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I'll admit it: I used to love this movie as a kid. But that was when I
thought anything was possible. Now that I'm older (and have seen the
Movies), I realize just how bad this movie really was.
First, it should have been called Airport '83, since it has a nearly identical plot to the rest of the Airport series (especially The Concorde: Airport '79, where technical malfunctions screw up the Concorde).
Second is the truly abominable acting. Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man himself, stars as the plane's captain, who is married but shacking up with the head stewardess (Lauren Hutton, which explains why she is given a first-class seat out of the plane at the end). Hal Linden plays the designer and head engineer of Starflight One, who seems very uncomfortable in his role. The rest of the cast was too terrible to mention as their parts didn't even get off the ground, so to speak.
Third are the obvious mistakes, scientific errors, and plot holes that are large enough to fly a Star Destroyer through. For example: -Starflight was equipped with a flange that allowed an airlock to be fitted over it. But if it was never designed to operate in a vacuum (like outer space), why have it there in the first place? -Captain Briggs mentions that everything still worked, including the engines. If the engines worked, and they were in a decaying orbit, why not just transfer to a higher orbit? -In this movie, NASA service techs seem to be recruited from NASCAR, since they are able to service and launch the Space Shuttle Columbia several times in two days (which is physically impossible, and why didn't that second shuttle help out sooner?). -It was mentioned that Starflight was not built with a heat shield. Bt at the speeds that it was designed to operate at, kinetic heating and friction would necessitate SOME kind of protective layer on the aircraft.
-How come we never see the blonde female astronaut's face? -Starflight uses scramjets to provide thrust, but these engines cannot operate from a stand-still as they are shown to do; they must be in motion before they can operate. -An aircraft that is designed to operate at Mach 6 and higher speeds would not likely have such huge wings in proportion to its body, or even be spindle shaped; in fact, its actual design would most likely be a lifting body.
And now for the good stuff: why I liked this movie. John Dykstra, who came up with the ships for Star Wars and Firefox, was the one who designed Starflight One; the plane, while not believable, still looks very good. Also, Lalo Schifferin's score was very good and dramatic. In all, about a 6 out of 10.
This might have been made in 1983 but it carries the smell of a leftover of
the 70s disaster film genre and their many TV knockoffs (director Jerry
Jameson being responsible among other things for "Airport 77") with the long
litany of big names in the cast and cliche filled subplots. Indeed,
"Starflight" is really just a reworking of the 1977 TV-movie "SST: Disaster
In The Sky" when you get down to it only this time we have the silly wrinkle
of a hypersonic plane getting forced into orbit somehow by accident. There
then follows the hilarious implausibility of a single space shuttle that is
somehow able to be launched at a moment's notice, then land and relaunch
within a couple hours (it actually takes days to get a shuttle hooked up to
a new external tank and rocket boosters and then get rolled out to the
launch pad). And then get a load of this: Pilot Lee Majors is insistent
that the entire crew stay aboard to the end, stewardesses included, but
oops, when it comes to the stewardess that he's shacking up with (Lauren
Hutton) he makes darn certain that she alone among the crew gets a
privileged pass off the ship before the moment of danger comes in re-entry!
Guess the moral of the story is if you want to avoid the danger of
possible death, make certain you're sleeping around with the people in
And by the way "Goulash" from Bombay, if you're a real person who really loved this movie that much, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.....
The earlier reviewer who said that Starflight (or as my video copy is titled, Starflight One) should have been called Airport '83 hit the nail on the head. This is very much an Airport style disaster movie, albeit one with pretty decent effects (for a TV movie from 1983!) and a very original storyline. Its not great by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it to be a diverting way to spend 2 hours, and that is all I asked from it. I liked Lee Majors, and Hal Linden, but the rest of the cast was lacking. Dykstra's effects are very good for the most part, and I really enjoyed his model work and motion control shots -- very nice especially considering they were crafted for the small screen. If you like Airport and its sequels (as I do), then this hard to find TV movie is worth checking out.
"Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land" is a silly made-for-TV disaster
flick that could have been titled "Airport '83: Trapped in Space". While the
film is modestly entertaining at times, it's just too preposterous to
believe. The plot: a hypersonic jet takes off for Australia and ends up
stuck in outer space by accident. Director Jerry Jameson fared better with
"Airport '77", and the cast (Lee Majors, Hal Linden, Lauren Hutton, Tess
Harper, Ray Milland, etc.) have done better work than this. Not a real bad
movie but not a real good one either. This movie originally aired as a three
hour movie on TV; the home video version was edited by about 30-40 minutes
and retitled "Starflight One".
** (out of four)
When I saw this film during it's first airing back in 1983, at the age
of 14, I thought it was a good movie. It had one of my favorite actors,
Lee, the Six-Million Dollar Man, Majors in it. My generation also grew
up on disaster films and this movie carried on the torch. Actually it
is probably one of the last of the 70'ish type disaster movies. The
plot, IMO, closely resembled that of AIRPORT-77, only this plane was
stranded in space instead of underwater in the ocean.
I, especially now as an adult, can see why people may dislike this film. Although this film is supposed to be realistic it is about as realistic as and child's fairy tale. You know what, I don't care. I still enjoy this film. I don't watch a film like this for the real life science and technology. I watch it for fun and take the science and technology about as seriously as I do that of a Star Trek film or show.
