Zero Hour (Hall Bartlett, 1957)
If you’ve seen Airplane! then you’ve seen Zero Hour, though you may not be aware of it. In the museum of 1970s disaster films, an entire wing is dedicated to airplane-themed films. A subject rife for parody, the comedy team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker cherry picked ideas from Airport, Airport ’75, Airport ’77, et cetera. Yet, at the heart of Airplane! lay Hall Bartlett’s Zero Hour.
Canadian airman Ted Stryker (Dana Andrews) cracked up under pressure when a mission he led went wrong. He boards a plane in pursuit of his family, despite being haunted of visions of his failed mission. A fluke case of food poisoning incapacitates the flight crew, leaving Stryker the only man who can save the Flight 714 to Vancouver. He’s coached to the ground by the hardnosed Captain Treleaven (Sterling Hayden) who’s disgusted by Stryker, thinking he’s a gutless wonder until the washed-up pilot redeems himself.
Overflowing with melodrama, the dialog in Zero Hour sets up nearly every joke in Airplane! Anyone who saw the 1980 comedy will be busting at the seams to keep from joking as each line rings familiar, tweaked just slightly and then pushed into absurdity with straight-faced delivery. “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking.” — Mike White
[tags]Zero Hour, Hal Bartlett, Airplane!, Dana Andrews, Sterling Hayden[/tags]