January 22, 2006

ZERO HOUR! (1957) a straight-faced AIRPLANE!

(1957, USA)

(UPDATE JUNE 2007 - This movie has now had its NOT ON DVD status revoked! Out now!)

This would just be your average Saturday afternoon black and white movie if it wasn't for the fact that it's also the blueprint for the classic spoof AIRPLANE! (1980).

Following the glut of big-budget disaster movies throughout the seventies, and no less than four AIRPORT movies, AIRPLANE! arrived to lampoon them all, and disco too. After the success of their KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker wrote and directed AIRPLANE!, which lead to many more of their genre spoofs - including THE NAKED GUN trilogy, the 2 HOT SHOTS, TOP SECRET and JANE AUSTEN'S MAFIA!

The inspiration came from watching American late-night and breakfast TV (there was no breakfast TV in Britain at the time, but we still got the joke). They were collecting material for the sketches that made up KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, which is a series of skits on adverts, charity appeals, TV presenters and movie trailers - it's worth seeing just for the the fantastic 25 minute spoof of ENTER THE DRAGON. One night they caught ZERO HOUR! and it provided them with so much material that they could make a whole movie out of it. They took the plot, the characters' names and the ripest dialogue. Whilst making AIRPLANE they even referred to a copy of ZERO HOUR to suggest camera angles! In fact, they bought the rights to the film, because they were pretty much producing a re-make, even though it's not credited as such.

So try if you can and watch ZERO HOUR!, in which Dana Andrews plays ex-pilot Ted Stryker, a man haunted by stock-footage flashbacks of crashing planes, who has to land a plane on instruments, despite a howling storm and his unforgiving Air Force Captain guiding him down on the radio. Sterling Hayden's cigarette-chewing portayal of Captain Treleaven is extremely gruff, "I certainly picked the wrong week to give up smoking."

ZERO HOUR! actually works well for a high-budget B-movie, the cast don't deserve being sent up, but the script certainly does. It was written by Arthur Hailey who started the whole shenanigans off by writing the bestseller AIRPORT.

"To the tower, to the tower, Rapunzel, Rapunzel!"

Another review, with nice. new DVD screengrabs,
at DVD Talk...

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