There’s nothing like a blast from the past in order to stir up some genuinely unexpected entertainment. The Horror At 37,000 Feet is a 41 year old TV movie that makes for an effective little ghost story that is so earnest in its execution you just can’t help but get a kick out of it all.
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 that unbeknownst to them carries a deadly secret. Not long after the fight is in the air, the crew (with Chuck Connors as the captain), the passengers (featuring William Shatner as a cynical and drunk ex-priest, Buddy Ebsen as an arrogant millionaire and Paul Winfield as a doctor) begin to face an unexpected kind of airborne jeopardy as a supernatural demonic horror escapes from the altar seeking a victim to possess and revenge on those who would desecrate it’s ancient ritual site.
While I can’t honestly say that The Horror At 37,000 Feet is a good movie, it is a surprisingly entertaining one as it makes effective use of its surroundings and effectively draws us into the narrative despite some of its obvious limitations.
Directed by TV veteran David Lowell Rich who was also behind the camera for one of the better entries into the Airport series; The Concorde: Airport ’79, is well versed at executing a story inside a small space and after some minimal set up in the airport terminal we are basically on the plane for the rest of the film. At a lean and mean 73 minute running time, it gets right to the point fairly quickly while the teleplay from the writing team of Ron Austin and Jim Buchanan forces us to deal with some little mini-monologues and silly character development arches it all works as a nice little bottled in type of ghost story thanks to some pretty decent performances who buy into the nature of the material.
William Shatner as our cynical, sardonic and done with the world ex-priest was exactly what this movie needed. It need him to be Bill Shatner, turned up all the way to 11. A broken, but everyday type of man who over comes his obstacles to become a hero. Shatner gave it all his trademark swagger as he stares evil in the face just because he can. It was a bit of a swerve casting wise as trademark TV hero Chuck Connors as out captain just didn’t have a whole hell of a lot to do. Buddy Ebsen must have had some fun playing against type as the arrogant know it all millionaire while his hit detective show Barnaby Jones was still on the air and while this was still in the early part of Paul Winfield’s career and I’m sure he was just happy to have the work.
While there are no special features on this DVD release of The Horror At 37,000 Feet, I’ve got to say that the fact that it even exists on any format is just a win for anybody who enjoys something a little cheesy but also a little classic all at the same time.