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Summer Rerun: Zero Hour! (1957).

July 22, 2010

It’s summer vacation time here at Desuko World HQ, which means it’s time to revisit some favorite reviews from the past. [Originally posted Jan. 22, 2010.]

The Scoop:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — a cross-country flight is put in peril when the entire crew and several passengers get sick with food poisoning and it’s up to shaky, battle-scarred former fighter pilot Ted Styker to land the plane with a little help from a tough-as-nails pilot on the ground.

This is better known as the plot of “Airplane!” but the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team didn’t think it up themselves. While their film was a spoof of ’70s disaster movies like the “Airport” series, they lifted their plot, characters, and even whole scenes and chunks of dialogue, wholesale from “Zero Hour!”

Dana Andrews plays Stryker, a decorated Canadian World War II pilot whose post-traumatic stress disorder keeps him out of the air until he’s forced to board a cross-country flight to keep his wife (Linda Darnell) from leaving him. Naturally, the fog gets thick and the fish is bad, so Stryker winds up in the cockpit and it’s up to Capt. Treleaven (Sterling Hayden, channeling Jack Webb) to talk him through it.

ZAZ skewered this thing so thoroughly that it’s hard to watch it seriously now. But on its own, its a taut little thriller that’s marred slightly by hamminess and some unintentional humor. Still a load of fun, though.

Best Bit:
The ventriloquist act, which belongs in a ZAZ movie.

Side Note:
The pilot is played NFL Hall-of-Famer Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch.

Companion Viewing:
“Airplane!” (1980), of course.

A transcript annotated with notes on what was later used in “Airplane!”

Take a Look:
The trailer:

A side-by-side comparison of “Zero Hour!” and “Airplane!”:

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