Sunday, May 15, 2011

Murder on Flight 502 (1975)

Although he’s best known for overseeing such vapidly entertaining series as Charlie’s Angels and Starsky & Hutch, crapmeister Aaron Spelling also produced dozens of TV movies, most of which were justifiably banished to obscurity after their original broadcast runs. Encountered today, these telefilms are amusing artifacts from a bygone era, cinematic catnip for ’70s junkies who relish watching semi-famous actors swathed in head-to-toe polyester. Murder on Flight 502 is a prime example, because the mystery/thriller is disposable junk noteworthy only for its potluck cast. (Have Farrah, will travel!) The story begins when a commercial flight leaves New York for Europe and airline staffers discover that one of the passengers plans to murder someone on the plane. This standard catch-a-killer premise powered innumerable episodes of Spelling’s TV shows, because the set-up justifies cutting back and forth between various melodramas as viewers try to guess the villain’s identity. In lieu of actual thrills, the movie offers the kitschy spectacle of random actors grinding through the machinations of a trite plot: Ralph Bellamy as a surgeon who becomes a target because he once failed to save a patient; Polly Bergen as a drunken crime author savoring the proximity of real homicide; Danny Bonaduce as a wiseass kid prone to elaborate practical jokes; Sonny Bono as a sensitive singer-songwriter itching for a comeback after years out of the spotlight; Lorenzo Lamas as an international criminal afraid that he’s going to pay for his past crimes; Farrah Fawcett-Majors, her gleaming helmet of golden hair firmly in place, as a stewardess; Robert Stack as the sort of absurdly square-jawed pilot he satirized a few years later in Airplane! (1980); and so on. In short, watching Murder on Flight 502 is like watching a greatest-hits reel culled from various interchangeable ’70s detective shows, meaning the experience is either awful or awesome, depending on your degree of ’70s-TV masochism.

Murder on Flight 502: FUNKY

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