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DANA ANDREWS SOARING IN 'AIRPLANE' ORIGIN 'ZERO HOUR!'

Fallen Angel couple Linda Darnell & Dana Andrews year: 1957
"It's an entirely different kind of flying" albeit not "altogether" and/or entirely since that famous AIRPLANE line came from the 1957 Airline Disaster flick ZERO HOUR!, starring Dana Andrews as haunted war vet Ted Striker and, like Robert Hays as Ted Striker, suffers a load of trauma, but for more reasons than one flyer's death, opening the movie with archive WWII footage with an ultra-serious, melodramatic narration...

But still not that funny since six of Ted's men went down after he had okayed a bombing on a particular ground target during heavy fog and, not seeing their way clearly, all six hit the ground, one after the other, exploding in deadly flames. With this genuinely tragic catapult we cut to the low-budget reality at a military hospital, as every ZERO HOUR! location epitomizes the sparse, thrown-together B-movie set-dressing, resembling used furniture most likely rolled into the studio for a quick day's shoot...

Geoffrey Toone and Dana Andrews in ZERO HOUR!
Then Ted's on board the (relatively small) airliner, joining his bitter wife and son after Elaine (as would be Julie Hagerty's name) left a Dear John letter: Actually, the interior of the plane is the best thing going on a visual basis, and looks impressively real...

It's the Tower Ground Control location that seems to have been assembled in ten minute's time, or less (yet most of the celebrated Film Noir vehicles had the same low budget, and were intended as b-movies also). But you'll forget soon enough when the iconic Sterling Hayden, playing both Robert Stack's AIRPLANE! role, a hard-nosed yet ultimately sympathetic war veteran who knew Ted in the service and now has to talk him down, as well as a vice-laden Lloyd Bridges. "I picked the wrong day," Hayden growls, lighting a cigarette, "to quit smoking."

Dana's Ted Stryker with son Joey in ZERO HOUR!
For the rest of the picture, after the halfway mark, Hayden's Capt. Martin Treleaven doesn't stop barking orders at the put-upon Andrews (with a younger, more even-keeled man at his side... actor Charles Quinlivan... who would turn up in AIRPORT 1975, in which Dana causes that airplane to crash): Dana's thick brows black-cloud an intense scowl of sweaty trepidation: not wanting to fly this plane, especially after those memories that, like with Hays, keeps haunting him with noisy wartime reality...

Andrews, despite the camp, and corny dialogue, puts everything into the role, holding the controls tight and, during the most intense scenes, adjusting himself to a much bigger plane than his wartime dog-fighter, hoping he doesn't screw up, again... His wife adds to his unapologetically intense performance, and it's Linda Darnell, who played the bad girl Dana's con artist was after in Otto Preminger's FALLEN ANGEL...

Dana Andrews in a shot liken to next years' The Fearmakers
Meanwhile, the lead pilot, before Andrews has to take over, is a tall real life athlete like the AIRPLANE co-pilot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: this one being very white and ridiculously square-jawed in Football player Elroy 'Crazylegs' Hirsch, who, like Peter Graves, has a nice time chatting with a young boy in the cockpit – Ted Striker's son – but not about Gladiator films: though he compliments the kid way too many times...

After the familiar case of food poisoning concerning "Whoever Ate The Fish," things not only play out seriously but there's a genuine and palpable "race against time" element: If Ted doesn't land, soon, everyone who's sick, including little Billy, will surely die...

Dana Andrews as Ted Stryker in Zero Hour RATES: ***1/2
We learn this information from our third banana and exposition spouter Dr. Baird, introduced by a woman saying, "Excuse me, I think the man sitting beside me is a doctor," and it's Brit actor Geoffrey Toone, not wearing a stethoscope like Leslie Neilson but holding his supply bag in his lap as he, along with the gorgeous blond stewardess... Lorna Patterson's predecessor in cutie-pie Peggy King (whose boyfriend works his hand as a puppet, which is awful enough to not need to be made fun of later)... they have to calm the passengers and... anyhow...

The similarities are endless; so much so the makers of AIRPLANE bought this movie's story outright to work around the melodrama, taking many lines, verbatim...

And of course while ZERO HOUR! is not as great a Suspense-Thriller as AIRPLANE! is a Comedy... Like parent to child, you can't have one without the other. As most people think it's only a parody on the AIRPORT franchise, everyone eventually learns the truth: and in the case of three entire airline disaster flicks, ZERO HOUR!, THE CROWDED SKY and AIRPORT 1975, that created the timeless comedy classic AIRPLANE, Dana Andrews is in the cockpit in all three features, acting as serious, determined and genuinely effective as ever.
An aged, owlish Dana Andrews battles booze in real life, and war memories in ZERO HOUR!
Next years' THE FEARMAKERS co-star Roy Gordon with Dana Andrews in ZERO HOUR!
Dana Andrews will often work with the same actors: here he's with Linda Darnell in FALLEN ANGEL and ZERO HOUR
Peggy King followed by Jerry Paris are the only two to try calming this lady down, unlike the AIRPLANE line of folks
As the plane is ready to land, instead of a Dalmatian, these fireman have what looks more like a collie or something
"Auntie M, it's a twister, it's a twister!" Yes, there's a Johnny in the Tower. And this guy's boring, and straight.
Sterling Hayden and Charles Quinlivan in ZERO HOUR!
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