The Disappearance of Flight 412 (1974, directed by Jud Taylor)

Because of recent electrical surges aboard its aircrafts, the commander of the Whitney Air Force Base 458th Radar Test Group sends a four-man crew up in Flight 412 to try to figure out what’s happening.  Colonel Pete Moore (Glenn Ford) and Major Mike Dunning (Bradford DIllman) assume that it will just be a routine flight.  Instead, they find themselves at the center of a government cover-up when Captain Bishop (David Soul) and the other members of the crew spot what appears to be a UFO.  When two jets are sent out to intercept the object, the jets vanish.

Suddenly, Flight 412 is ordered to land at a seemingly deserted military base in the desert.  When they do, the airplane is impounded and the crew is forced to undergo an 18-hour debriefing led by government agents.  The agents demand that the crew members sign a statement saying that they didn’t see anything strange in the air before the jets vanished.  Until all four of the men sign the release, the crew of Flight 412 are officially considered to be missing and will not be released until they agree to deny what they saw.

Meanwhile, Col. Moore tries to learn what happened to his men but the government, led by Col. Trottman (Guy Stockwell), is not eager to tell him.

This movie was made-for-television, at a time when people claiming to have been abducted by aliens was still a relatively new phenomenon.  It was also made during the Watergate hearing and in the wake of the release of the Pentagon Papers, so the film’s sinister government conspiracy probably felt relevant to viewers in a way that it wouldn’t have just a few years earlier.  I appreciated that the movie took a semi-documentary approach to the story but that it tried to be serious and even-handed.  The film shows how witnesses can be fooled or coerced into saying that they saw the opposite of what they actually did see.  Unfortunately, The Disappearance of Fight 412 is ultimately done in by its own cheapness.  The overreliance on familiar stock footage doesn’t help the film’s credibility and there’s too many familiar faces in the cast for the audience to forget that they’re just watching a TV movie.  The Disappearance of Flight 412 doesn’t really succeed but it is still interesting as an early attempt to make a serious film about the possibility of alien abduction and the government covering up the existence of UFOs..  Three years after this film first aired, Steven Spielberg would introduce these ideas to an even bigger audience with Close Encounters of The Third Kind.

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