|Directed by||John Guillermin|
|Produced by||Walter Seltzer|
|Written by||Stanley R. Greenberg|
|Based on||Hijacked (novel)
by David Harper
|Music by||Perry Botkin, Jr.|
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling, Jr.|
|Edited by||Robert Swink|
|Running time||101 minutes|
Skyjacked is a 1972 disaster film, directed by John Guillermin. The film stars Charlton Heston, James Brolin, and Yvette Mimieux, along with an all-star cast primarily playing the roles of passengers and crew aboard an airliner. Skyjacked is based on the David Harper novel, Hijacked. This was the last of actress Jeanne Crain's 64 films. This was also the film debut for several actors and actresses: Susan Dey, who was known for her work in The Partridge Family television series (later L.A. Law, along with Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier, a former NFL defensive tackle.
Skyjacked was an example of the Hollywood "disaster" film, as well, it also very much fits the additional genre of the complex, heavily character-driven ensemble cast picture. The film explores the personal dramas and interactions that develop among the passengers and crew as they deal with a hijacker and his demands.
During a routine flight to Minneapolis, a passenger (Susan Dey) aboard Global Airways Flight 502, a Boeing 707, discovers a bomb threat written on the mirror of one of the first-class bathrooms. A second threat is soon found left in a galley. Captain Henry O'Hara (Charlton Heston) takes the cryptic threats seriously and follows the instructions: "Bomb on plane divert to Anchorage Alaska. No Joke, No Tricks. Death." by changing course for Alaska. To avoid an explosive decompression if a bomb goes off, he flies at lower altitude, increasing fuel consumption.
The weather at Anchorage is so poor, an United States Air Force ground-controlled approach specialist (Claude Akins) is called in. His radar shows a small aircraft with radio failure that is approaching the same runway, but Flight 502 has too little fuel to go around. O'Hara sees the other aircraft at the last moment and manages to avoid a collision and land safely.
On the ground, O'Hara learns the hijacker is one of his passengers, Sgt. Jerome K. Weber (James Brolin), a Vietnam veteran driven insane by war trauma. Whether he has a bomb or not, Weber is certainly armed with guns and grenades. After a majority of economy-class passengers successfully escape by an emergency slide, the remaining passengers and the three economy-class stewardesses are allowed to leave. Weber keeps the remaining crew as hostages, including a stewardess (Yvette Mimieux) with whom O'Hara had been in a relationship, and all of the first-class passengers, including a U.S. Senator (Walter Pidgeon) and a woman (Mariette Hartley) who has gone into labor due to the crisis. A federal agent tries to slip on board, but is caught by Weber and becomes another hostage. Weber then demands to be flown to Moscow, where he intends to defect to the Soviet Union.
Although the Soviets deny clearance into their airspace, Weber insists on being flown straight ahead to Moscow, threatening death if the pilots do not comply. Soviet fighters intercept the airliner, but are eventually convinced it is civilian once O'Hara lowers the landing gear and flaps to a full landing configuration. The Soviets then allow the hijacked airliner to land at Moscow, but order it to stop short of the terminal.
There, all passengers and the remaining crew are finally released, leaving only O'Hara and Weber on the airliner. Weber, who had nursed dreams of becoming a hero to the Soviets, is jubilant to have to seemingly achieved his dream, and reveals no bomb was present, but then he realizes the Soviet forces surrounding the aircraft are preparing to attack him, not welcome him. O'Hara now tries to kick him out of his 707, but Weber shoots him. Both men stagger down the airstairs, and finally Weber is shot and killed by Soviet forces. O'Hara survives, just wounded in his shoulder, and he is looking up into the sky, with a great smile of relief, when he sees an aircraft that has just taken off.
As first billed:
Under the working titles Hijacked and Airborne, principal photography took place from early January to early March 1972. With the emphasis on an aeronautic incident, the production obtained a World Airways Boeing 707 (N374WA) to play the part of the "Global Airways" airliner. With 90% of the filming done inside a 707, Charlton Heston compared his work there to what director Alfred Hitchcock had achieved in filming Lifeboat (1944).Current United States Air Force operational North American F-100 Super Sabres were repainted as the Soviet interceptors. Oakland International Airport was used for the airport scenes.[Note 2]
Vincent Canby of The New York Times was generally positive: "... a basically standard melodramatic movie situation can be made diverting and occasionally gripping. Aerial hijacking is a shocking fact of life these days and Skyjacked, a straightforward, simple thriller, which, if memory serves, is the first in this genre, treats it without glamour and as the madness it is. ... John Guillermin, the director, handles an essentially familiar plot with speed and efficiency."
- Claude Akins never appears with any of the principal cast.
- Some of the Soviet soldiers at the "Moscow" airport are carrying American M16 rifles.
- "Notes: 'Skyjacked'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: December 6, 2014.
- Murphy, Mary. "Fryer to Produce 'Mame'." Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1971, p. c10.
- "Original print information: 'Skyjacked'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: December 6, 2014.
- Eames 1982, p. 364.
- Soares, Emily. "Articles: 'Skyjacked'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: December 6, 2014.
- Canby, Vincent. "Skyjacked". The New York Times, May 25, 1972.
- Eames, John Douglas. The MGM Story: The Complete History of Fifty Roaring Years. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1982, First edition 1979. ISBN 978-0-51752-389-6.