Saturday, September 5, 2009
Day 219: Zero Hour! (1957) - Rank 2.5/5
There's a fair amount of campiness to this thriller that kept me engrossed, despite a somewhat mediocre plot. I don't think I'm the only one who felt the film was rife for parody, for it clearly served as the template for "Airplane." Much of the plot here is the same as the Zucker Bros lampoon - Ted Stryker (Dana Andrews) is a former WWII pilot whose guilt over the death of some of his fellow troops has led him down a path in life filled with dead-end jobs and a wife that no longer loves him. But on a fated trip to Vancouver, the majority of the passengers and crew fall sick with food poisoning, leaving Stryker as the only man capable of landing the plane. But he first must overcome both his unfamiliarity with modern air equipment as well as the ghosts of his past - two tasks left up to ground controller Captain Treleaven (Sterling Hayden) to handle.
The production has the melodramatic feel of an Irwin Allen film, such as "The Swarm" or "Poseidon Adventure" (or a film by the modern Irwin Allen - Roland Emmerich). But there are also moments where the film takes itself seriously to the point of tedium. It's definitely a situation where the actors take the script up to a level of "watchability" for Andrews does quite well as the tormented pilot and Hayden - well, give the guy the dictionary and I could watch him read it for an hour and a half. But I suppose air disaster flicks were big business for the era, because screenwriter Arthur Hailey was also the brainchild behind "Airport," "Airport 1975" and "Airport '77." Disappointingly, none of them feature Harrison Ford or snakes.
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