Sunday, August 23, 2009

Zero Hour! (1957)

Today's review is of ZERO HOUR! It was directed by Hall Bartlett, who co-wrote the screenplay with Arthur Hailey (AIRPORT) and John C. Champion. The movie was shot in black and white and runs 81 minutes. If the plot of this movie sounds familiar it should. The makers of Airplane! (1980) bought the rights to Zero Hour! (1957) to remake it. This suspenseful air-borne adventure can rightfully lay claim to being the Mother of All subsequent in-flight disaster films of the '70s.

Dana Andrews -Ted Stryker
Linda Darnell -Ellen Stryker
Sterling Hayden -Treleaven
Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch- Capt. Wilson
Geoffrey Toone- Dr. Baird
Jerry Paris- Tony Decker
Peggy King- Stewardess
Charles Quinlivan- Burdick
Carole Eden -Mrs. Wilson
Steve London -Copilot Stewart
Russell Thorson -Flight Dispatcher
David Thursby- Whitmond
Raymond Farrell- Joey Strycker
Willis B. Bouchey -RCAF Doctor

Richard Keith -Station Manager

Hall Bartlett-Director, Producer, Screenwriter
John C. Champion-Producer, Screenwriter
Ted Dale-Composer (Music Score)
John F. Warren-Cinematographer

John C. Fuller-Editor
Arthur Hailey-Short Story Author


This suspenseful air-borne adventure can rightfully lay claim to being the Mother of All subsequent in-flight disaster films of the '70s.  Zero Hour! tells the tense story of a Ted Stryker (Dana Andrews), a former Canadian WWII fighter pilot and squadron leader who's battling horrific memories of his war experience. Having indirectly killed six of his men due to an error in judgement (going for a primary target, Stryker leads his men too low in a fog bank, where they crash into the ground), Stryker has been unable to shake this devastating memory, which has caused him no end of trouble in his post-war personal life. Unable to hold onto a steady job, Stryker's marriage is now about to end. Coming home after finally winning another chance at a job, Stryker finds a note from his wife, Ellen (Linda Darnell), telling him that's she's leaving him and taking their young son Joey (Raymond Ferrell). Stryker catches up with the plane before it departs, and rides along, hoping to convince Ellen to come back with him now that "things will be different."

Unfortunately, disaster strikes when passengers start to come down with severe food poisoning from tainted fish. Ted and his wife are fine, having ordered the lamb, but young Joey is critically ill, as are many on board - including the pilot, Captain Bill Wilson (Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch) and First Officer Walt Stewart (Steve London). Although there's a doctor on board, Dr. Baird (Geoffrey Toone), there's little he can do but instruct Stewardess Janet Turner (Peggy King) to find anyone who can fly the plane. But when Stryker is brought into the cockpit, he's terrified of the challenge before him - as well as riddled with self-doubt after years of personal failure. Pressured and convinced there's no other option, he takes control of the plane, with his wife helping out on the radio. As a vicious rain and ice storm rages outside (preventing them from landing in Calgary and forcing them over the mountains to Vancouver), Captain Martin Treleaven (Sterling Hayden), a former colleague of Stryker's during the war, tries to hide his contempt and defeatism as he attempts to talk Stryker down through the difficult flight and almost impossible landing. 


Nothing worth mentioning!

Problems with Movie:

*Even though the plane is banking and dipping nothing is flying around the interior of the  plane. The overhead bins are full of luggage. They should have had a beverage cart rolling up and down the aisle.

*Static-suspended airplane models wobbled by off-screen fans

*When Ted Stryker is flashing back to his men crashing their planes into the ground, the scenes show planes with German insignia on their wings. Stryker was in the Canadian Air Force.

 Memorable Quotes:

Treleaven: I guess I picked the wrong week to give up smoking.

Dr. Baird: Our survival hinges on one thing - finding someone who not only can fly this plane, but didn't have fish for dinner.


Former pro football star Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch plays the captain of the airliner


This is a funny B Movie. Probably not Sterling Hayden's best work. Linda Darnell and Dana Andrews do a good job with what they are given to work with.

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