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Sam's helicopter is a Hughes 500C, thousands of which were built for the US Army for use as scout ships during the Vietnam War. The two helicopters of the bad guys are Aerospatiale Alouette II's, and later an Aerospatiale Gazelle (the same as used in the 1983 film Blue Thunder). The helicopter used during the aborted pickup scene is a Bell JetRanger. See more »
During the initial helicopter pursuit, Sam remarks (of the heli he is chasing) "all its numbers have been painted out". But the registration number on the underside is clearly visible in several shots. See more »
OK, I'm not a pilot of any kind nor do I know anything about helicopters and airplanes. But watching this movie as a little boy made a great impression on me. About the same time as Dallas was airing on TV, Larry Hagman was already a known face to me. Seeing him in this movie at first felt a little strange, but well into the film I really got used to him as Sam Hooten, and not only as JR from Dallas.
What is so fascinating about this film? Well, first of all it really revolves around the skills of flying. The tricks and stunts made here by some of the, at the time, leading stunt pilots coordinated by Larry Kirsch (helicopters) and Art Scholl (airplanes), are something that I don't think we will ever again see in any film thanks to, or should I say due to CGI and computer rendered effects.
Second but nevertheless perhaps the most important element is the music. This film, made around 1981, of course implements analog synthesizers to build up the dramatic, romantic and very strong atmosphere that not many movies I've seen have matched to date. Fred Karlin and Michael Hoenig are the composers of the scores throughout the movie, and according to the end credits synthesizers were performed by Peter Robinson. These three guys are definitely too poorly presented and they deserve way more credit than what I've seen so far.
Scenery, and there's plenty of it. Fancy flying definitely requires large open spaces and good weather conditions. What better place to film air-stunts than in the deserts of Arizona. Rivers, canyons, big rocks, small rocks, long roads and large open plains are captured in such way that it makes you want to go there in person. Not to mention the airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where the end 'battle' was filmed (google for it, it's very impressive!).
There are several particularly captivating sequences in this film, dramatic as well as romantic, that just melts your heart. Like when Sam flies Chris back to Guaymas (in Mexico), over the green waters of the Californian Gulf, there's a soft synthesizer-brass tune playing, sweetening the moment as Sam makes a short stop over a water-skiing girl and drops her a bottle of drink with a little ribbon tied to it. And another part at the movie beginning, as you only see the rotors of the helicopter before it starts up, you see Sam's hand exorcising the controls for a moment to lastly push a button firing up the engine. All perfectly synced together with escalating music as more of the helicopter is revealed and it finally lifts off. And there's more.
This film is for people who love tricky flying, especially helicopters, synthesizer music, and the good old American deserts and Larry Hagman. I don't know whether this film would be as good with any other actor playing Sam Hooten, but I am certain about that this film owes a great deal to Larry and his exclusive charisma.
Not only is this movie greatly underrated, it's hardly available on VHS and DVD at all. I deserves more attention than it has got. It's a piece of American history, and although perhaps slightly romanticized, it should be available at least for its aerobatics and music. I'd like to see a soundtrack CD (in stereo) of it in the stores, I'd like to see aerobatic-schools using the film as education examples to future stunt-pilots, and I'd like to see it on TV again. Deadly Encounter belongs with other titles on the DVD shelves, not tucked away in some archive to be forgotten.
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