Lee Majors Week Wrap Up

Image Courtesy of mn2S Talent Agency/text courtesy of PicFont

Born in the Southern Detroit suburb of Wyadotte along the Detroit River as Harvey Lee Yeary, Lee Majors got his start like most burgeoning actors of the day: he did his time in a studio-sponsored acting school, in Major’s case, at MGM with acclaimed acting teacher Estelle Harman, who guided the careers of Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson.

But — like Kurt Russell — before acting, Harvey Yeary was all about sports. And his skills in track and football at Middlesboro High School in Kentucky led to a scholarship at Indiana University. A back injury during his first college game while attending Eastern Kentucky University ended his collegiate career. And, like Kurt Russell, who torn out a shoulder and ended his potential professional baseball career, Harvey Lee Yeary pursued his second love: acting.

Using his degree in Physical Education (he also has a degree in History), he worked as a Recreation Director in the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department. Among the many industry professionals he met during that time was Dick Clayton, James Dean’s agent. Liking his personality, looks and physique — and the fact he had stage acting experience back in Kentucky — Clayton suggested Yeary try acting professionally.

Soon after, at the age of 25, the man we came to know as Lee Majors booked his first, although uncredited role, as Joan Crawford’s cheating husband in Strait-Jacket. Then he booked his first credited role in a 1965 episode of TV’s Gunsmoke. After a support role in the 1967 Charlton Heston-starring western Will Penny (directed by Tom Gries of Earth II fame), Lee Majors beat out 400 young acting hopefuls, including another ex-college football player, Burt Reynolds, for a co-starring role as Heath Barkley on the ABC-TV western series, The Big Valley. Then came Majors’s first starring role in The Ballad of Andy Crocker, which aired as an ABC-TV Movie of the Week. In 1971, Majors then landed the co-starring role of Jess Brandon for the three-season run of the ABC-TV law drama, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law.

And all of that work with the ABC network paid off: Lee was offered a leading-man role that would change his life and turn him into our beloved pop icon: USAF Colonel Steve Austin, a character created by Harve Bennett (The Astronaut, Salvage I) for a series of three TV movies eventually picked up as a four-year run TV series.

Image courtesy of 2 Warps to Neptune.com.

And the rest is history. And we reviewed Lee Majors’s film history all of this week, from Sunday, April 18 to Saturday, April 24.

But why?

Well, yeah, because Lee’s 82nd birthday is on April 23, but also, because we dig Lee Majors and our ’70s childhood memories. For when you’re immortalized twice as a toy and have not one, but two, lunch boxes, and two board games with your likeness, well, your career kicked ass and a bag o’ chips. And while the bionic eye on our Steve Austin action figure (it’s not a doll!) eventually fogged up, and the button in the back that controlled the bionic arm broke, and the skin we peeled back to reveal Steve’s bionic modules dry rotted, Steve Austin still kicked our full-sized G.I Joe’s asses.

In 1988, Lee tried for a third TV series, with Reed Down Under, aka Danger Down Under, an Australian TV1 and NBC-TV co-production that was not picked up for series on either network. It was recut into a home video/theatrical release, Harris.

Here’s the film’s we reviewed this week, by year of release:

Strait-Jacket (1964)
The Ballad of Andy Crocker (1969)
The Liberation of L.B Jones (1970)
Weekend of Terror (1970)
The Six Million Dollar Man (1973)
The True Story of the U-2 Spy Incident (1976)
The Norseman (1978)
Killer Fish (1979)
Steel (1979)
Agency (1980)
High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980)
The Last Chase (1981)
Starflight One (1983)
Spring Break ’83 (1983)
A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)
Keaton’s Cop (1990)
Fire: Trapped on the 37th Floor (1991)
The Cover Girl Murders (1994)
Trojan War (1997)
Musketeers Forever (1998)
Big Fat Liar (2002)
Hell to Pay (2005)
The Witnessing of Angels (2006)
Ben 10: Race Against Time (2007)
The Brothers Solomon (2007)
Jerusalem Countdown (2011)
Do You Believe? (2015)
Almosting It (2016)
Jean (2016)
Wild Bill Hickok: Swift Justice (2016)

