Tuesday, December 29, 2020


Charlton Heston was one of the stars in TCM's Summer Under the Stars back in August. One of the movies that I recorded, not having done a review on it before, was the all-star disaster movie Skyjacked. Having been released by MGM, it's one of those movies that got a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Charlton Heston plays Hank O'Hara, pilot of a Global Airways flight to Minneapolis that is carrying a disparate group of passengers consisting of Holywood newcomers and veterans looking for one more paycheck. There's a US Senator, Arne Lindner (Walter Pidgeon), hoping to go on a fishing trip; a pregnant woman Harriet (Mariette Hartley) so you know she's going to go into labor later on in the movie; and older couple the Shaws where the wife is played by Jeanne Crain; and a jazz cellist Gary Brown, played by football player Rosie Grier.

Hank has a backstory involving the woman who gets assigned to be chief flight attendant on this flight, Angela (Yvette Mimieux). As Hank is at the counter talking to the folks from the airline, an army officer, Lt. Jerome Weber (James Brolin), comes up, trying to get a ticket on the flight because he's got to get to his sister's wedding. They're out of tickets in coach but there's room in first class; Gary, who normally travels with his cello in the seat next to him, graciously offers to let Weber have the seat if there's enough room for the cello elsewhere in first class storage.

Of course, you can probably guess that Weber is up to no good, although that will only be revealed later in the movie. One of the passnegers, Elly (Susan Dey who at that time was still on The Partridge Family), goes to use the lavatory and finds that there's been a message written in lipstick that there's a bomb aboard the plane. She's obviously distressed. Gary figures out that it's Weber behind this, because he's been getting Weber drunk and Weber lets slip that he doesn't have a sister or a wedding to go to.

Somehow, Weber sobers up enough to hijack the airplane and demand that it be flown to Anchorage. He has flashbacks about getting honors for his military service in Vietnam which suggest he's got some sort of PTSD or other mental illness as a result of his time in the military. He's got some sort of remote control device that could easily detonate that bomb, if Hank doesn't do Weber's bidding. So they're on their way to Anchorage.

While there, Hank tries to come up with a plan to get some feds onto the plane, and also get all the passengers off. Not that Weber wants the passengers to deplane. His plan, however, is not to have a standoff, but to have the plane refuelled so that he can have Hank fly him to... Moscow, where he plans to defect, because he knows the Soviets need his military prowess!

Yes, Weber's plan is nutty, but all of Skyjacked is nutty. It scrapes the bottom of the barrel of disaster movies, but unfortunately doesn't get to be as consistently entertainingly bad as some of the others (The Concorde: Airport '79 comes to mind here). Jeanne Crain in particular is underused. Grier actually doesn't do badly for a football player with limited acting experience, while Brolin goes way over the top. There is stuff to laugh at in Skyjacked, but like a lot of MGM in the era just before That's Entertainment, there's also an extremely threadbare feel of a studio that's completely lost its luster.

If you want to laugh at something that's a mess, you'll certainly have a chance to do that with Skyjacked. But you'll have more chances to do it with some other movies out there.

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