The Global Airlines Boeing 707 of Flight 502 – piloted by Captain Hank O’Hara (Charlton Heston) – is on a routine flight from Oakland to Minneapolis, with one exception. There’s a hijacker on board.
Is it the nice lady who wears the same kind of lipstick that was used to write the weird message on the mirror of the lavatory? Or is it the man who is being transferred – again? Maybe it’s the black jazz cello player (Roosevelt Grier) – is he really carrying a cello? Maybe that pregnant lady is really expecting a bomb instead of a baby . . .
Claude Akins is Ben Puzo, the crusty radar specialist who helps talk O’Hara and the airliner down in Anchorage, Alaska, during a blinding storm, while James Brolin – best known as the sweet Dr Kiley on TV’s Marcus Welby MD does a fine dramatic interpretation of an insane Vietnam veteran.
The rest of the passengers are also “names” – Walter Pidgeon; former pinup Jeanne Crain; Yvette Mimieux (who cries a lot in the movie); beautiful Leslie Uggams (who has one memorable line); Partridge Family member Susan Dey (who shows she really can act a bit); and an assorted bunch of actors and actresses you’ve seen somewhere before.
Later, when the hijacker decides that his final destination is Moscow, O’Hara is forced to intrude on Soviet airspace. The Russians, unaware of the circumstances, scramble a flight of MiGs (ably played by US F-100 fighters costumed in Soviet colours). As O’Hara desperately tries to establish some form of communication, the MiGs buzz his plane and position themselves for an attack . . .
Director John Guillermin keeps the pressure up and the tension high. Except for a couple of unnecessary flashbacks recalling an earlier romance between the captain and his head stewardess (Mimieux), he confines the action to the aircraft and its situation, and the producers carefully avoided glamorising either the hijacking or the act of war piracy.
When revealed, the skyjacker proves to be a demented, pitiful individual living a twisted dream of recognition and glory. To reveal more would spoil the fun.
The film was based on the novel Hijacked by David Harper.
Captain Hank O’Hara
Sgt. Jerry Weber
Sgt. Ben Puzo
Senator Arne Lindner
Co-pilot Sam Allen
Navigator John Bimonte
Jayson William Kane