And Lee’s career just keeps on truckin’! We were stoked to learn that Lee is in post-production on his 127th project, the U.K.-produced Renegades, in which he co-stars with . . . wait for it . . . Danny Trejo and Michael Pare! So, oh, hell yeah. When you give us a movie with Danny, Micheal and Lee Majors, we are so there. You can learn more about Renegades, scheduled to hit all streaming platforms in 2021, at Variety.com. And yes, you impressionable youngins, you know Lee as Brock Williams, Ash’s pop, in the second and third seasons of Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead.

Photo courtesy of Matt Klitscher/Starz Entertainment. Read Lee’s interview about the show at USA Today.com. And there’s more deep Intel on Lee’s career — as he speaks about his role on Ash vs. Evil Dead — at AV Club.
In 2010, upon the release of the 40-disc, 100-hour DVD box set of the series (hey, it’s only $239.95!), Lee sat down with Vanity Fair for an extensive interview about the series and its lasting pop culture status.
America’s couple. We loved them!

While we didn’t get a chance to review them, you may be interested in checking out two more of Lee’s films that we discovered: When I Find the Ocean (2008; on Tubi) and the just-released Narco Sub (2021; official website).

We dig you, Lee. Keep on thespin’.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies. You can read his music journalism pieces and short stories on Medium.

Lee Majors Week: Musketeers Forever (1998)

An English-French-Russian co-production action flick shot in Montreal, Canada, but set in Las Vegas? And starring Lee Majors and Micheal Dudikoff? And pinching from the Alexandre Dumas classic? Did Cannon Pictures make this?


A company known as Betar Entertainment made it. But don’t worry, they made 1988’s The Ultimate Weapon with Hulk Hogan, so it’s all good.

Well, not really. We are in the direct-to-video low-budget lands where there’d be no original bones buried in this Las Vegas desert of the Great White Sands. Yep, Hoss! We be got ‘er selves a Road House rip-off where Dumas is rolling over in his grave.

Ben O’Connor (Lee Majors) is a retired ex-CIA and Special Forces bad-ass who comes into a little cash via a high-stakes poker game. So he decides it’s time to retire and open up his dream jazz club in Las Vegas, with two of his ex-army buddies as his partners. And since that fourth Musketeer from the good ‘ol army days died during a mission (protecting the Russian president), they’ll employ his son (Michael Dudikoff) as their chief bartender. Romance, but of course, ensues between Dudikoff’s D’Artagnan (seriously, that’s his character’s first name) and Malila (Sabrine Karsenti, who you may remember from Battlefield Earth and The Crow TV series), the local Indian Reservation damsel-in-distress.

And the action ensues when Brad Wesley Kenton Crawford (if you’re a Dolph Lundgren completist, you know actor Martin Neufeld from his work in The Peacekeeper) and his sidekick Irina (Sylvie Varakine, who reminds of Brigitte Nielsen; know your Rocky IV references), a pair of bad-ass Russian gangsters who “own the town” of Indian Creek (no joke) and the cops (see?), decides to plow down the reservation to build a casino — and level the newly-minted club in the process — it’s time for lots of barroom brawling. Hell, yeah. It’s not a time to “be nice” anymore, baby! Hey, at least, unlike Road House, we have a timely message about the death of progress and how the white man screws the Indians.

Granted, Majors, as well as Dudikoff, are clearly past their action-primes in this rare, hard-to-find rip on Dudikoff’s Cannon halcyon days of action yore, but the duo carry the film’s French-Canadian unknown-to-U.S. cast with class. Chalk it up to my enjoyment off all things Dudikoff and my Majors nostalgia, but I liked this one in all of its low-budgeted action glory. But man, we sure do wish Sam Elliot would roll up just to deliver that line . . . and ride off into the sunset, because there’s no way to twist the name “The Musketeer Club” into a joke about a feminine hygiene product. (Douchesketeer? No, that’s not working for me, either. That’s something a dicky, frat-preppy college jock would say as he pants a nerd. Wade Garrette would never say that.)

