For Charlton Heston, it’s just one disaster after another…
A flight is skyjacked by a mystery bomber demanding it changes the route to Alaska with more calamities to come.
Skyjacked (1972) Official Trailer – Charlton Heston, James Brolin Movie HD, Movieclips Classic Trailers and photos © MGM
Skyjacked (1972) is an early 1970s disaster movie full of all those essential tropes – impending doom, an all-star cast, and an over the top plot and stereotypical characters. But, this film is surprisingly not one of the Airport films franchise. But it could be, especially if George Kennedy replaced Claude Akins, who played the ground control expert.
The film also shockingly was not even directed by Irwin Allen, but by John Guillermin. Guillermin the man who brought you an all-star cast in 1978’s Death on the Nile (with George Kennedy but not as Joe Patroni) and also a huge cast in his other big disaster film, The Towering Inferno (1974).
The film however has a few more unique moments that set it apart from your average Airport movie. It boasts the use of flashbacks and a dream sequence, and the former trope, a plot device mimicked in those Airplane (1980) parody films. These scenes lead to some unintentional humour and amusement in both films.
This film is also not just a disaster film. It’s also a mystery disaster film for the first half and a Cold War thriller in the last half. These genres make it 100% more riveting than the others and put it in a class of its own. The prestigious cast includes in no particular order Jeanne Crain, Charlton Heston, Susan Dey, Ken Swofford, Yvette Mimieux, James Brolin, John Hillerman and Nicholas Hammond.
The scene is set even before the credits roll with an airport, a plane and our headlining star. This as we cut to Charlton Heston, as our pilot for this flight. Heston is Captain Hank O’Hara who walks towards his plane and immediately points out a
red herring fault on the plane to the mechanic.
Then O’Hara is off to the airport departure lounge. He meets up with pretty young air hostess Angie (Yvette Mimieux), who is having a coffee with her beefcake, co-pilot boyfriend, Sam (Mike Henry). There’s some unsettling romantic tension between her and O’Hara, along with some wistful music (surprisingly, not a romantic theme from John Barry) as their eyes lock together.
The motley crew of passengers appear to be your usual cliches. There’s a romance in the making, from the past and from the present. The passenger stereotype list boasts a pregnant woman, a senator and his son, a Vietnam War veteran (who got a ticket on stand by), a man and his wife moving to Minneapolis and a cellist.
The musician is thankfully not Maureen McGovern, who appeared in The Towering Inferno singing her wee heart out. Or Hammond revisiting his
Kurt Friederich role from the Sound of Music (1965). But back to this review.
A cosmetic saleswoman selling lipstick is seen selling one to an unknown person. This scene on the surface didn’t make sense. It looked like some product placement that forgot to plug the label. But this scene is important to the plot, as you (and
Chuck Heston will discover). The credits then roll with the casting call of lovelies.
The plane has O’Hara in the cockpit accompanied by
beefcake boyfriend Sam and John (Swofford). Yes, O’ Hara is smoking a pipe and Mariette Hartley as Harriet, the pregnant woman is ordering a Bloody Mary as the flight starts! I assume these unacceptable acts were the norm back then, or just maybe this part of these particular cast members’ contract deal.
Once the flight is underway, this routine flight sets off to Minneapolis. Trendy chick Elly (Dey) goes to the loo to discover something shocking written on the mirror. After O’ Hara investigates, we discover that someone’s written: “Bomb on plane divert to Anchorage Alaska. No Joke, No Tricks. Death” in lipstick.
This is in the exact lipstick shade we’ve seen Mrs Clara Shaw (Crain) touch up her make-up with just a few scenes before. Meanwhile, passengers Jerome K. Weber (Brolin) and Gary Brown (Roosevelt Grier) bond over cigarettes and some strong cognac.
O’Hara turns detective and he immediately accuses Elly of this skyjack. Yup O’ Hara who should have just stuck to flying the plane, and left this job to someone with more experience. Preferably Peter, the senator’s son who is played by Nicholas Hammond.
