Jet Attack (1958, directed by Edward L. Cahn)

At the height of the Korean War, American scientist Dean Olmstead (Joseph Hamilton) is flying being enemy lines when he’s shot down over North Korea.  Because Olmstead had just created a new type of radar technology and he didn’t bother to leave behind any notes to explain to anyone else how the technology works, it’s imperative that he be rescued from a North Korean POW camp before the Russians brainwash him and take the technology for themselves.

Captain Tom Arnett (John Agar!), Lt. Bill Claiborn (Gregory Walcott, star of Plan 9 From Outer Space!!), and unconvincing beatnik Chick Lane (Nicky Balir) parachute behind enemy lines.  They meet up with both the local rebels and Tanya Nikova (Audrey Totter), a Russian nurse who is secretly a double agent and an anticommunist.  She’s also Arnett’s former lover and helped him escape the last time that he was being held prisoner by the communists.  (Arnett was also in charge of the flying escort that was supposed to keep Olmstead from getting shot down so, given his past history of failing and getting captured, Arnett may not be very good at his job.)  Working with Tanya and Capt. Chon (Victor Sen Young), Arnett ad Claiborn set out to rescue Olmstead from the KGB’s Col. Kuban (Robert Carricart).

Jet Attack is a z-grade war film that features a ton stock footage that you’ll probably recognize from other 50s war films.  As a result, the look of the jets often change from shot to shot and one North Korean airplane has “California Air National Guard” prominently written on its tail.  I know that some right-wingers like to refer to California as being “Commiefornia” but accusing the state of siding with the enemy during the Korean War is taking things too far.  The only thing that looks cheaper than the stock footage is the footage that was actually shot for the movie.  (The stock footage at least includes some pretty cool explosions.)

John Agar started his career co-starring with John Wayne and marrying Shirley Temple but, by the time Jet Attack was made, his star had dimmed considerably.  Whether he was appearing in a major production or a cheap film like Jet Attack, Agar was always reliably dull.  Here, he’s regularly outshined by co-star Gregory Walcott who, despite being best-known for appearing in films like Plan 9 From Outer Space, could actually act and show a hint of emotion on screen.  Probably the best thing about this film is Audrey Totter, who, despite an unfortunately attempt at a Russian accent, plays her role with more conviction than the script really deserves.  As Chick Lane, Nicky Blair also deserves some credit for telling the North Koreans that their attempts to torture him are “squaresville.”

The most surprising thing about Jet Attack is that it wasn’t produced by Howard Hughes.  With its emphasis on planes and evil commies, it feels like a Hughes film.  It’s a dull and workmanlike film but bad movie buffs will want to see it just to witness John Agar getting acted off the screen by Gregory Walcott and Audrey Totter.