Movies From the Black Lagoon: Horror at 37,000 Feet

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Horror at 37,000 Feet - 1973, Unrated
By Tom Doty

A transatlantic flight experiences major turbulence when haunted rocks demand a human sacrifice in this T.V. terror outing that assembles a top flight cast to execute its rather mundane premise.
The story begins with the passengers assembling at Heathrow Airport. They include a who's who of actors that were consistently seen on ABC's "Movie of the Week" and include: Chuck Connors; as the rugged pilot; Roy Thinnes (The Invaders) as an architect with money to burn; Jane Merrow; as the architect's wife who's harboring an ancient family secret; Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) as a self-made millionaire who's a bit of a braggart and a closet coward who would have vaulted over old ladies like O.J. Simpson in a Hertz commercial if he had been on the Titanic; and William Shatner(James T. Kirk himself) as a self loathing ex-priest who's lost his faith but found the bottle.
Once the flight gets under way things begin happening. The flight crew is the first ones to notice that they're plane is being pushed along by winds that a hurricane couldn't manage. They try to turn the plane back but are blown back on course.
In first class the architect finds out that his British wife is not at home to being stalked by a fellow Britisher (played by Tammy grimes) who claims that they made a big mistake when they chartered this plane. Turns out the architect is using the flight to bring the remains of the family abbey to his Long Island home. His wife is not at home to the idea when she learns that the abbey held a special place in her family tree-apparently her family was victimized by Druids who sacrificed a new family member every year for the summer solstice.
Sure enough the rocks begin chanting her name and calling for her death. When she doesn't respond (at least she doesn't have rocks in her head) they go on the offensive and start their reign of terror by releasing a freezing vapor. This turns out to be bad news for the German shepherd sharing the cargo hold. The rocks also take out the first crewman who steps into the hold. That poor fellow turns out to be Russell Johnson (the Professor from "Gilligan's Island").
Pretty soon everyone figures out what's going on and it's not pretty. These passengers turn on each other like starving hyenas. At one point they even steal a child's doll to feed to the spirits but these ghosts want the real thing. Just as they are all set to chuck the architect's wife to the wolves you get a surprising act of heroism from the fallen priest. This also leads to the worst special effect on display. They appear to simulate someone getting sucked out of the plane by superimposing what looks like a paper doll onto the lens. Most everyone makes it home but those that don't die about as grimly as a T.V. movie will allow.
T.V. Movies don't come much better than this cheese fest. You get all the histrionics of a major disaster film on only a tenth of the budget and in half of the running time. It may be goofy but it's well orchestrated by veteran T.V. man David Lowell Rich (who cut his teeth on "Route 66" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour." It [pops up frequently on the TNT Network. The film also sports plenty of howlers. Shatner gets most of them and they were hard to pick from so we'll leave you with the best lines from the 'Price Line" Guru.
Best Shatner Lines:
"I'm probably wrong. I was a worse scholar than a priest."
'You don't want a priest Mr. Farlee. You want a parachute."
"Lady. Are you trying to tell me that a piece of rock had something to do with killing the flight engineer?"

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.