In 2010 Zero Hour is as funny as Airplane, only it wasn't meant to be at the time. Kudos to TCM for showing it immediately following Airplane. Great to see Dana Andrews when young, and planes had cockpits you could just walk into. If you're a fan of Airplane, or post-war movies, this is a must see. =====================================================We open with a long shot of an airfield and a squadron of British Spitfire fighters taking off. Credits and title follow. A narrator tells us, "On April 10, 1945 units of the 72nd Squadron of the Royal Air Force crossed the boundary of Germany under the command of Canadian squadron leader Ted Stryker. Their mission: Penetrate enemy fighter cover and hold the formation intact for a vital incendiary raid on the German supply depots of Wiesbaden.
At 0730, 12 miles from the target, enemy fighters were sighted directly ahead. Stryker led his planes to meet them. " An aerial dogfight ensues. Caught in fog, six of Stryker's men crashed into the German countryside. Five weeks later the war in Europe was over. Stryker (Dana Andrews) recovers in the Edinburgh Military Hospital, he has a head wound and a severe case of what is known today as PTSD. He is examined by a British Army Doctor (Willis Bouchey). Stryker blames himself for the deaths of his six comrades.
The doctor suggests he face up to his decision and the consequences. CANADA 1956. Eleven years later at the Mid-Canadian Aircraft Co. , Ltd. Jet Research, Winnipeg Division, Ted Stryker is talking to Frank Graham (Roy Gordon) about a job. Graham is reluctant to hire someone who has had 12 jobs in 10 years.
He notes, "And not one of them shows you can accept any responsibility. " Stryker confides that his marriage is on the rocks and he needs the job badly. Graham tells him he'll see what he can do. Feeling confident, Stryker brings home a bottle of champagne to celebrate with his wife, Helen (Linda Darnell). Ted searches the house but his wife is out. He finds a note on the counter. He crumples it up.
He rushes to the airport only to find his wife boarding a DC-4 airplane. Aboard with Ellen is their son, Joey (Ray Farrell). Ted hastily buys a ticket and boards. The plane takes off in the dark. Ted has a death grip on the seat. He gets up and goes to the restroom.
Looking out the window causes a flashback to the mission over Germany. Ted recovers, talks to the pilot, Capt. Bill Wilson (Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch), and then walks up the aisle to see his wife and son. Stewardess, Janet Turner (Peggy King) talks to one of the passengers. In fact they know each other.
Tony Decker (Jerry Paris) apologizes to Janet for having to break a date at the last minute. Ted asks Janet if he can arrange a cockpit visit for his son, Joey. This will give Ted and Ellen a chance to talk. In the cockpit, the copilot, Walt Stewart (Steve London) reminds the captain that the temperature is going up on Engine #3. Janet, Ted and Joey enter the cockpit.
Janet informs the captain that she'll be serving dinner soon--the choice is grilled halibut or lamb chops. Both pilots request the fish. Joey asks for fish and his father Ted requests the lamb. Capt. Wilson calls for a weather report and is told, "Looks like snow and ice crystals around Regina. " Most likely some fog in an hour or two for Calgary. Ted returns to Joey's seat to talk to Ellen.
Ellen reminds Ted of eleven years of different cities, different jobs and the change in his personality. She concludes, "I can't live with a man I don't respect. Joey leaves the cockpit as Janet brings the copilot his dinner. Janet starts to pick up the meal trays from those passengers who have finished their dinner. Joey takes his dad's seat and is amused by Janet's boyfriend, Tony Decker.
He puts a sock puppet on his hand and amuses Joey. Janet brings Joey his dinner. A woman passenger (Maxine Cooper) complains, "My stomach. I never felt anything like it before. Help me. Please help me. " Janet calls Capt.
Wilson to report a sick passenger. The pilot suggests Janet quietly find a doctor on board. The copilot is now feeling queasy and sweating. Janet finds a doctor, Dr. Baird (Geoffrey Toone) and asks him to see one of the passengers. Ted approaches Janet and Dr.
Baird and tells them his son is also sick. The doctor examines the sick woman passenger. Baird tells Janet, "You better tell the captain. We've got to land. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital. " Next the doctor examines Joey and asks Ellen what he's eaten in the last 24 hours. The doctor speaks to the captain about landing.
The plane goes into a steep dive and the captain returns to the cockpit. He finds the copilot slumped over the controls. The doctor removes the copilot from his seat as the captain resumes the controls. The doctor concludes the common denominator is food. Janet tells the doctor that both Joey and the copilot had fish. Another passenger (John Zaremba) tells Janet his wife is sick. She asks if she had fish or lamb for dinner. He tells her, "We both had fish, why?" The captain tells the doctor, "I just remembered something.
