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Home | Film Review: The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)

Film Review: The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973)



On a flight from London to Los Angeles, a wealthy architect and his wife have rented out a jumbo jet’s entire cargo hold to transport a precious artifact — an altar from an ancient abbey. But they’re unaware of its deadly secret. Not long after departure, crew and passengers alike face airborne jeopardy and supernatural horror as a demonic entity escapes from the altar, seeking to possess a hapless victim as well as seek revenge on those who would desecrate the sinister deity’s ancient ritual site


There’s no one in the world quite like William Shatner. To see him work his magic gives me a warm fuzzy feeling all over and it’s also nice to know he has a sense of humor about himself. And we have CBS to thank for allowing him the opportunity to star in THE HORROR AT 37,000 FT. It’s one of those made for TV movies from the early seventies that has one of the most bizarre concepts anyone could possibly imagine. This is essentially ANCIENT DRUIDS ON A PLANE, the only thing that could have made it better would be to hear Shatner say, “I have had it with these motherf—ing druids on this mother—ing plane!” That’s wishful thinking on my part but you know what? Shatner has a few really good lines in this film and that’s why we love the guy. No one in the world can deliver a line quite like the Shat. The producers over at CBS were smart enough to surround him with a cast of television all-stars like Buddie Ebsen (THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES), Chuck Connors (THE RIFLEMAN), Russell Johnson (GILLIGAN’S ISLAND), and several others (including the great Paul Winfield). Considered by some to be the worst film on Shatner’s resume, but who cares, it’s so much fun.


An architect named Alan O’Neil (Roy Thinnes) has found an old altar from an ancient abbey which has been in his wife Sheila’s (Jane Merrow) family for decades. He’s paying to have it shipped on a plane from London to Los Angeles in the cargo bay. Because of how much it all weighs, there’s a limited number of passengers on board. Once the plane takes off, weird things begin to happening, things like unexplained voices, and glass mysteriously frosting up. As the plane is flying, the pilots are stumped by how they are just traveling in circles and nothing they do will bring them out of it. When Sheila passes out and begins to spew out Latin, it quickly becomes apparent there are supernatural forces at work and the fate of those on board will rest with a priest who has lost all his faith in God.

THE HORROR AT 37,000 FT is a silly movie and yes, there’s no way around the fact it’s just plain bad. Having said that, there’s no way you can’t have an absolute blast with it. This was a TV movie from the seventies which dealt with Druids, hauntings, possession, and a drunken William Shatner. You can’t dream stuff like this up but thankfully someone did and now it can be yours to own on DVD to watch with your friends on a late night while getting drunk. It just doesn’t get much better than this.


The cast is highly enjoyable to watch, guys like Connors and Johnson don’t always get enough recognition and having grown up on their shows, it was great to see them in something other than what they were best known for. Shatner hams it up and delivers some fantastic lines. His character is the jerk of the bunch so every moment he’s on screen, he delivers some sort of insulting line. I live for stuff like this so I enjoyed every moment.

horror at 37000 feet5The film is unexpectedly tightly edited, everything flows together nicely and at 73min, it’s the perfect length. Director David Lowell Rich made a career out of directing TV movies, revisiting the airplane disaster with films like SST: DEATH FLIGHT and THE CONCORDE…AIRPORT 79. He also delivered the classic SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS. THE HORROR AT 37,000 FT is a hidden gem, a bad movie which is so much fun it just has to be seen. William Shatner fans won’t want to miss his performance, a true master of his craft. The DVD has no special features to speak of which is disappointing, a TV spot or something would be nice to see. *** (out of 5)

The Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973) is now available per CBS DVD | Paramount

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