This is why Judge Patrick Naugle takes the bus.
Our review of Fate Is The Hunter, published June 2nd, 2011, is also available.
A mystery shrouded in a wreckage!
It's hard for me to watch old disaster movies without thinking of the Zucker's classic 1980 disaster comedy Airplane! Is there any movie that has so accurately spoofed an entire genre? The truth is that by the time that film was released, the disaster movie was ripe for ridicule. Even more so was the sub-genre involving airliner disasters. By the time Airplane! was released there had been four films in the Airport franchise including Airport, Airport 1975, Airport '77, and The Concord: Airport '79. Further down the list you'll also find 1964's disaster drama Fate is the Hunter, which Airplane! also poked fun at.
Unlike most disaster movies, Fate is the Hunter doesn't build up to a climactic explosion or tragedy, but instead starts off, pre-credits, with a plane dropping down into a field and crashing into a large fence as a fiery ball of destruction. The movie then moves forward with stalwart Glenn Ford (Blackboard Jungle) as investigator Sam McBane, trying to piece together the issues that brought the airliner down. In a way Fate is the Hunter isn't so much a disaster film as a Monday Night Movie Mystery. The script was adapted from the novel by Ernest K. Gann, who spent years trying to adapt it to the screen and was not a fan of this version (which he did not write). I can understand why, because the movie is slow moving and not particularly engaging.
The basic structure of the film is overly simple; one man (Ford) must move through the past to discover why this airliner faltered and crashed, leaving only one survivor, an injured stewardess (Suzanne Pleshette, The Bob Newhart Show). This includes trying to figure out who the pilot, Jack Savage (Rod Taylor, The Time Machine), really was. McBane gathers information as he goes along, including tidbits about Savage's previous romantic fling (Nancy Kwan, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) and a woman Savage met during wartime (the legendary Jane Russell of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes fame, who worked on this film as a favor). None of this makes for riveting entertainment. Eventually the sole survivor of the crash ends up taking the movie back to the beginning and cracks the mystery, but by that point the film could have told me King Kong and the Wicked Witch of the West were responsible for the downed airliner, and I couldn't have cared less.
There may be a good reason why Fate is the Hunter is not a movie that seems fondly remembered by film fans. As directed by Ralph Nelson (who helmed 1968's Charly), it's slow going at best with only mediocre performances and a beginning plane crash that looks like it was made on the cheap. The only one really worth mentioning is Glenn Ford, who offers up a solid performance with a limited script by Harold Medford (The Cape Town Affair). While it's certainly commendable that Twilight Time has rescued this film from the vaults (lesser films have been given better treatment), this is not a movie that has stood the test of time.
Fate is the Hunter (Blu-ray) is presented in 2.34:1/1080p HD widescreen. No matter my view on the film itself, there's no denying that this black and white transfer is excellent. The film certainly looks great with a solid picture and little-to-no imperfections. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono in English. This is a pretty limited sound mix that features easily distinguishable dialogue, music, and effects, and little else. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Special features include an isolated score track with optional commentary by Nancy Kwan and Nick Redman, a full lengthy documentary on star Nancy Kwan ("To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen's Journey"), and a theatrical trailer for the film.
Fate is the Hunter is not a long lost classic waiting to be discovered. It's a rather mediocre story surrounded with by-the-numbers performances and a better-than-average turn by Glenn Ford. Twilight Time's work on this disc is commendable, and probably better than the film deserves.
While the movie crashes and burns, this limited edition Blu-ray release soars.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
• Isolated Score
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