Musketeers Forever is scattered around the globe in a hard-to-find VHS tape and bogus grey-ripped DVD issued in multiple-region formats (dubbed in French — with and without subtitles), so know your zones. But guess what? Tubi TV comes through with a pretty clean English-language, free-with-ads upload to enjoy. So get your Dudikoff on this weekend and relive those good ol’ Cannon VHS days of yore.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Lee Majors Week: The Cover Girl Murders (1994)

No, this isn’t a VHS retrofit of ABC-TV’s 1984 TV movie The Calendar Girl Murders starring Tom Skerritt. Haven’t you been following along at all this week?

So, we have Lee Majors starring in a watered down TV giallo for the USA Network (that eventually replayed on HBO) that grafts Baywatch onto Friday the 13th as a bunch of nubile young ladies frolic across the island sands à la Agatha’s Christie’s oft-used Ten Little Indians as plot fodder. Hey, what’s not to like when Lee’s costars are Adrian Paul from Highlander . . . and Jennifer O’Neill!

So, what do we have here? Ugh, do you really want to know?

Ah, you gotta love those generic VHS potboiler covers of yore.

Well, piggish Rex Kingman (cast-against-type Lee Majors) is a magazine mogul none to happy that one of the models “he made” has giving him the professional brush now that’s she a TV star. And she’s quickly dispatched via straight razor by a Halloween-masked marauder (Richard Nixon, is that you?). And . . . off we go to some tropical island to save the King’s ready-to-go-under-can-only-be-saved-by-a-swimsuit-edition magazine with a hot, ponytailed photographer (Paul) and Lee’s right-hand madam, oh, we mean editor and ex-lover, Kate Brannigan (O’Neill). But guess what? Our rubbery ex-president is also on the island, fully equipped with rifle scopes, explosives, and shiny implements of giallo destruction. Oh, snap! That establishing murder wasn’t real? What? That was Kate’s nightmare? Oh, so, nix Richard Nixon . . . and cue the red-herring creepy groundskeeper — the one in need of a bath, a shave, and a few treadmill sessions — before settling down with a nice cigar as he jerks to those Polaroids of the girls he taped to the wall next to his cot.

This is a film where, deaths be damned, the magazine must be saved, so it’s a kill-and-camera snap world. And since this a cable TV giallo, the slash is lacking, the blood is missing, and (plot spoiler, stop reading!) it’s all a big dupe set up by Kate — with the models in on the scam — to push the tyrannical Kingman over-the-edge. So, not only do we have ol’ Aggie in the script model, we have a soupçon of oh, Henry James’s Turn of the Screw — only with the always pleasurable-to-see Bobbie Phillips in a bikini draped across tree trunks, riding horses and jet skis, and running in slow-mo montages to pad out the film’s lack of plot and short run time.

Seriously, this isn’t all that bad — in a porn, uh “adult thriller,” kinda way. In fact, if you used this USA potboiler’s production values — and cast a bunch of known porn-to-mainstream actresses, like Michelle Bauer, Marilyn Chambers, Traci Lords, Linnea Quigley, Moana Pozzi, and Teri Weigel in the cast — and upped the skin quotient in a direct-to-DVD release model, we’d be onto something other than this red, white and blue blade-dull giallo.

While it would be very cool to see Lee Majors in a real, bloody Neapolitan insect-and-junk-science-driven-killer romp, you’ve seen worse watered down U.S. telefilm horrors. Check it out for yourself on You Tube. Oh, and be sure to check out our review of Lee and Jen’s other film we reviewed this week, the much better he-man actioner, Steel.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Lee Majors Week: Fire: Trapped on the 37th Floor (1991)

Although cable TV chipped away at their audience, the Big Three networks were still in the theatrical knockoff movie business, with ABC-TV airing this disaster tale on February 18, 1991. While, at first, it reminds of the A-List blockbuster The Towering Inferno (1974), the real inspiration here is Ron Howard’s Backdraft, released that same year. And since we named dropped Jerry Jameson during our “Lee Majors Week” review of Starflight One, we’ll have to mention Jameson’s more timely TV movie lookalike with 1974’s The Blazing Tower, which circulated on the U.S. home video and overseas theatrical marketplace as Terror on the 40th Floor.

