Review Date: June 9, 2007
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 06/26/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Bad movies don’t just come from the horror genre, and they don’t just come from Uwe Boll. Warner Brothers is unveiling twelve of their campier affairs with their four volume “Cult Camp Classics” line, proving that even Hollywood can dish out the shit. This third volume, “Terrorized Travelers”, is probably the closest the line gets to horror, from the turbulent skies of Zero Hour!
to the troubled teens of Hot Rods to Hell
. They come in Warner’s classy packaging and at a bargain price, but are they bad enough?
begins with a hero. Lieutenant Ted Stryker (Dana Andrews
), he was the best pilot there was during World War II. One false move however, and a few fellow pilots were sent headfirst into death. He’s carried the burden with him since, making him shellshocked to fly, and incapable of keeping together a marriage. His wife, Ellen (Linda Darnell
), leaves him and gets on an outbound flight with their son. Dana goes to track her down, and winds up himself as a passenger. The flight takes off, and we’re introduced to a bevy of colorful characters. The mood however, is about to get very black.
Fish or lamb chops? Whoever had the fish ends up deathly ill, and unfortunately for the passengers, the cockpit went for the fillet. That leaves the plane without a pilot, forcing Ted out of his early retirement. As coincidence would have it, the man in flight control helping to guide his landing was Stryker’s former flight mate, Captain Martin Treleaven (Sterling Hayden
). Weather is bad, the health of the passengers is worse, and it all depends on a war-torn flake and his disgruntled wife in co-pilot. And don’t call me Shirley.
If that synopsis sounds familiar, it’s because Zero Hour!
was used as a pretty much direct template for the eponymous Airplane!
It is interesting because Airplane!
is less a parody, and more just the exact same film, with many of the same lines, played for laughs rather than melodrama. There’s no jive talkin’, but the auto-pilot is there, and so too is little Johnny’s trip to the cockpit. Even without its tongue in cheek, Zero Hour!
still plays out like the fun camp that Warner’s “Cult Camp Classics” line promises. There’s more stock footage than Hell of the Living Dead
, and considering the runtime is over twenty minutes shorter, that is saying something. Served in almost equal portions is the melodrama, with B-movie staple Dana Andrews piloting both the plane and apparently some sort of terrible Lifetime show. Caked in gallons of sweat and puddles of angst, he makes Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan look like Jimmy Fallon on an SNL skit.
Probably the most enjoyable bit though, especially for us Canucks, is the sheer number of forced references to our great country. When Canada was looking to make it themselves in the film industry in the 50’s, they made the mistake of letting Hollywood handle their best interests. Instead of working on building their own cinematic infrastructure, they struck a deal with Hollywood to let the Americans film here for cheap. In exchange, Canadian tourism was to benefit from the forced inclusion of Canadian names and backdrops that would be included in several major American films. Zero Hour!
may just be the best example of this, with the plane flying over the Canadian Rockies and every pilot and flight control officer throwing out every Canadian name they can imagine. “Can you land in Calgary?” “No, it’s too windy.” “How about Lethbridge?” “Let’s try Vancouver instead.” The references are endless, and while it is a sad reminder of our country’s exploitation, the forced sincerity of it all is funnier than anything in Airplane!
Hot Rods to Hell
has no references to Canada, but it retains Dana Andrews from the previous film. Here he plays Tom Phillips, a successful business man whose life is changed on a hairpin when a drunk driver totals his car and his back. He goes through months of rehab, and while his back shows signs of improvement, it’s the mental scarring that has left him without confidence and unable to work. Sensing his discomfort, his wife Peg (Jeanne Crain
) has his friend set him up with a potentially lucrative job as owner and manager of a Midwestern hotel destination. It’s the only inn for miles, which would be good for business if it weren’t for one thing…those damned sexualized teenage hot rodders!
With their fast cars, hot women and disrespect for their elders, they are menaces to society. The roads are their turf, and they run-off any man that comes in their way. When the leader, Duke (Paul Bertoya
), has a run-in with Tom, he vows to not only terrorize him no the road, but to also steal the heart of his younger daughter Tina (Laurie Mock
). The terror doesn’t just stick to the roads though, as the Duke and his posse crash the hotel dance with their threatening pelvic thrusts. Nobody is safe from their untamed libidos, products of pampered parenting and countercultural uncaring. Tom must try to save his daughter from the hoodlums, while at the same time facing his fear of the road for the pavement’s ultimate showdown.
Without a doubt the campiest of the lot, Hot Rods to Hell
, aside from having the best title ever, is one baaaaaad movie. It is an awkward blending of the 50’s biker picture and the emerging American International Pictures youth film movement. Andrews’ son in the picture, Jamie (Jeffrey Byron
) says every line with such overplayed “oh boy!” sincerity that you can’t help but think of the worst overacting from Hollywood’s golden phase. Yet, at the same time, the mod colors and sexualized youth certainly scream sixties. It’s yet another example of a Hollywood unsure of itself, lost in the changing waters of the burgeoning independent era; trying to update its templates to a new era.
Duke is no Brando or Dean, and is about as menacing as Brando’s hat is in The Wild One
. It certainly isn’t scary, but the sheer seriousness of it all should incite mass laughter. Through it all it ends up being a cautionary tale of how “speed kills”, with an officer of the law giving a show-stopping monologue on the perils of speeding. Touching stuff. Dana Andrews continues his bid for sweatiest actor of all time, with even more sweat behind the wheel here than in the airplane in Zero Hour!
