K13 SST: Death Flight

(1977, Drama-Television, color)

Please put your brain under the seat in front of you.

Rating: *1/2


A fictional chronicle of the first super-sonic transport’s disastrous maiden flight. Sabotage sends the plane into two separate nose-dives; two different pilots pull them back out by—I kid you not—telling the passengers to run to the back of the plane. Once emergency repairs have been completed, they discover another problem: sabotage-related turbulence has damaged a crate containing a sample of a deadly virus. Passengers fall ill while all the airports of the world close their landing strips to the ill-fated flight. (Never mind that any disease with an incubation period of less than twenty minutes would present very little danger of becoming an epidemic.) Eventually, they crash-land near an African hospital that specializes in the disease. The movie’s many, many costars include Peter Graves as the Heroic Man Who Is Too Old To Marry the Woman He Loves and Billy Crystal as the Heroic Man Who Is Also a Homosexual.


He looks mahvellous.Amazingly, this movie was not the inspiration for the comedy hit Airplane!, even though it has much of the plot, characters, and even an actor in common. (Airplane dramas must have been a dime a dozen in the 1970s.) I don’t remember any names, but all the female characters can be described as Brave but Emotionally Fragile and all of the male characters (except, of course, for the Disgruntled Saboteur and the Weasely FiancĂ©) can be described as Heroic but with a Troubled Past…if you allow that being African American or gay counts as having a Troubled Past. The ludicrous melodrama makes it seventy-five percent hilarious already; all Joel and the ‘Bots have to do is give it that extra little comedic push. In the host segments, Dr. Forrester returns from Vegas with two vehicles full of money, but seems keenly embarrassed by his good fortune. Other segments include Joel introducing Tom to the concept of pain (“You can fill my head with gummi bears; I won’t talk”) and Gypsy singing the Marilyn Monroe version of the Happy Birthday song in a genuinely female voice.