The Doomsday Flight (1966)

How can you pass up a TV Movie written by Rod Serling?

You can’t.

Not when Rod brings along Jack Lord, Edmond O’Brien, Van Johnson (The Concorde Affaire), Richard Carlson (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Ed Asner, and the always awesome John Saxon (which is why we posted our “Exploring: John Saxon” featurette) in his first TV movie.

Courtesy of the Rod Serling

Premiering on NBC-TV on December 13, 1966, thanks to the man behind the pen and that cast, it became the most watched made-for-TV movie to date. As was typical of most TV movies — especially with TV movies that served as a series pilot — The Doomsday Flight was also an overseas theatrical hit.

And wouldn’t you know it: the movie’s hit status gave the cracked and the desperate ideas, as airports across the world — not just in the U.S. — seen an increase of called-in bomb threats. In 1971, the hijack threats became so commonplace, the FAA requested U.S TV station no longer air the film.

Now you know why you may not have heard of or seen this airliner classic, since it’s been off the air since then.

You know this one is an oldie (but a goodie) when the plane hijacked via bomb threat and ransom demand, is an Douglas DC-8. The reason that Edmund O’Brien is so adept at keeping one step ahead of the FAA: he’s a former cop, oops, I mean, a disgruntled aviation engineer.

Yes, much like the later Speed, this time we have DC-8 — instead of a bus — circling around the Los Angeles Airport until Dennis Hopper, uh, I mean Edmund O’Brien, is found. Oh, and if the airliner drops below 50 miles per hour, oops, I mean 4,000 feet, BOOM! And, if you’re following along: Jack Lord is in the Keanu Reeves role, as Special Agent Frank Thompson.

It’s a smart, taunt little thriller brought to you by TV stalwart William Graham, who bought us everything, from episodes of Batman in the ’60s to The X-Files in the ’80s, along with an Elvis movie, Change of Habit (1969), in between. Oh, and . . . ugh, Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991).

You can watch this now public domain film on various DVD box sets, which has been ripped to You Tube.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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