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Monday 10 October 2011

Burl reviews The Horror at 37,000 Feet! (1973)

Hi good pals, it’s Burl chatting at you again! It’s time to review a TV movie from way back in 1973, featuring William Shatner as a whiskey priest and Buddy Ebsen as The Unpleasant Millionaire! This one was a little before my TV movie-watching time, but I understand it managed to scare a lot of people! I’d heard the title for years, but never really knew what the movie was about! What was the “Horror,” exactly? Was it vampires? A mummy? Some sort of flying Meatloaf-looking guy like in that Twilight Zone episode which also starred William Shatner?

Well, now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m still a little shaky on what exactly the Horror was! I tried to maximize the terror by actually watching this on an overseas airplane ride, but I’m not sure that helped! I was really just jealous of the passengers in the movie plane, which was a luxurious 747 with wide aisles, a bar overflowing with fine alcohol, and lots of room to move around and visit the other passengers! There were easy chairs and swivel chairs and all sorts of comfy seating arrangements, and also some beautiful and friendly stewardesses! And plenty of legroom too! Ha ha, it’s a little frustrating to watch while you’re crammed into a tiny space beside a stranger, the flight attendants ignore you and the guy in front of you has his seat rammed back as far as it’ll go!

Anyway, the movie shows what happens when the altar of an old English abbey is loaded onto a transatlantic flight from England to New York! Almost immediately, Captain Chuck Conners has to deal with a headwind that renders the plane pretty much stationary in the air! The other passengers take this more or less in stride, with Dr. Paul Winfield, from Blue City, remaining particularly equitable! But the altar is apparently cursed by Druid demons or something, and slime and goo and freezing temperatures begin to manifest themselves! The first victim is actually a helpless pooch, and I thought that was pretty sad! The second victim is The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, straight off the island of the Mushroom People, I guess!

Anyway, things get pretty dire, with Shatner’s cynical ex-priest character not helping much even though everybody keeps asking him to put down the bottle and start saying some prayers or something! One faction of the passengers, led by Buddy Ebsen, come to believe that the altar needs a sacrifice before it’ll let them get to New York, and the others are trying to figure out some less homicidal solution! The theme of the movie seems to be how thin a veneer our 20th Century civilization really is, and how quickly we can slip into pagan barbarism when things turn nasty! Well, in the end it’s up to Shatner again, of course, and he performs a hilarious act of self-sacrifice which results in one of the finest special effects ever seen on television! Ha ha!

Even though we never see The Horror – though there are plenty of reaction shots from characters who do – I kind of enjoyed this goofy little enterprise! It would make a pretty good off-Broadway show, I think, as long as you could assemble a great cast of has-beens and sub-B character actors to play the roles, as they did for this one! I give the movie two oozing green goo fountains!


  1. I think the true "Horror at 37,000 Feet" was the all that scenery chewing.

  2. I noticed these places had this on dvd Thanks