I ate fish too. " The captain declares an emergency with air traffic control and asks for priority into Vancouver. The doctor gives the captain a shot of morphine. The ground controllers discuss the options available. Just as everything seems ok, Capt. Wilson gets sick. He sets the automatic pilot then collapses.
The doctor asks Janet, "Is there anybody else on board who can land this plane and who didn't have fish for dinner?" He proposes a ruse of asking if someone can help with the radio. Janet asks Ted. He goes up to the cockpit, sees the doctor, and then sees no one is flying the plane. The doctor asks, "Can you fly this airplane and land it?" Ted replies, "No, not a chance.
" The doctor makes it clear. Every passenger who is sick may die unless Ted can fly and land the airplane. They have about two hours. Ted reluctantly takes the controls. Ellen joins Ted in the cockpit.
The doctor gives it to her straight. Both pilots are sick and Ted is their only hope. Ellen is recruited as co-pilot. Her job will be to handle the radio and talk to the ground controllers, leaving Ted free to fly the airplane. Ted calls Mayday and ground controllers clear the airspace around them. Ted informs the controllers that he's only flown a single engine fighter during the war, and hasn't been in an airplane for 10 years. Vancouver air traffic controllers make arrangements to get Capt. Treleaven.
He flew with Stryker during the war and knows him inside out. Ted tells Ellen to take over the radio. They try to reach Treleaven at home but are told he and his wife are at a nightclub. They reach him there and tell him to come to the airport at once.
Treleaven arrives at the airport and talks to Harry Burdick (Charles Quinlivan). He tells Burdick that he and Stryker have a history and perhaps someone else should talk to Stryker. The radio dispatcher in Vancouver (Larry Thor) informs Burdick reception is good with Flight 714 and they can take over. Treleaven calls Ted and introduces himself. It is obvious they dislike each other. Ted unlocks the auto pilot to get the feel of the airplane.
He practices a few shallow turns. When asked about the weather, Ellen tells the ground, "Rain and a little ice. " Ted climbs to 11,000 feet. They are now about the clouds and bad weather. A hysterical woman passenger panics (Fintan Meyler) and must be calmed.
Ted practices slower airspeed at 120 knots, 20 degrees of flaps and landing gear down. The lightning triggers his PTSD and he flashes back to the failed mission. Only his wife telling him his airspeed is off returns him to concentrate on flying. Ted recovers the airplane, but a startled passenger opens the cockpit door and discovers Ted flying the plane. "Look, he isn't a pilot," the startled man shouts.
The doctor comes clean with the passengers. Unfortunately Ted descended too low near the mountains, and the radio reception is lost. Repeated calls to the ground go unanswered. Ted adjusts the frequency to regain contact. Vancouver controllers contact Capt.
Wilson's wife, Joan (Patricia Tiernan, credited as Carole Eden) and tell her to get to the airport. Radar finally picks up Flight 714 and he changes course to the airport. Ted begins a slow descent, but the weather is getting worse at Vancouver. A local newspaper prepares two headlines for the next day's edition, "Airline Disaster Here" and "38 Airline Passengers Survive Mid-Air Peril. "Ellen goes back to see Joey and Dr. Baird goes up to see Ted. Bad news, the fog's getting thicker at Vancouver and Ted is about 30 miles out at 2500 feet altitude. Treleaven and Burdick head for the tower for Ted's final approach and landing.
Joan arrives in the tower to be briefed on her husband's flight and his condition. At 1000 feet and nearing the airport Ted again experiences flashbacks. Ted decides to land now, rather than circle and wait for the weather to get better. Ellen tells him, "Ted, I just wanted you to know now... I'm very proud.
" Emergency equipment is on the field and waiting. Ted finally sees the approach and runway lights. The passengers brace for impact. Ted is coming in too fast. He touches down and jumps on the brakes and cuts the engines. The airplane slides to one side and the landing gear snap off.
The DC-4 slides to a stop and emergency equipment rushes to the scene. Treleaven calls Ted and tells him, "Ted, that was probably the lousiest landing in the history of this airport. But there are some of us here, particularly me that would like to buy you a drink and shake your hand. " Ted and Ellen exit the cockpit. We close with a closeup of a headset draped over the control yoke. [Note: the 1980 movie Airplane! is a spoof of this movie. Huge sections of dialog are lifted verbatim.