|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|
|Box office||$6,550,000 (US/Canada rentals)|
Skyjacked is a 1972 disaster film, directed by John Guillermin. The film stars Charlton Heston, James Brolin, and Yvette Mimieux, along with an ensemble 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. It was the film debut for several actors and actresses, including Susan Dey, who at the time 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 so-called Hollywood disaster film. It explores the personal dramas and interactions that develop among the story's characters during a crisis that is endangering all of their lives.
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 on a napkin in a galley. Captain Hank 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, a 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. He threatens to detonate a grenade in his hand if anyone attempts to interfere with his plans.
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 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, becoming increasingly agitated. 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, ordering it to stop short of the terminal as armed soldiers surround the plane.
All passengers and the remaining crew are finally released, leaving O'Hara and Weber the last ones on board. Weber, who had nursed fantasies of becoming a hero to the Soviets, is jubilant to have to seemingly achieved his dream. He gloats to O'Hara that no bomb was in his possession. But soon he realizes the Soviet forces surrounding the aircraft are preparing to attack him, not welcome him.
Weber prepares to open fire on the Soviets, and when O'Hara tries to intervene, Weber shoots him. Both men stagger down the airstair to the landing strip, where Weber is shot and killed by Soviet forces. O'Hara survives, and looks up to the sky, with a smile of relief, spotting another 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."
- Kasindorf, Martin. "How now, Dick Daring?" The New York Times, September 10, 1972, p. SM54.
- "All-time Film Rental Champs." Variety, January 7, 1976, p. 44.
- "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.
- North American F-100 Super Sabre
- Skyjacked at the TCM Movie Database
- Skyjacked at the Internet Movie Database
- Skyjacked at AllMovie