The difference between that influential Irwin Allen epic is that this harrowing tale is based on a real life fire that broke out on the 12th floor of the 62-floored First Interstate Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles on May 4, 1998, and raged into May 5. As result of the building’s sprinkler system not operating at full capacity, along with the main water valves that supplied the fire pumps turned off due to building construction, the fire quickly spread upwards to the 16th floor. And not only was there mechanical failure, but human failure at the hands of security guards ignoring smoke alarm warnings.

Of course, as with any TV film based on “real events,” dramatic licenses are taken with incidents tweaked and buoyed by composite and fictitious character creations. To that end we have familiar ’80’s TV actors Lisa Hartman and Peter Scolari as two trapped survivors on the 37th floor. Keener TV eyes will pick up on the somewhat lesser known, ’80s small screen stars in the fire brigade with Paul Linke (CHiPs), Ronald William Lawerence (Hunter), John Laughlin (The White Shadow), and yes, that’s the always great Micheal Beach, aka Taddarius Orwell ‘T.O.’ Cross from FX’s Sons of Anarchy, just starting out his long TV career and on his way to recurring roles in Under Suspicion, ER, and Third Watch, but these days, you know his work in The 100 and Chicago P.D. Also look out for a young Angela Bassett just starting her career with support roles in various TV series and telefilms. Lee Majors heads the cast (but everyone else is here a bit more than him), as Sterling, the stoic, no nonsense Deputy Fire Chief working against the endless array of errors exacerbating the tragedy.

Screenwriter Jeffrey Bloom’s career goes back to some late ’70s episodes of Starsky and Hutch (and a couple of David Soul-starring TV movies) and the popular VHS Jaws-knockoff, Blood Beach, which he also directed. In the director’s chair — and in his final TV project — is Robert Day, whose writing and directing efforts date back to Tarzan in the early ’60s. Bringing us a wealth of TV series episodes and movies across all three networks, we know Day best at B&S About Movies for the late ’70s de rigueur witchcraft flick, The Initiation of Sarah.

This is one of those old TV flicks that, while it lacks the dramatic punch of Backdraft or the thespian skills offered by Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in The Towering Inferno, this is, none the less, a well-down film rife with credible, practical in-camera effects on-a-budget that still holds up in today’s CGI world.

You can enjoy the film courtesy of 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.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: The Witnessing of Angels (2006)

When I looked through the bionic eye of my Steve Austin figure at four years old, never did I think four decades later that I would be listening to Lee Majors narrate the story of Erik Estrada surviving a motorcycle accident thanks to an angel.

How can it get any better? What if Patrick Macnee also came on board and told us about his experiences with the seraphim and cherubim?

David McKenzie, who directed this, used to use the name David L. Stanton to make action movies like Chill Factor, which has Paul Williams and — hey! — Patrick Macnee* in them. Or under his own name, TV documentaries and specials such as The International Magic AwardsThe Secret KGB Sex Files and for the last two years, the Emmy Awards.

So yeah. The Six Million Dollar Man, Ponch and John Steed talk about angels. So I watched that.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*He also made the made-for-TV movie Scrooge: A Christmas Carol with Macnee.

Lee Majors Week: Keaton’s Cop (1990)

The ’80s were the comeback decade, for both William Shatner and Lee Majors returned to our small screens with T.J Hooker (1982 – 1986) and The Fall Guy (1981 – 1986)*, respectively. And both were shows good ol’ dad and I could enjoy together. And we were both equally perturbed when they were simultaneously cancelled.

