Mayday at 40,000 Feet (1976)

David Janessen is Captain Pete Douglas . . . and his life is in a talespin: his wife is in the hospital for a life-saving operation and he can’t get out of flight duty . . . and he ends up piloting an airline through a storm. Complicating matters is Marjoe Gortner (Star Crash), in his full-crazed mode that we love (aka, The Survivalist), as a prisoner-transfer who escapes his shackles and skyjacks the plane.

Yeah, if this sounds a lot like Charlton Heston’s Skyjacked (1972; reviewed this week) with its tale of a crazed Vietnam vet with a bomb hijacking a Boeing, then it probably is. Yeah, this is purely unabashed in its Airport series airline disaster rip-offery. But you know what? With this project’s director and the cast he brings to the table, this is a lot of fun. And since we’re mentioning Charlton Heston and his disaster movieness within the context of a David Janessen movie: they both starred in the “Dirty Harry”-inspired football disaster movie, Two-Minute Warning (1976).

Director Robert Butler’s career as a writer, director, and executive creative consultant in TV drama and movies is extensive. His 100-plus credits that began in the early ’60s culminated with Hogan’s Heroes, The Fugitive, and Batman; his moves into theatrical work gave us Kurt Russell in Disney’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Barefoot Executive. He began his TV Movie career with the admittedly odd (for television, that is) Death Takes a Holiday (1971), a fantasy-romance where death visits earth and falls in love with Yvette Mimieux; he also gave us Gene Roddenberry’s post-Star Trek effort Strange New World. Do we want to mention the summer camper rip-off with the Cheap Trick theme song, Up the Creek (1980)? Oops, we just did.

And look at the rest of that cast! No need to even mention their movies, for you know ’em well: Don Meredith, Christopher George’s wife Linda Day George, Ray Milland, Hari Rhodes, and Broderick Crawford . . . just wow, it’s all the actors we know and love ’round ‘ere and have written about many, many times in our reviews.

You can watch this 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.

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