Chezzy films may not be for everyone but for those that don't mind a little cheese this film will probably be worth viewing, at least once.
OK I agree that the Australian accent is a bit overdone, but remember, this was filmed in 1982 and Australians were depicted that way for years, until the Mel's and Hugh's and Nicole's came to prominence. O.K. I forgot Bryan Brown! The real Aussie Icon! I was fortunate enough to see the full-length version of this TV Movie, which runs to 138 minutes, on our local station NBN 3 before it became a mirror image of Sydney station TCN Nine. The video release from Roadshow years ago has a great cover, however the print is around 100 minutes. What a great cast. Our hero Lee Majors, the gorgeous Lauren Hutton, Tess Harper, always dependable Ray Milland, Robert Webber and Hal Linden. The full-length version should be released in a nice remastered DVD... So take a step back in time to the early 80s when we still had reliable familiar faces that graced our screens and enjoy it already!
Perhaps its the advanced state of sci fi movies nowadays, but STARFLIGHT seemed to be a low-budget sci fi movie that tried but really couldn't land instead of crash. The overly ambitious and likely unreal use of the now infamous shuttle Challenger and the cheap special effects, and the effort to insert more human relational intimacy just didn't sell. This is no APOLLO 13 (1995) by a long shot. The entire movie wasn't either a AIRPORT (1970) production either. This predictable and overworn disaster plot with the outerspace twist just doesn't fly. While the plot, storyline, and dialogue were clear and straightforward, the movie felt unbalanced and forced.
You will find parts of this movie, little segments of it, embarrassingly funny. When I first saw it in 84, it was engrossing. When watching it back I 2003, I just found it pretty pathetic, and felt a schmuck for watching back in the eighties. But they were very cheesy and dark times. The same goes for those Airport films, me and Dad ribtickling ourselves over them. What we've got here is a fictional, what if scenario, about a hyposonic airplane, a Concorde shuttle that can make the distance from Los Angeles to Sydney in two hours. In no way is a two second exterior shot of Sydney airport, Sydney airport. What cheek. We have a good cast here too, notably Linden and Majors, one of many few films he did. While in the air, a rocket has exploded sending hulks of a metal careering towards the super cool airplane. Forced to rear up, drastically, they caught in orbit, for which there is no way to return. I remember in olden days, this got incredibly tense. And when the plane set down again, a relief came over me, although a score of passengers got lost in one of those shutes that blew up. But you just take Starflight One for what is it, a guilty cheesy, eighties pleasure, for the whole family, with unintentional laughs here and there.
When I saw this premier on TV I had high hopes that Dykstra would
unleash his miniature wizardry on a made for TV movie. I mean,
afterall, Star Wars? Star Trek? Battlestar Galactica SFX credits? We
all had high hopes. Then the movie aired.
Well, to be honest, I don't recall much other than thinking that this was an extension of the Airport Franchise, only the first Airport film at least had some dramatic teeth in it. The subsequent sequels, even one with George Kennedy at the controls of a Concorde, seemed to get ever moreso dreary. Well, Starflight is no different, but, some, and I do emphasize SOME of the FX are decent enough.
The truth of the matter is that as per a previous reviewer, kids were savvy enough to know that planes couldn't reach suborbital velocities with the technology as it was explained. Heck, I think even reasonably educated adults probably had a few "huh" moments going for them as the drama unfolded.
The shooting style, the acting, the cast, the music, even launching the space shuttle, I could give all of that a pass, even seeing Lee Majors in this thing. But, when they put in the "one thing" that would save them, that's when I finally changed the channel. I think this film aired once more that same year late at night, or the following year during the summer, but, to the best of my knowledge, it never saw the light of day again.
If you're bored, need some airborne disaster action on your TV or computer monitor, then maybe give this thing a single viewing, but don't say I didn't warn you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I know, 9 seems very high in light of the fact that this is a low
budget catastrophe movie from the 80s, but i had so much fun watching
it(multiple times), so it's am earned number.
As you know, the movie is about a new commercial plane with a rocket engine as secondary propulsion system. There is an accident with a carrier rocket in Australia, and the plane ends up in orbit around earth, which it isn't build for.
Let me just point out the things i like about the movie. Hal Linden as Josh is great. He is a very believable character. Pat Corley, as Joe, the journalists technician is also a good casting member. The rest is meh at best.
The point is, that this movies has very good music, a lot of scenes with real suspense and in addition the rescue attempts, while not 100% realistic, are innovative, and fun to watch. Also there are a lot of good jokes in this movie. Josh is great, Joe too, and Joshs wife is also a strong character.
The thing that a lot of reviewers seemingly miss, are the messages in this movie. There is greed, witch leads to this catastrophe in the first place, cold number-crunching on one side, and the value of human live on the other. Also the notion never to give up is a big part of this movie. One thing, that can't be overstated is, that these people keep their calms. They don't scream all the time, they don't behave like children, and they don't behave like animals in fear. While this may not be realistic, it is nerve soothing to say the least. Most catastrophe movies are full with it, making them hard to watch, screeching on my nerves like fingernails on a blackboard. This is not the case here. The passengers don't sabotage their own rescue by behaving stupid. At least most of the time.
Lets just say the movie never gets boring, and if you can overlook the wooden performances of Lee Majors and Sandra Hutton, than you can expect a fun movie with lots of suspension
I urge you to find this movie, and have a great time watching it.
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