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Case Number 27097: Small Claims Court

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The Horror at 37,000 Feet

Paramount // 1988 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 18th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle is a terror enough at 5'11".

The Charge

Take off into terror.

The Case

Strange things are afoot on a flight headed from London to Los Angeles. The passengers don't know it yet, but they're all about to come face to face with evil incarnate. This demonic force has decided to take this aircraft full of terrified passengers hostage, including possessing one hapless woman and whispering creepy chants through the airwaves. As the flight continues onward the lights flicker, the floor splits open, and an ancient force emerges from beyond the grave. Who will survive The Horror at 37,000 Feet?

The Internet—a place where subtlety goes to die—notes on multiple websites that The Horror at 37,000 Feet is considered the single worst film William Shatner has ever made. This is fascinating for two reasons: 1) How many good movies has William Shatner made, and 2) considering his filmography, how bad is this movie when it's considered the worst movie William Shatner has ever made? The mind boggles at the possibilities. After sitting through The Horror at 37,000 Feet, I might be apt to agree with them.

Although you wouldn't guess it from the DVD cover (which cribs liberally from the artwork for the remake of John Carpenter's The Fog), this isn't a theatrical feature but a relatively short made-for-TV movie from 1973. Considering how tame horror movies were in the early 1970s, it will come as no surprise to find out that The Horror at 37,000 Feet is almost void of any actual horrific imagery. Instead the The Horror at 37,000 Feet substitutes ill-conceived creepiness for terror, like a chilly frost appearing and disappearing out of nowhere on the plane windows, or creepy voices coming through the stereo system's headphones. At one point the lights begin to flicker and the elevator won't work. When the tension does begin to ratchet up, the filmmakers decide that's the best time for a woefully placed commercial break.

What it lacks in suspense, the film makes up for in famous TV land faces, although that's not necessarily a plus. Aside of the aforementioned Shatner, fans will get a chance to see Gilligan's Island's Russell Johnson as a flight engineer who gets the 'cold shoulder' in the end; The Rifleman's Chuck Connors as the plane's rock jawed captain; The Beverly Hillbillies's Buddy Epson as a cantankerous multi-millionaire; and 227's Paul Winfield as a creepy doctor. Unfortunately, none of these actors are able to interject much excitement into the proceedings. You know something's gone wrong when the best performance is a by a German Shepard barking at something trying to eat its way through the plane's steel exterior.

The Horror at 37,000 Feet is presented in 1.33:1 full frame in standard definition. The transfer looks decent, if wholly uninspired. The colors and black levels are all fine but the image isn't super sharp or detailed. For a movie over forty years old—and from television, no less—I think fans should just be happy that they even got this movie on any kind of digital format. The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono. There isn't much to say about this transfer—the dialogue, music, and effects are all mostly clear and defect free. Also included on this disc are English subtitles. There are no bonus features.

1973 was the same year director William Friedkin unleashed the horror classic The Exorcist. I wasn't able to confirm actual dates, but I wouldn't be very shocked if, considering the similar thematic material, this was a byproduct of that far superior film's massive success. As a made-for-TV movie in 1973, I'm sure The Horror at 37,000 Feet was perfectly acceptable Friday night fodder. In 2014, it's definitely the worst movie William Shatner has ever made, which is really saying something considering this is the same guy who starred in Kingdom of the Spiders.

The Verdict

Schlocky at any distance.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 62

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Genres:
• Horror
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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