Now you would think, with a second hit TV series, that Lee would have been back in mainstream Hollywood’s good graces and return to his stalled theatrical career from the early ’80s. But it seemed the contractual dust-up during the last year of The Six Million Dollar Man back in 1977 wasn’t forgotten. There’s two sides to the story: Majors either caught a case of the Tinseltown Flu to force Universal into accepting his Fawcett-Majors Productions as a series co-producer or he held out for a pay raise. Either way, the executive suites in la-la land don’t take kindly to their actors pulling a creative coup.

So after saddling up in the late ’80s as Mountain Dan alongside Dolly Parton (with Henry “The Fonz” Winkler directing!) in A Smoky Mountain Christmas and two Six Million Dollar Man-Bionic Woman telefilms, Majors made it back to the big screen . . . well, it was only a matter of time until Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus wrangled Lee Majors into one of their deadbeat, direct-to-video productions.

Granted, we love Cannon Films around the B&S About Movies offices, for their imprint was ’80s VHS-rental de rigueur, with all of the Death Wish sequels and Chuck Norris flicks, such as Invasion U.S.A. and The Delta Force series. And all of the Ninja-suffixed films. And all of our beloved Micheal Dudikoff flicks. In fact, by 1986, Cannon reached a production milestone of distributing 43 films in one year, as the studio broke away from their usual direct-to-videoesque potboilers to big-budgeted theatrical features such as (the less than stellar) Lifeforce and Masters of the Universe, (and the cheesily awesome) Cobra and Over the Top.

Sadly, by the time the Israeli cousins of the celluloid frontiers roped the services of Lee Majors, Cannon was in financial and creative ruins . . . and four years away from its inevitable demise. So, instead of putting Majors in a halfway decent flick sidekickin’ with Chuck Norris in something like Firewalker or slipping him into Roy Scheider’s role in (a pretty decent Elmore Leonard film adaptation) 52 Pick Up, our ex-Bionic stunt man ended up in Keaton’s Cop.


You know, the 48 Hours Lethal Weapon buddy-cop rip-off film that paired Lee Majors with Don Rickles. Yes. You heard me right. Mr. Warmth from all of those The Johnny Carson Show reruns on Antenna TV. The guy who did all of those goofy “beach party” movies with Frankie and Annette back in the ’60s. The guy who you’ve seen many a-cable-replay times as casino manager Billy Sherbet in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. But the younger kiddies ’round these wilds of Allegheny country probably remember Don Rickles best as the acidic Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story. Oh, and if you’re a horror hound like most of B&S’s readers: Don was Manny Bergman in the (pretty cool) mobster-vamp hybrid Innocent Blood by John Landis.

But here’s ol’ Don . . . twenty-years later, following up his last big screen role in 1970’s Kelly Heroes with Clint Eastwood, in the Danny Glover role as Jake Barber: the aged detective sidekick paired with Mike Gable, a burnt-out, on-the-edge veteran cop with a penchant for throwing suspects out windows — and losing partners, via death. Oh, and speaking of Cobra . . . guess who their boss is . . . hey, it’s Art LaFleur rippin’ through a Xerox redux of his role from that Stallone flick. (Plot spoiler: we lose Don early in the movie, natch, and he’s not funny here; he plays it straight, as he did in Innocent Blood and Casino.) Oh, and speaking of Cobra, again: Remember the big “character development” scene when Marion Cobretti cut off a slice of three-day-old pizza with a pair of scissors? Well, Keaton’s Cop has one: Mike Gable brushes his teeth with beer. (Remember when Brian “Boz” Bosworth mixed that “health drink” in a blender during the “establishing scene” in Stone Cold (1991) and we wondered, “how can he drink that” . . . and it ended up being gruel for his bet iguana? Hey, all of these action flicks needed one of those “character development” moments, natch.)

So, I see you noticed the name of Abe Vigoda on the box. Yes, he from those endless AMC and TNT reruns of The Godfather and those old Barney Miller episodes you’ve Antenna TV-channel grazed as you surfed the couch after a long Saturday night of partying. Eh, maybe you remember Abe in The Cannonball Run II, The Stuff, or the oddest Christmas flick of them all, Prancer.

