Monday, June 17, 2024

The Alternate Movie Title Game (James Stewart Edition)

Here are the rules: We will provide an "alternate title" for a James Stewart film and ask you to name the actual film. Most of these are pretty easy. Please answer no more than three questions per day so others can play. You may have an answer other than the intended one--just be able to defend it!

1. The Andersons.

2. Me and My Pooka.

3. The Manion Case.

4. The Killer Clown.

5. The Man With One Eye.

6. The Reindeer.

7. Bell on the Saddle.

8. I Spy, You Spy.

9. Matuschek and Company.

10. Desert Wings.

11. The Pollster.

12. Cat and Mouse (this one might be difficult).

13. Teenager Troubles.

14. Vindicator.

15. Trapped Beneath the Waves.

Monday, June 3, 2024

The High and the Mighty and Skyjacked

John Wayne as "Whistling" Dan Roman.
The High and the Mighty (1954). When a passenger airliner en route from Honolulu to Los Angeles experiences engine problems, the pilot faces a critical decision: Does he attempt a dangerous landing in the ocean and hope the Coast Guard can rescue the passengers? Or does he try to make it to the closest airport in San Francisco—even as the plane starts leaking fuel? Directed by former fighter pilot William A. Wellman, The High and the Mighty is considered the granddaddy of the modern disaster film. The now familiar formula augments the tense scenes with a menagerie of characters with background stories of varying interest. Their tales range from a newlywed couple facing the realities of married life to an armed husband who thinks his wife is cheating on him with another passenger. The airplane's crew has its challenges, too, with the lead pilot (Robert Stack) coping with aviation fatigue. There's even the proverbial child on the plane--though, unlike future young passengers--he seems pretty healthy! Bolstered by Dimitri Tiomkin's Oscar-winning score and John Wayne's steady, low-key performance, The High and the Mighty overcomes its weaker characters and subplots (e.g., a gun fired in-flight is quickly forgotten). The result is an engaging film that overstays its welcome at a bloated running time of almost two-and-a-half hours. Here's some interesting trivia: Tiomkin also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song, though the lyrics are only heard briefly at the end. The tune, with different words, became a pop hit.

Yvette Mimieux and Charlton Heston.
 (1972). The first theatrical film inspired by the 1970 blockbuster Airport was not, surprisingly, one of the three Airport sequels. Instead, it was Skyjacked, an satisfactory all-star disaster film based on a David Harper novel. The "all-stars" aren't of the same caliber as Airport, with Charlton Heston on-hand as the only big name star. Still, the best part of Skyjacked is its mix of familiar faces (Yvette Mimeux, Claude Akins, Mariette Hartley), TV stars (Susan Dey, James Brolin), and classic film icons (Walter Pidgeon, Jeanne Crain). The plot concerns a potential bomb aboard a commercial jet flying to Minneapolis. The hijacker, whose identity remains a mystery for the film's first half, wants the flight diverted to Alaska--and then on to the Soviet Union. The film might have been more fun if the hijacker's identity was a surprise, but it's obvious from the beginning. John Guillermin, who would go on to direct the disaster movie megahit The Towering Inferno (1975), keeps the pacing tight for much of the film. However, it lags toward the end, with a flashback romantic subplot involving Heston's pilot and Mimieux's flight attendant adding nothing to the story. Still, Skyjacked makes an interesting pairing with Airport 1975Airport 1975, in which Heston plays a pilot-turned-instructor that gets involved in the rescue of a jet damaged in flight.