Monday, June 02, 2014


When a flight to Johannesburg is cancelled and passengers are shuttled to a hotel for the night, a group of them charter a small cargo plane. There is some concern that with six passengers, the plane is too heavy, but things go well until they run into a huge airborne swarm of locusts that forces them to crash land in the desert. The co-pilot is killed and the survivors decide to try to trek to civilization but stop to take refuge near caves where a band of baboons live. With little food or water, tensions flare and some leave or are exiled: the pilot (Nigel Davenport) tries to force himself on the one sole female (Susannah York), then goes off to look for water; big-game hunter Stuart Whitman goes a little crazy, forcing the doctor (Theodore Bikel) to leave the group, then tries to wipe out the baboons who he sees as rivals for food—and maybe power. Who, if anyone, will survive? I always get this movie mixed up with another plane crash/desert survival film from the same year, FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, the main difference being that the survivors in that film stay with the plane and try to get it flying again. The other difference is running time: this film is a bit too long at 2 hours, but PHOENIX was way too long at almost 2 ½ hours. If I had to watch one of them a second time, it would be this one. It moves more quickly, the tension rarely slacks, and the acting is better. Whitman (pictured) begins in a low-key fashion, but his descent into madness is carried off well. The rest of the cast is first-rate, with special attention going to Bikel and to Stanley Baker as an alcoholic. The film builds particularly well to the final sequence with Whitman, York and Baker. Favorite line (because it's a little silly): "Are we only lost here in the desert, or were we lost in a different way in our own lives?" I also like that at one point, the bored survivors gather around to watch the fire they've built, as though they were watching TV. Worth seeing. [DVD]

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