Anyway, Ol’ Abe is Louis Keaton, an aged-out mobster living his days incognito in a Galveston, Texas, nursing home. When Gable is dispatched to the nursing home to investigate a shooting, he comes to discover the intended target was Keaton and the shooter was a mob hitman. And since Barber and Vigoda go “way back,” Barber convinces the guff n’ grizzled Gable to take part of the action-comedy-romance (with a home nurse that is way too young for him) that ensues.

Truth be told: Even though this a pinch-o-rama rip off, Majors is solid here, the comedy is funny (both of the sometimes-intentional and non-intentional variety), and it’s nice to see a then 69-year-old Abe Vigoda digging in his heels and getting banged around with film’s promoted “hard-edged action.” But still. Lee Majors deserved better. Way better. Like the very similar Martin Brest-directed and Robert DeNiro-starring Midnight Run from 1988-better (which Majors old bosses, Universal, backed). But that’s how the dice in Hollywood roll across the green felts of fate.

No freebie streams? What the hell, You Tube uploaders? What gives, ye executives at Tubi TV? Ah, but we found a rental-stream on Amazon Prime. Keaton’s Cop has never been officially reissued on DVD, so watch out for those bogus-cum-defective grey market rips out there, kiddies.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

* Stock footage alert: Action scenes from our “Fast and Furious Week II” review of Flash and the Firecat ended up in The Fall Guy (the clip is included in the review).

Lee Majors Week: Spring Break ’83 (2007)

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran on February 23, 2020, as part of our “Box Office Failure Week” of film reviews. We rerunning it as part of our “Leek Majors Week” tribute.

If you ever wondered: Is there a film with an almost $20 million dollar price tag that the acting and technical unions had to shut down because none of the actors or crew were paid? Is there a film that still hasn’t been released—thirteen years after it completed production? More importantly: Is there a film where Lee Majors (being a really good sport about his “pop culture” status) goes “Six Million Dollar Man” on Dan Conner’s ass? Is there a film where Lee Majors makes prank phone calls looking for “Phil McCracken” with Johnny Brennan of The Jerky Boys?

Yep. There is.

Tag! You’re it. Whoomp! There it is!

And that movie is this reported “remake” of director Sean S. Cunningham’s second post-Friday the 13th project, the 1983 teen comedy, Spring Break. (That film’s theme song by Cheap Trick is below.) The story is a familiar one: a group of four friends who were bullied in high school decide to seek revenge against those now college freshman bullies during a Florida Spring Break in 1983. Shot in outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the film was produced by Big Sky Motion Pictures, the production company of the film’s writer and director, Mars Callahan, who’s best known for the acclaimed Poohall Junkies starring Chazz Palminteri and Christopher Walken (and the little seen What Love Is starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.).

While the title makes you think this is a direct-to-DVD knockoff of a Judd Aptow sex-joke fest, you’d be wrong. Spring Break ’83, co-directed by Sam Raimi associate Scott Spiegel (Intruder, co-writer of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn), carries an $18 million dollar price tag and was intended as a theatrical release.

And look at that cast. The talent we love here at B&S About Movies is everywhere you look! It’s a B-Movie fan’s dream wet dream with Robert Davi (Maniac Cop II), Erik Estrada (Do or Die, the Hallmark Channel’s Dead Over Diamonds), Morgan Fairchild (American Horror House), John Goodman (C.H.U.D), Lee Majors (The Norseman), Joe Pantoliano (The Final Terror) Joe Piscopo (Dead Heat), Richard Portnow (Howard Stern’s dad in Private Parts), and Adrian Zmed (The Final Terror, William Shatner ‘80s TV series TJ Hooker).

It’s been reported the film screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009. However, it actually didn’t screen at festival: the film was shown at an (unnamed) venue in Park City, Utah, at the same time Sundance was taking place. Piggybacking the film onto the festival did nothing to help the film find a distributor. The film’s once official website now leads to a 404 error and the legal disputes over who owns the film’s negative still continues. . . . And we’re sure Lee has stories to tell. We wonder if he ever got paid?

