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The Ghost of Flight 401 (1978)
The Book Was Better
Based on the book by John G. Fuller. this TV movie portrays the aftermath of the crash of flight 401 into the Florida Everglades on a late December night in 1972, where reports that the ghost of the flight engineer(played by Ernest Borgnine) appeared to passengers and crew on other planes that had used salvaged parts from 401, and the skeptical airline's attempt to crush the rumors, which proves futile when credible witnesses(like other pilots and stewardesses) claimed to have seen the ghost as well...
Simplified and condensed version of the interesting book is a misfire, suffering from unimaginative direction and a sappy score. Costars Kim Basinger, and Russell Johnson as Captain Loft. Not yet on DVD, but can be found on YouTube.
Blue Water, White Death (1971)
Peter Gimbel wrote, produced, and co-directed(with James Lipscomb) this historic documentary film that portrays Gimbel and his team of underwater photographers on their multi-month oceanic journey from South Africa, Madagascar, and finally Dangerous Reef Australia in their brave attempt to find and film great white sharks in their natural habitat that had never been documented before. Film also shows the camaraderie of the crew, and even what they do on their downtime...
Ambitious film has gorgeous underwater photography and effective climatic footage of the great whites, but is marred by a slack pace and too much talk. Still, worthwhile viewing nonetheless.
Where Are They From?
Dan Curtis directed this TV movie based on the book by Budd Hopkins that stars Richard Crenna as Dr. Neil Chase(based on real-life Dr. John Mack) who becomes involved in regression hypnosis involving two women(played by Daphne Ashbrook and Mare Winningham) who are troubled by nightmares and blackouts that seem to be the work of aliens who abduct them for medical experiments involving harvested DNA to create a half-human/alien hybrid for unknown reasons. The military knows about it, but is determined to cover it all up, and Dr. Chase finds that his career and reputation are on the line, but these two women still need his help... Marginal film has a fine cast(especially the sturdy Crenna) but goes on far too long, dissipating any dramatic impact.
"The X-Files" would perfect this subject matter when it premiered a year later...
The Final Terror (1983)
A Forest Horror
Andrew Davis("The Fugitive" 1993) directed this early genre effort about a group of young forest rangers(played by, among others, future TV and film stars Adrian Zmed, Joe Pantoliano, Rachel Ward, and Daryl Hannah) who run afoul of a mysterious murderer who may be one of their own, or a legendary local escaped mental patient. Can the survivors band together in time to prevent their own murders? Nicely directed by Davis, and contains some striking atmosphere and a sudden ending, but undone by a less-then compelling story and group of characters. More like "Rituals"(1978) than "Deliverance"(1972), but clearly inspired by "Friday The 13th" as well, only with a lower body count!
Was It A UFO?
Jud Taylor directed this TV movie that stars Glenn Ford as Colonel Pete Moore, in charge of the Whitney Radar Test Group that has sent a four-man crew on flight 412 to investigate electrical difficulties, but instead encounters what may either be a blip, or a UFO, but after they are interrogated by a mysterious military intelligence team(led by Guy Stockwell) that does not want to hear about "science fiction", the men find themselves uncomfortably at odds with their own government. Can Col. Moore get to the bottom of this matter, save his crew and all their careers? Reasonably good film defies its low budget and brief running time to tell a well-acted and tense narrative that doesn't provide easy answers, but instead unfolds in a matter-of-fact way, which is most effective. Also stars Bradford Dillman, David Soul, Robert F. Lyons, and Kent Smith.
Murder on Flight 502 (1975)
Murder Is In The Air
George McCowan ("Frogs") directed this obvious "Airport" & "Murder On The Orient Express" clone that stars Robert Stack as pilot Captain Larkin, who is flying a passenger jet airliner to Great Britain that is plagued by an unknown murderer who had warned the airport about the intended crime, but is discovered too early. After two murders and at least two false leads(everyone on board has issues of course!) can the no-nonsense captain find the murderer before he or she strikes again? Ralph Bellamy, Hugh O'Brian, Farrah Fawcett, Brooke Adams, and Sonny Bono costar. Woefully inept and tiresome film is clichéd and contrived beyond belief, though may well have inspired later spoof "Airplane!".
Earl Bellamy directed this Irwin Allen produced TV movie that stars Ernest Borgnine("The Poseidon Adventure") as wealthy lumber mill owner Sam Brisbane, who tries to win back an old flame(played by Vera Miles) who owns a lodge in their mountain community. Their plans are ruined when a fire involving two prisoners(played by Neville Brand and Erik Estrada) gets out of control, threatening to destroy the area, and cost several lives... Donna Mills, Lloyd Nolan, Alex Cord, and Patty Duke costar. Made concurrently with "Flood"(1976), disaster film is an improvement, with more excitement and interesting story turns, and the expected(if quite familiar) scenes of triumph and tragedy.
Earl Bellamy directed this TV movie produced by Irwin Allen that stars Robert Culp as a helicopter pilot who becomes involved in the plight of the town of Brownsville, which is in a state of alarm because heavy rains have caused the nearby dam to overflow, and threaten to destroy it all together. Martin Milner plays the man trying to warn the stubborn mayor(played by Richard Basehart) about the threat, but he doesn't want to hear it, which will lead to disaster for all... Cameron Mitchel, Carol Lynley, Barbara Hershey and Teresa Wright costar. Disappointing film is a big build-up to very little, and contains a talky story that generates little interest, though the good cast tries.
Mayday at 40,000 Feet! (1976)
Trouble In The Air
Robert Butler directed this TV movie that stars David Janssen as Pilot Captain Pete Douglass, who is having a bad day; his wife is having an operation while he must fly a passenger jet in a snowstorm from an airport that is also carrying a dangerous prisoner(played by Marjoe Gortner) in a jail transfer who of course escapes and proceeds to shoot his stolen gun in the cabin, causing all kinds of trouble. Past Oscar winners Ray Milland and Broderick Crawford costar. Good cast cannot save clichéd and predictable film that doesn't generate much interest or suspense. Mostly just a TV version of one of the "Airport" films that were popular in the 1970's.
Diabolical Desert Demons
B.W.L. Norton directed this fondly remembered TV movie that stars Cornel Wilde as anthropologist/author Dr. Boley, who, along with his daughter Diana(played by Jennifer Salt) are in the Arizona desert where they meet up with a storekeeper named Uncle Willie, who tries to make a deal about an unusual skeleton he has found in a canyon, but his tale is cut short by the arrival of real Gargoyles, who must retrieve the bodies of their dead, and are also planning to take over the world, since more of them will be hatching in their caves... Effective film takes a bold approach in showing so much of the Gargoyles, not always successfully, but good script and direction make the difference.