If that’s not enough camp, then the film also has the distinction of having nearly every single scene in an automobile optically sped up for dramatic impact.
takes us back to the skies of Zero Hour!
, this time with Charlton Heston as the pilot facing turbulent conditions. The flight was going to course, a routine passenger flight to Minnesota. Young Elly Brewster (Looker
, and former Partridge Susan Dey
) goes to the bathroom to relieve herself and runs into the son of the senator. She giggles, watches him leave, and then closes the door. “There is a bomb on the plane.” She double takes, but sure enough, scrawled on the mirror in lipstick are the menacing orders. The plane is being hijacked, and if it doesn’t curtail into Alaska to land, then one man with an explosive temper will explode.
The hijacker is Jerome K. Weber (a pre-Amityville James Brolin
), an honored war soldier whose illusions of grandeur have turned him into a sociopath. One look at the reading light, and instantly images of flashing photographer bulbs infiltrate his mind as he dreams of his past in the spotlight. Vietnam is over, and now he is left to nothing, so he devises a plan to be flown to Alaska, and then Russia, in hopes of personal freedom. Okay. As if he weren’t crazed enough, on the way up to Alaska he gets pissed drunk with his neighbouring passenger too. So we have a plane of senators, pregnant women, teenagers, cello players and stewardesses in love, and without the bravery of Ben-Hur, all their dreams could come crashing down at a moment’s notice. They’re Skyjacked
is a product of the disaster-movie era spawned by movies like Airport
, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno
. Heston led Earthquake, and the director, John Guilermin, was responsible for Inferno, so you know what to expect, right? Well, truth be told, this is much worse than any of its contemporaries, and sadly not even in a good way. The production values are too high to merit the same kind of mockery as the previous two films in this set, and the story is far less rewarding. There’s hardly any of the in-air hijinks one would expect from the scenario, since Heston lands without much fight fifty minutes in. The movie just sort of fizzles out from there, with Brolin sort of wandering around aimlessly with his nonsensical motives. Brolin doesn’t even identify himself as the hijacker until after the plane lands. What kind of hijack film is this?
Admittedly, there are a few good laughs that come out of conservative stereotyping and labored attempts at character pathos. Brolin’s seat partner is a large black man, so naturally the film plays off a racist implication that he’s a criminal. They suspect that, yes, the African American is hiding a bomb in his cello case. Yes, his cello case
. There’s a funny exchange with Dey, too, when the stewardess immediately assumes she is riding economy because she is a hippie. What? The only other good laughs come from these random historic montages, as the camera zooms in on the eyes of random passengers, wherein their whole lives flash before them. The stewardess dreams of her past love with Heston, Heston of his wife, and Brolin of several medal ceremonies. You half expect the dog from The Hills Have Eyes, Part II
, to chime in with another flashback of his own. Sadly, there are no flights permitted on this plane. Other than that, it’s a pretty bumpy ride, even for bad-movie fans. See if you can count how many repeated dollies in on a stick of lipstick you can spot.
All three films are presented anamorphic and in their respective aspect ratios (Skyjacked
in scope, the others flat), and they all look pretty dirty. Warner usually treats their catalogue with a lot more care, but given the fact they’ve dubbed these films themselves as campy, it’s no surprise they’ve treated the transfers with a similar condescension. There’s plenty of dust, dirt and debris littered over all three, although Hot Rods to Hell
looks slightly cleaner than the rest. Aside from Warner’s usual polish though, these still have the sharp, rich transfers that make Warner one of the best home video outfits in the business. Color saturation on Hot Rods to Hell
is very vibrant, making the most of those sixties colors, and Skyjacked
preserves the muted browns and pale blues of the time. Zero Hour!
, although a tad grainy, still presents a fine contrast and a clear picture. Warner has done a lot better, but for the price and prestige of these pictures, they’ve still done more than was required.
Mono, all three of ‘em, and they all sound perfectly fine. They were made in the studio, so they avoid the problems that most of the horror films we review on here face. No hissing, clean dialogue and nicely matrixed sound. It’s fine.
Two cheesy exploitation-era trailers are all we get here, one for Zero Hour!
and the other for Hot Rods to Hell
was a film marketed for its cast at the time, so I’m sure the trailer would be hilariously straight-faced on all these non-celebrities, but alas it isn’t included. Considering all the films are pretty vapid and inconsequential, any other sort of extras would probably have been overdoing it.
This “Terrorized Travelers” set from Warner Brothers presents three films from three different decades of bad Hollywood movies, and it is funny to see that even as styles, colors and stories change, the Hollywood suck remains largely the same. Zero Hour!
is melodramatic fun that Airplane!
would lovingly mock, and Hot Rods to Hell
is the highlight with the Cleavers terrorized by a couple hot rod-driving rejects from Gidget
is a tame and tepid Airport
clone, but it still offers a few moments of campy charm. The transfers are dirtier than usual for Warner, but are still up to their sharp, vivid standards. The sound is mono, and the extras virtually nonexistent, but the price tag is twenty bucks, and if you want to go camp-ing, that’s a lot cheaper than a tent.
Movie - C
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - D
Hot Rods to Hell
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - D
Movie - D
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 4 hours 42 minutes
- Not Rated
- 3 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- English subtitles
- French subtitles