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Lee Majors Week: Starflight One (1983)

We ballyhooed the TV career of Jerry Jameson in our review of one of the few times the prolific director was called up to the bigs with the 1974 A.I.P release The Bat People. Jameson was also behind one of the ‘70s quintessential box office “disaster” smashes: Airport ’77, which was backed by Universal Pictures. And since this ABC-TV “Movie of the Week” was known during its overseas television and theatrical runs as Airport ’85, you know why Jameson is here . . . and where this film is heading. Of course, Lee Majors is here, and the reason he’s here is because Jameson directed Majors in several episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man. The duo previously worked together on High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980) and The Cowboy and the Ballerina (1984).

The brains behind this production is Henry Winkler — and “The Fonz” made sure John Dkystra’s contributions to the film were front and center in those promo materials. And the Airport series* of films were box-office hot in the ’70s and, as we learned from our 2020 end of the year “TV Movie Week” tribute, the Big Three networks relished stuffing their disaster hangers with a slew of low-budgeted airline action flicks**. So, Star Wars meets Airport, it is!

And to whip that pitch into shape, TV scribes Robert Malcolm Young and Peter R. Brooke didn’t take any chances in concocting their Star Wars TV cash-in: they simply pinched from the 1969 Gregory Peck sci-fi borefest that was Marooned (1969) — and changed out the “Ironman One” capsule from that film with Starflight One, an SST-styled supersonic jet successor, and the Doppelganger Rescue shuttle with the Columbia. The script also bears striking similarities to the 1982 novel Orbit by Thomas Block (Amazon Kindle), but those similarities were chalked up to coincidence and not plagiarism. And if it all seems a bit familiar, like ABC-TV’s SST Death Flight familiar from 1977, then it probably is.

As is the case with the Big Three network flicks of the pre-cable epoch, the passenger cabin is loaded with lots of familiar character actor and TV series faces, in this case we have Hal Linden, Lauren Hutton, Gail Strickland, George DiCenzo, Tess Harper, and the always game Ray Milland — who you’ll remember was in ABC-Universal’s Battlestar Galactica feature film, but opted out of the series. And yes, that is Terry “Uncle Bernie” Keiser on board — who also co-starred with Majors in Steel (1980; also reviewed this week).

So, the poster . . . along with the Star Wars and Airport connections says it all, right?

Distributed by Orion Pictures in the overseas markets, where it was also known as Airport ’85 and Airport 2000.

Okay, so we have the big, media-covered maiden flight for Starflight One, a hypersonic jet that can travel from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, in two hours. Of course, there’s romance and corporate intrigue on the flight, with Cody Briggs (Lee Majors) two-timing his wife Janet (Tess Harper) via Erica Hansen (Lauren Hutton), a media relations rep with the airline run owned by, you guessed it, they ubiquitously gruffy Ray Milland. And we’ve got a greedy crook using the flight to transport some stolen gold out of the country, and Terry Keiser is on board as an equally greedy communication magnate stressed out over launching that crucial Saturn V stock footage (off the cost of Australia!) to put his satellite into orbit to corner the world’s TV market.

Uh, oh. The Saturn V goes FUBAR and the rocket debris scatters into Starlight One’s flight path. To avoid disaster, Briggs climbs the jet — and stumbles into orbital velocity. And the Starlight has no heat shields . . . thus the film’s alternate VHS home video titling as Starlight: The Plane That Couldn’t Land. So, while Dykstra’s on his union-mandated lunch break, it’s time to cue that shuttle Columbia stock footage (not once, but twice!) to deliver emergency fuel on the first flight, and some flimsy flexible conduit to save the 70-plus passengers on the second flight. Bottom line: If you want to see a very game Hal Linden drifting through a flexi-space tunnel to safety, then this is your film.

