Made-For-TV: The Horror At 37,000 Feet (Dir. David Lowell Rich)

The Horror at 37000 Feet Review

“Perhaps somehow, it was a final act of faith. I don’t know. I have no thoughts.” 

I suppose it’s all relative.

Every generation of movie lovers has their own era of “memory movies” they will always wax nostalgic over and hold dear to them. Today’s kids have slick looking shows, sometimes questionable CGI and the SyFy channel (once known as the SciFi Channel) while we Gen-Xers had the more languid and plot centered horror and science fiction TV movies of the 70s and 80s to affect us in all manner of joy and fear. Not that they were all that way, but I tell you a lot of the time I prefer that style to this eras heavy on effects and show all directive.

But, as I said, it’s all relative.

God knows what tomorrow’s generation will have in regards to these kinds of films and/or how they’ll be filmed, but whatever they’re like there will always be someone like me around lamenting how their generation of TV movies were superior.

Case in point—The Horror At 37,000 Feet!

I was four years old when this aired and do not have any memory of it. I’m thinking my parents allowed me watch it, but as I grew up I remember getting familiar with it at some point either through something I had read or from a half seen repeat. I also recall coming across this on cable several years ago, coming in towards the end and kicking myself for not realizing it was on. I cannot for the life of me recall what channel it aired, only that I was amazed to see one of these 70s TV movies airing anyway on TV in the 21st century.

Bottom line, I’ve never seen this movie but have always wanted to.

I also can’t believe Paramount decided to put it on an actual DVD rather than the standard MOD these kind of flicks have been getting released on ever since MOD became an industry staple for studios to dump movies they don’t think can pull in some decent revenue.

The Horror At 37,000 Feet is filled with a lot of famous faces from that bygone era. For starters Roy Thinnes (The Invaders) and Jane Merrow (Island Of The Burning Doomed—the US title for Britain’s Night Of The Big Heat) play husband and wife, Alan and Sheila O’Neill, heading from London to New York with special cargo in tow. Alan is an architect who just uprooted the remains of an old abbey, which also comes with a Druidic sacrificial stone, so he can add it to part of their home. Druids use to perform human sacrifices in that Abbey, praying to their Gods, the “Old Ones” as Mrs. Pinder (Tammy Grimes, who did the voice of a character in the 1984 animated movie The Last Unicorn) describes them.

I smell a whiff of Lovecraftian inspiration.

Being a fan of that old horror scribe I was pleased to hear the “homage.”

Speaking of Mrs. Pinder, she’s been hounding the O’Neill’s for some time trying to get them to see the error of their ways in taking that piece of architecture out of the country.

Also among the plane’s passengers is Paul Kovalik (William Shatner), a fallen priest who’s heading home, Dr. Enkalla (Paul Winfield—White Dog, Star Trek II, The Terminator), Glenn Farlee (Buddy Ebson—The Beverly Hillbillies), some kind of corporate bigwig, Annalik (Frances Nuyen—who played in an episode of Star Trek (Original Series) titled, “Elaan Of Troyius,”), a model. Topping off the other famous faces I recognized (there were a few I also didn’t) is Chuck Connors play the Captain and Russell Johnson playing, I think, the plane’s navigator.

Connors and Johnson have small parts in this compared to the rest of the cast.

The “horror” is demonic forces that in the tradition of that era go largely unseen, one of the major differences between TV movies made back then to the ones you get now. With plots revolving around ghosts, hauntings and demonic forces the FX was mostly kept to your imagination, which given the topic is the way it should be presented. Most of my favorite movies about the paranormal are those that present the phenomena in a creepy fashion that feeds your imagination thus making the horrors more horrific than how they were presented. Nowadays CGI and just the way movies in general are made ensures most paranormal flicks get some kind “eye candy,” some kind of “reveal,” something you can look at say, “so that’s what’s been menacing everyone.”

In this movie the “horror” attacks and physically kills with overwhelming cold, menaces with genuinely creepy chanting only Sheila can hear, and psychologically manipulates the passengers into acting on their fearful instincts thinking a sacrifice is what they need to remedy the situation. For most of the movie it resides in the cargo bay, eventually leaking up into the rest of the plane (literally) in the form of sludge or goo and black moss that appears. Not till the very end when fallen Priest Koavlik’s curiosity gets the best of him and he ventures too far towards the source of their problem do we get a very tenuous glimpse of some kind of physical manifestation which comes in the form of a black, hooded figure.

The 1.33:1 full frame transfer ended up being a lot more impressive looking than I had originally thought it would. Colors and clarity were quite impressive. The English Dolby Digital Stereo track was crisp as a bell.

No extras, but there are English subtitles.

I dug this movie and look forward to reviewing more of them. Just to give you guys a heads up, The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, the 1975 TV movie with Elizabeth Montgomery playing Lizzie will also be finally hitting legit DVD (not MOD) in May and fingers crossed you might see me review that one as well.

The Horror At 37,000 Feet streets on March 18th!


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