Way back in the early days of the site, I did a series of reviews called 31 Days of Paranoia, in which I reviewed films about mysteries, cover-ups, and conspiracies. Unfortunately, because I wasn’t all that disciplined about posting during the early days of the Shattered Lens, my 31 Days of Paranoia ended up being something like 24 days. Still, it was a lot of fun and, historically, it was important because it was the very first “themed” series of reviews that I had ever done. Shattered Politics, Embracing the Melodrama, Back to School, Sprin Breakdown, and all the rest started with 31 Days of Paranoia.
So, with this being the 10-year anniversary of the Shattered Lens’s founding and Spring Breakdown wrapping itself up tomorrow, I figured why not return to where it all started. From now til April, please enjoy …. 18 Days of Paranoia!
We begin with:
The 1961 film, The Flight That Disappeared, deals with an airplane that …. wait for it …. disappears!
What’s happened to Trans-Coast Airways Flight 60? When it first took off from Los Angeles, everything seemed fine. It was carrying a small but well-behaved group of middle-aged people to Washington D.C. The pilots all seemed like good professionals. The two flight attendants were busy serving people coffee and having conversations about whether or not one of them would ever get married. She had every right to be concerned, of course, seeing as how she was in her 20s and still unmarried and childless, despite the fact that this film was made in 1961.
It doesn’t take too long for something strange to happen. The plane suddenly starts to climb upward, eventually going up over 10 miles high in the sky. The pilots can’t do anything to get the plane to come back down. Due to the lack of oxygen, some of the passengers start to pass out. One passenger panics and opens a door, out of which he promptly falls. Oddly, this doesn’t create the whole vacuum effects that we always see in other movies where a window or a door is opened while a plane is in the air. Stranger still, no one thinks to close the door afterwards. Was this intentional or was it just crappy filmmaking? It’s hard to say.
Why is the plane being lifted up into the air? Could it have something to do with the three atomic scientists who are all on the plane? One of them, Dr. Morris (Dayton Lummis), is wearing glasses and has a van dyke beard so you know he’s smart! It turns out that Dr. Morris has been working on the Beta Bomb, which is apparently the most powerful atomic bomb ever built. I kept waiting for someone to ask Dr. Morris why it was called the Beta Bomb and not the Alpha Bomb or the Omega Bomb or the Big Scary Bomb or the …. well, seriously, anything would be better than Beta Bomb! Everyone in the movie says, “Beta Bomb,” in a tone that’s meant to communicate reverence but it just sounds too much like “Beta Male” for me to really take it seriously.
But, again, who is responsible for the flight climbing? Is it the Russians? Is it aliens? Is it some enemy of the American way? While everyone else on the plane is passed out, the three scientists find themselves awake. Their watches are no longer running and, despite the fact that they appear to be alive, their hearts are no longer beating. Are they dead? Or have they been transported to the future where they will now be put on trial for the crime of developing the Beta Bomb?
Of course, the thing with being put on trial in the future is that it provides the perfect defense for making weapons in the present. “Hey,” a smart defense attorney would say, “you’re still alive in the future and you’ve got time travel technology so what are you bitching about?” But the jurors explain that they’re actually the ghosts of the people who would have been born in the future if not for the Beta Bomb which …. what? So, is the plane in the future or is it in the afterlife? The film itself doesn’t seem to be sure.
I’m probably making it sound like this is a more intriguing film than it actually is. This movie is about 72 minutes long and all the stuff with the people in the future takes place during the final 10 minutes. That means that the film is essentially just 60 minutes of people saying, “We’re still climbing.” From a historical point of view, it’s an interesting example of people being paranoid about the arms race. (If the film were made today, the future the ghostly jurors would be the souls of people who were not born in the future due to climate change.) From an entertainment point of view, it’s a forgettable dud.