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Featured DVD Review: The Horror at 37,000 Feet

March 16th, 2014

The Horror at 37,000 Feet - Buy from Amazon

The Horror at 37,000 Feet is a TV movie starring, among others, William Shatner as an ex-priest on a plane that is attacked by an ancient demon. There's no way this movie will be good, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. But will it be entertaining?

The Movie

Like so many movies from the 1970s, The Horror at 37,000 Feet begins at an airport. For the first 20 minutes or so, the film is little more than introductions to various characters. We meet a few characters that will be on our flight before learning it is a special flight, a flight chartered by Alan O'Neill, an architect. He is transporting an old English Abby, including the alter, from London to New York. Because it's 11,000 pounds, there are very few passengers that are also on the flight. There's his wife, April-- I mean Sheila O'Neill. She's not happy he's taking the Abby to America. It's been in her family for a long, long time, but they are selling the land to developers. In a way, Alan is saving the Abby, but Sheila is thinking it is more trouble than it's worth.

The other passengers include Steve Holcomb, who is an actor who specializes in spaghetti Westerns; Mrs. Pinder, who is traveling with her dog, Damon, and she's very insistent that she's on the cargo plane. She is also known to Alan O'Neill and he's not a fan of hers. She sued him trying to prevent him from taking the Abby and the alter out of England and she's planning on suing him in America as well. Dr. Enkalla nearly misses the flight arriving just in time to board. Paul Kovalik is a hard-drinking ex-priest, but the woman he's with, Manya, wishes he would cut back. There's a young girl, Jodi, who is traveling by herself. The next passenger we meet is Glenn Farlee, a multimillionaire hotel magnate. Alan O'Neill put in a bid to design a hotel for him, but his bid was too expensive. Alan doesn't seem bothered about losing out on the job. Finally there's Annalik, an exotic model.

We also meet the the crew. The captain of the plane is Ernie Slade. His co-pilot is Frank Discoll and his flight engineer is Jim Hawley. Finally there are the two stewardesses, Sally and Margot.

Along with the character introductions, we see a few hints of the horrors to come. While loading the Abby onto the plane, the cargo container makes a loud thumping noise. And once aboard, there is a cold wind that hits the plane. One of the flight attendants feels it, but it is the pilots that see its effects the most. It gets so cold that the windows instantly freeze over before returning to normal just as quickly. Once in the air, there are more omens, including another loud thud or two. Sheila tries to listen to the in flight music, but all she hears is distorted voices. The pilots then notice that they are flying, but going nowhere. At first they think they are flying into a 600 knot headwind, but when they turn around, they still find themselves stuck in the air unable to move. Some of the passengers figure out something's amiss, as the plane has made a number of turns mid-flight. Sheila then goes to the back of the plane toward the cargo hold. When she passes Paul she's in a sort of trance and he notices it. Soon she passes out and Paul and Dr. Enkalla try to help her, but while knocked out she speaks Latin.

At about this time, Margot begins to prepare food for the passengers, but she's distracted by the dog barking. It's freaking out over something coming from the cargo. She decides to go in to check, but the barking stops, but she sees the mirror in the galley covered in frost. This spooks her enough to leave, but she nearly gets trapped in the elevator and needs to be rescued. She runs to the cockpit, because she thinks there's a blowout. It couldn't be a blow out, despite the cold and the sound of wind she heard. A blowout would have a much greater effect on the plane. Captain Slade and Jim check it out, but the cargo door is frozen shut. When they finally get it open, they find...

They find they are stuck in a really silly movie. This movie is a horror movie, but it is also a TV movie, which means the budget is really low and the standards and practices of the network wouldn't let them do anything too frightening. What you are left with is a "monster" that is little more than dry ice and slime. Oh, and a rip in a rug. That's about as scary as it gets. This movie should be deathly dull, but there's something about seeing all of these actors play broadly written characters doing silly things and treating the roles as if they were Shakesperean in nature that moves the film from bad all the way around to so bad it's good. It is a big slice of 1970s cheese. Even as B-movie goodness, there are some problems. The movie is barely more than 70 minutes long, but the first 20 minutes are taken up by introductions. There are some minor horror elements in the beginning, but the movie takes a while to get going. Additionally, the climax is really anti-climactic. There's a couple giggles to be had, but the movie doesn't have a big pay-off.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD, but there are subtitles, which is a pleasant surprise. The movie predates the The National Captioning Institute by a number of years, so the age sometimes means there is a lack of captioning for the hard of hearing.

The Verdict

If you like B-movies, then The Horror at 37,000 Feet is certainly worth checking out. Sadly there are no extras on the DVD, but I can see a lot of fans of MST3K buying this movie so they can mock it over and over again.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Horror at 37,000 Feet, Buddy Ebsen, William Shatner, Paul Winfield, H.M. Wynant, Roy Thinnes, Jane Merrow, Will Hutchins, Tammy Grimes, Lynn Loring, Mia Bendixsen, France Nuyen, Chuck Connors, Russell Johnson, Brenda Benet, Darleen Carr