Monday, March 3, 2014

The Horror at 37,000 Feet (DVD) - Add 17,000 Feet, Color TV and Change the Channel From Nightmare to HORROR!

I just kept waiting for the goddamn Gremlin on the plane to take out the damn engine and occasionally jump into the wind leaving a poor, demented William Shatner to look like a most superb sicko on a plane. That's what my brain kept telling me. After all, we're watching a movie that features a slightly loony Shatner on a plane and a title that seems to play on a Twilight Zone in which Shatner made a mark on television history and reinvented our fear of flight. Rest assured that this not simply a jumping off point from a show featured in the early 60's, but a wholly original work of plane scares based around a rather familiar plot device. Shatner still flies the friendly skies with paranoia and a scared sadness we are familiar with, but this time he's not alone in experiencing panic in mid-air and this time at a higher altitude. This ain't your mama and daddy's Nightmare at 20,000 Feet; This is The HORROR at 37,000 Feet!

Synopsis from CBS:

"Fly the not-so-friendly skies in this frightening tale of survival at 37,000 feet! On a flight from London to Los Angeles, a wealthy architect (Roy Thinnes) and his wife (Jane Merrow) 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. Aboard for the ill-fated trip is William Shatner as a drunken, cynical ex-priest; Buddy Ebsen as an arrogant millionaire; and Chuck Connors as the heroic pilot. Not long after departure, crew and passengers alike face airborne jeopardy and supernatural horror as a demonic entity escapes from the altar, seeking to possess a hapless victim as well as seek revenge on those who would desecrate the sinister deity's ancient ritual site. Fasten your seatbelts . it's going to be a terrifying flight!"

I'm quite candid with the fact 70's and 80's made for TV horror is some of my favorite in the genre. With the Scream Factory release of TV Terrors last year and a few other choice made for TV gems from years past making their way to disc, I'm glad to say that I had the chance to truly enjoy The Horror at 37,000 Feet. The story is moderately obvious. The acting is hammy and pure 70's TV show, but of course you'd have to look at the cast to realize that your dealing with a superb group of TV perfectionist (or at least in the 70's sense of perfection). Let's run it down real quick: Chuck "Tourist Trap"/"Summer Camp Nightmare"/"The Virginian" Connnors. Buddy "Beverly Hillbillies" Ebsen. William Shatner (not quotation marks necessary), and those are just the folks with which I am moderately familiar. Oh yeah, and how about Paul Winfield! It's a TV cast. It's a TV production with all the hallmark TV shot selects, color, music, narrative. It's quick to get to the commercial and faster to punctuate a mystery with an overly deep explanation. It's a sign of the time.

The Horror at 37,000 suffers from not being dark enough. It's minimal effects budget actually work to its advantage to preserve the suspension of disbelief because showing anymore than the do would ruin the movie, the exception to this rule being that it is somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps the strangest feeling I had while watching this show was the feeling that I had seen it before knowing full well that I had not. Well, what I have seen is Horror Express which was released around the same time as The Horror at 37,000 Feet. It almost feels like the difference between Snakes on a Plane and Snakes on a Train. Horror Express was 72' and CBS didn't air 37k until 1973. There's a clear winner regardless of the coincidence.

It's a TV flick from the 70's so the ratio is 4:3 (perfectly preserved). I simply wish someone would have the ability to put the old commercials in the proper spots to give it that "old time TV feel". That should be a project for someone with a bunch o' time. I'm sure there's a Shatner-head out there who'd do it. For a short watch at a just over an hour and thirteen minutes, sans commercials, you'll feel like you're watching a modern TV show rather than a TV movie, but probably with better music, more camp effects and a burning desire to see Chuck Connors with a small bowl of mannequin creating paste rather than a headset.

The Horror at 37,000 Feet is available for order now! It releases March 18th.

-Doc Terror

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