(director/writer: Hall Bartlett; screenwriter: teleplay “Flight Into Danger”by Arthur Hailey/Arthur Hailey/John C. Champion; cinematographer: John F. Warren; editor: John C. Fuller; music: Ted Dale; cast: Dana Andrews (Lt. Ted Stryker), Linda Darnell (Ellen Stryker), Sterling Hayden (Capt. Martin Treleaven), Elroy ‘Crazylegs’ Hirsch (Capt. Bill Wilson), Geoffrey Toone (Dr. Baird), Jerry Paris (Tony Decker), Peggy King (Janet Turner), Steve London (Co-pilot Stewart), Raymond Farrell (Joey Stryker), Russ Thorson (Flight Dispatcher), Carole Eden (Mrs. Joan Wilson), Charles Quinlivan(Harry Burdick), Robert Stevenson(Air Traffic Controller); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John C. Champion/Hall Bartlett; Paramount; 1957)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“One of the first air disaster films.”
Zero Hour! in 1956 aired on CBC’sGeneral Electric Theatre as “Flight Into Danger,” and later was restaged in the U.S. on the Alcoa Hourwith a different cast. The teleplay was by Arthur Hailey, who would later write the 1980 Airplane! by using the same premise as the suspenseful Zero Hour! but turning it into a comedy parody. In 1971 it was turned into a TV drama called Terror in the Sky. Director, cowriter and coproducer Hall Bartlett (“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”/ “Unchained”/”All the Young Men“)does a workmanlike job keeping the B film from crashing.
The film opens in 1945 during the final weeks of World War II, as Ted Stryker (Dana Andrews), a Canadian squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, leads in the fog a raid on the German town of Wiesbaden. Ted does not abort the mission despite the blinding fog and six of his bomber planes fatally crash. The wounded Ted survives but blames himself for the death of his men, and goes into civilian life as a mentally tortured man who is unable to hold a job with responsibility. Eleven years later, Ted sees an old acquaintance about a job in the Jet Research division of the Mid-Canadian Aircraft Co., Ltd., in Winnipeg, Canada, where he resides with his wife Ellen (Linda Darnell) and their 9-year-old son Joey (Raymond Farrell). Feeling good that he might get the job, Ted discovers in a note when he returns to the apartment that Ellen is taking the kid with her by airplane to Vancouver and will leave him because she no longer respects him. Ted in the last second is able to board the plane. During the flight, those who ate the fish come down with a case of severe food poisoning and that includes Joey, the pilot (Elroy ‘Crazylegs’ Hirsch, ex-pro football player for the Rams) and the co-pilot (Steve London). The only one with flying experience is Ted, and the stewardess (Peggy King) and, a passenger who is a physician, Dr. Baird (Geoffrey Toone), urge the reluctant war pilot to land the plane in the fog in Vancouver or else all those who are sick will soon die unless taken immediately to a hospital for treatment. In Vancouver the air traffic controller head gets their ace pilot, Capt. Martin Treleaven (Sterling Hayden), who flew with Ted during the war, to land a plane that is so different from the ones he used to fly. Will Ted be a hero? Will he overcome his fear of flying again? Will he reunite with his wife? If you said yes to all these questions, then it’s very likely you’ve seen one of these disaster melodramas before.
I give it props for being one of the first of the disaster airplane films (The High and the Mighty-1954 might be the first) and for the execution being so well-done, but it all seemed to move on formulaic auto pilot and was so hokey.
REVIEWED ON 3/12/2010 GRADE: B-