Well, the VCR and the accompanying VHS tape was still hanging on and not all movies were yet released to DVD. There was no Amazon Prime or Netflix. No streaming and the onslaught of 80-minute direct-to-DVD movies were not yet the norm. Cable Superstations like USA and TNT were not yet in the TV Movie business, but the TV movie death knell was ringing in the “Big Three” networks’ village square: “Reality TV” was on the horizon.
It’s hard to believe a U.S TV movie — known it in initial broadcast as A Thousand Heroes — would star Charlton Heston (who’s been in the cockpit before with Airport 1975 and Skyjacked) and James Coburn. However, while this aired as a TV movie in the states — and as most, if not all U.S. TV Movies did — it was broadcast overseas with the Crash Landing alternate title, which also carried over into its home video store shelf life (it also ran on HBO throughout the ’90s).
Instead of a big studio, like Paramount or Universal (see The Crash of Flight 401 and The Ghost of Flight 401), Bob Banner Associates — known for CBS-TV’s long-running The Carol Burnett Show and the daytime Dinah Shore talk show, along with the talent show precursor Star Search (1983 to 2004) and the premiere disco show Solid Gold (1980 to 1988) — bankrolled this Harve Bennett production for broadcast on ABC-TV. Now, if that pairing of Harve Bennett and ABC seems familiar, that’s because the network broadcast Bennett’s TV Movie-to-series adventures of a junkman’s moon rocket, Salvage I. Bennett also provided the network with the sci-fi TV movie classic (before there was a Capricorn One), The Astronaut (1972). But his greatest success with ABC-TV was The Six Million Dollar Man, which aired as a 1973 TV movie, then as a 1973 to 1978 series on ABC — then yes, with episodes packaged into overseas theatricals.
As with Crash of Flight 401, broadcast on ABC-TV in 1978, this Lamont Johnson-directed (1970’s The McKenzie Break, 1972’s The Groundstar Conspiracy, 1983’s Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone) is a fact-based drama regarding the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 from Denver to Chicago that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, in July 1989. The fifth deadliest crash involving a DC-10, of the 296 passengers and crew, 112 died and 184 survived. Despite the mass causalities, the accident and rescue continues to serve as a text book example in crew resource management and emergency response.
The support cast on this — as with all TV movies up until the mid-90s — is expertly cast with Carmen Argenziano (Jacob Carter on Stargate SG-1, but since this is B&S About Movies: we’ll mention Sharks’ Treasure, Graduation Day, and Clint Eastwood’s Sudden Impact), Bruce McGill (yep, D-Day from Animal House and Timecop), character actor Tom Everett (Air Force One and too many TV series to mention, and Richard Thomas (The Waltons and Battle Beyond the Stars). Needless to say, with Herve Bennett in the producer’s chair and this cast, this film is a well-done, gripping action flick about the human fight-or-flight response.
The events from the Sioux City crash also served in the plotting of the fictitious, Jeff Bridges-starring Fearless. You can steam the film on You Tube.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.