Horror at 37,000 Feet, The
Reviewed by Steve Crow
Rating: 8 Beans
kay, this movie seems to run once a month on TNT, but I remember seeing it when it was first on TV back in ‘72. It's your basic 70's TV horror movie, a genre that brought us few real achievements (the Kolchak/Night Stalker-Strangler movies being the exception, really).
The horror is set aboard a first-class jet airliner with a small group of passengers. Roy Thinnes (The Invaders) and his wife are flying from London with the altar from an ancient abbey in the plane's cargo hold. Soon icy temperatures and moaning spirits make their appearance. First a dog and then the co-pilot (Russell Johnson, the Professor from Gilligan's Island, in a thankless role) are flash-frozen. The plane is caught in a tailwind that won't let them land, green goo is flowing, moss is growing, and the ancient spirits of the druids (or something) apparently want the wife, whose ancestors torqued them off. It's up to retired priest and semi-boozer Paul Kovalik (William Shatner - yes, that William Shatner!) to inspire the understandably nervous passengers and use fire to drive the demons away while Captain Slade (Chuck Connors - yes, that Chuck Connors!) Tries to get the plane up into the sunlight and drive the bad spirits away.
Yes, the movie is just as much a mish-mash as it sounds above. Adding additional hilarity to the proceedings are guest appearances by the likes of Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones, The Beverly Hillbillies), Paul Winfield (Damnation Alley, Star Trek II - his character does survive in this one, though), Tammy Grimes (The Tammy Grimes Show, Can't Stop the Music) and France Nuyen (I Spy, St. Elsewhere, Knots Landing, The Joy Luck Club). Basically this movie is a (very) low-budget version of those airplane disaster movies from the 70's with a touch of the vaguely-defined supernatural thrown in.
Nothing really gets explained, and the ending is a riot. Winfield, playing a doctor of something-or-another, gives Shatner's priest a pep talk into basically killing himself. Grabbing a torch (they don't have enough fuel to keep the fire going another five seconds, but the torch burns for what seems like ten minutes), Shatner wanders back to the cargo hold, confronts...ummm, something (it looks like a Jawa on stilts) and gets blown out the exterior hatch in one of the tackier rear-projection shots you'll ever see. Shatner doesn't even bother to flail his arms or anything.
Granted, the movie is kinda creepy in a few spots. The flash-freezing sequences are shocking, and there's a certain irony to the passengers turning into the equivalent of frightened villagers ready to sacrifice one of their own with Jed Clampett himself leading the way. Still, this movie is mostly forgettable except for Shatner's intended-to-be-ironic performance as a priest who's lost his faith, and can't help tossing out little insults on the other passengers' faith and the general activities going on. Watch it for Shatner if nothing else, and have a laugh.
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