rifleman, Burn Sanderson in Old Yeller), Jane Merrow (Alais in The Lion in Winter), France Nuyen (Ying Ying in The Joy Luck Club, Dr. Paulette Kiem on St. Elsewhere), Roy Thinnes (Nick Hogan on Falcon Crest, David Vincent on The Invaders), Paul Winfield (Julian Barlow on 227), Darleen Carr (Doris in The Beguiled), Robert Donner (Deputy Collins in Vanishing Point, Exidor on Mork and Mindy, Yancy Tucker in The Waltons).
The special effects are pretty pitiful, in the sense that the only true effects are the frozen dog (which is decent), and the model plane (which they had to use, because it's kinda hard to light an actual airplane as it flies through the night sky), which sucks. No blood, no guts, no nothin'. As Trump would say, "VERY UNFAIR." The shooting location I kinda like, particularly since it's one of those double-decker planes that you don't see as often in the movies. I'm assuming it was a set rather than a real plane based upon just how wide the interior is, but I really don't know for sure. My argument against it being a set would be monetary in nature, as it would obviously be cheaper to shoot in a real plane if space was adequate, but then, when it's the only set (I'm pretty sure the opening scene in the airport gate was an actual airport) you'd need to build, it may not be *that* expensive. Either way, the plane looks great, so it's really not that important. The soundtrack is pretty dated and has that made-for-TV sound about it, complete with those really shrill pieces that always crop up as a lead-in to the commercial fadeouts. As you might expect, it's not terribly catchy or memorable, but it does have that "mystery" feel to it that a lot of these movies employ to help build a little tension now and again. So while it's really mundane and hasn't aged well, it was appropriate for its time, and establishes the desired tone for the scenes during which they play. Overall, I really don't feel like I can pass this one. It's serviceable on a technical level, but fails to hold the viewer's attention sufficiently and lacks the baseline level of thrills necessary to inspire even the slightest bit of enthusiasm. It may still be of interest to genre fans who enjoy flicks that value the horrors of the unseen and/or implied, but if that's not your style, I'd skip it.