Truth be told, in spite of its low-budget, Dykstra’s effects are pretty good . . . well, those those outer space scenes of astronauts drifting about is more of the Salvage I variety, really. And more like when Battlestar Galactica: TOS tanked in the ratings and the effects went to cheesy feldercarb courtesy of budget cuts. So, sorry, please leave those “Star Wars” claims at the spacegate, Kubrick. This was certainly fun-filled when we were Lucas-drunk in our tweens and early teens, but this — unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Running (which Dykstra also worked on), and Star Wars — doesn’t hold well to the test of time. But it’s still a hell of a lot better than that stranded-in-space hokum Murder In Space (1985) starring the not-even-they-can-save-it-cast of Wilford Brimley, Michael Ironside, and Martin Balsam — a detective-cum-murder mystery-in-space TV movie plotting trope that didn’t get better with the likes of Murder by Moonlight (1989) and Trapped in Space (1994).

You can stream Starlight One on Amazon Prime or through EPIX’s own Amazon platform.

* We reviewed all of the Airport movies with our “Watch the Series: Airport” feature.

** You can catch up with all of those TV movie airline disaster flicks with our “Airline Disasters TV Movie Round-Up” feature.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Lee Majors Week: Hell to Pay (2005)

This movie promises ten legendary Western stars.

Those stars would be Buck Taylor (Newly on Gunsmoke), James Drury (The Virginian), Denny Miller (Duke Shannon from Wagon Train), Andrew Prine (who was on numerous cowboy shows but was also Simon King of the Witches), William Smith (who as we all know makes any movie better; he was also Joe Riley on Laredo), Bo Svenson, Peter Brown (Chad Cooper on Laredo), Tom Thomerson (who was Theodore Ogilvie on Gun Shy, the TV spinoff of The Apple Dumpling Gang) and our featured actor this week, Lee Majors (Heath from The Big Valley). And look out! It’s Stella Stevens!

Wait a second. That’s nine cowboys (and Stella). I guess maybe competitive shooter Gene Pearcey is another one? Or Rico Nance, who was an extra on Deadwood after this? Maybe Griff Furst, who was in the remake of The Magnificent Seven?

Any way you look at it, this is the cowboy version of the streaming slashers that come my way every day. It’s legitimately one of the worst-sounding movies I’ve ever heard and you know a movie is bad when it has William Smith, Lee Majors and Tim Thomerson in it and I still can’t stand it.

An utter failure on every level.

Director Chris McIntyre made a movie called Gang Warz with Chino XL and Coolio, as well as Captured Alive with Pat Morita, Backstreet Justice with Viveca Lindfors, Paul Sorvino and Hector Elizondo, plus Hammerlock, another Pat Morita project.

I shall watch none of these.

You can watch this on Tubi.

LEE MAJORS WEEK: Big Fat Liar (2002)

Paul Giamatti, you have our respect.

You’re arguably the best actor of our generation and here you are as the bad guy in a vehicle for Frankie Muniz, at the time a hot sitcom star on Malcolm In the Middle. Speaking of sitcom stars, this was written by Dan Schneider (who beyond being on Head of the Class and writing Good Burger also essayed the perfect role of the evil Ricky Smith in Better Off Dead) and Brian Robbins (who also went from Head of the Class to now being the President of Kids & Family Entertainment at ViacomCBS). If that isn’t enough big time talent for you, this was directed by Shawn Levy, who directed the Night at the Museum movies before becoming the executive producer and one of the directors of Stranger Things.

This movie is literally packed with talented people, like Donald Faison, Sandra Oh, Taran Killam, Amanda Bynes and the reason why this movie ended up on our site, Lee Majors, who plays an aging stuntman. The hardest thing he ever had to do? Watch his leading ladies kiss some other guy while he’s bandaging his knee.

So yeah. All this talent in the service of a teen comedy in which Paul Giamatti gets dyed blue. They even remade this movie in 2016 and Barry Bostwick took over that role. The blue skin is the comeuppance for stealing Muniz’s script and making it his own. I was around twenty-some years too late to be a target audience for this film, but if it works for you, so be it.

I’m just here for Lee Majors, a phrase I have uttered more than once this week.