This actor is always remembered as Peter Parker aka The Amazing Spider-Man (1977-79)). In this different role, Hammond could have used his Spidey sense to identify the culprit. Then trapped him in a Spiderman web until Minneapolis. But only if this film was about that superhero. Which it’s not.
In this film, his father is Senator Arne Lindner (Walter Pidgeon). Lindner is told exclusively about this skyjacking. After he’s called to the cockpit, with a message given to him from O’Hara. He’s been asked now to go on to Washington via Air Force Two after he disembarks the plane in Anchorage. O’Hara – still doing his best as an amateur detective – suggests to his pilot cronies, that the Senator’s presence is possibly the reason for this skyjack.
O’ Hara then contacts the flight centre worker, Walter (John Hillerman) to tell the FBI, about this skyjacking. The plane flies onto Anchorage. But there are weather troubles ahead with a storm a-brewing. O’ Hara will need all his wits about him to land safely.
Sgt. Ben Puzo (Akins) from the Air Force gives him advice from the ground. We also have the first of some flashbacks as Angie recalls being in Anchorage on a swing on a sunny day. She is all loved up with the man of her dreams. This man is revealed to be O’Hara pushing her on the swing, as Angie extols how loved up she is.
The film then ventures into some more then new territory for storylines. Another small plane is spotted on the radar as the plane approaches Anchorage. On arrival in Alaska, the plane is rerouted again this time to Moscow. The then known hijacker hoped to defect there. Then there are more predictable plot devices.
These plot lines. include a wee impromptu musical bit, the pregnant woman giving birth, more flashbacks and a dream sequence from the skyjacker (to tell you more would make this spoiler review). This all led to some more OTT dramatic lines and Charlton Heston looking sweaty (a lot). Sweating not just because of his flashback, as this time he’s with his wife.
I did enjoy this film much much more than the earlier Airport films. It’s a laugh a minute, and those flashback scenes are worth a prequel film. James Brolin is the most captivating of the passengers. There seems a wee nod to his army vet character with mental health difficulties in those Airplane films. As he shows his character’s deteriorating mental health, he gives an edgy and unpredictable performance. His erratic behaviour unnerves his new travel buddy, Gary who raises his concerns to O’Hara.
Crain in her final film role has a small but important role. In her role as Mrs Clara Shaw, she’s seen as much more supportive in her passenger role than those apparently more useless air hostesses. With only Angie and Lovejoy (Leslie Uggams) apparently doing their job.
Clara not only attacks the culprit responsible for the hijacking to try and disarm them. She also gives support to her husband after he confesses to not sending their flight insurance form off. She also helps out when Harriet goes into labour.
Heston though is in his element and plays his leading role with gravitas and presence. This is seen especially when the plane enters Soviet air space with O’Hara quite masterful behind those aeroplane controls. In these later scenes, you expect Angie to wipe his sweaty brow. But she’s too busy daydreaming about him to notice.
So before you cry in unison, Heston should have done more disaster films. I’m happy to tell you there was more to come from this future, The Colbys‘ patriarch. He had not just a role in Earthquake (1974), Heston also starred in another fun, all-star disaster film with a cast of wonders this year.
Karen Black was cast as his character’s air hostess girlfriend who he mansplains how to fly a plane (without a pipe). This is a disaster film made.. just when Charlton Heston thought it was safe to board an aeroplane in Airport 75 (1974).
Weeper Rating: 0/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Jeanne Crain Blogathon 2019, No 28
This post was added to Overture Books and Film’s Jeanne Crain’s Blogathon. Other films with this cast include Charlton Heston in Airport 75, The Colbys and Earthquake. Ken Swofford in Fame, Annie and SOB. Mariette Hartley in MASH and Columbo. Nicholas Hammond in The Love Boat, Magnum PI and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. James Brolin in Hotel. Yvette Mimieux stars in Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell.