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THIS IS A HIJACK (1973; Video Screams).

Airplane hijacking was big news during the late-1960's and '70s, with an average of over 40 incidents per year (1969 set the record, with 82 hijackings!), as well as big-studio cash-ins such as SKYJACKED and AIRPORT. Although this offbeat low-budget lark was marketed as a gritty crime thriller, director Barry Pollack (COOL BREEZE) instead embraces the story's most ludicrous elements and rounds up an outstanding B-movie cast, led by character actor extraordinaire Adam Roarke in one of his rare top-billed gigs... Deep-in-debt Mike Christie (Roarke) has only one week to pay off a local loan shark -- or else! Thankfully, he has a sure-fire, get-rich-quick scheme, and if you've read the title, it's no surprise to learn that an airliner hijacking is involved. Neville Brand (KILLDOZER) joins the fun as sadistic mob flunky Dominic, who won't leave Mike's side until he pays up. The plan is to take over a swanky private 737 belonging to Christie's wealthy boss (leisure-suited Jay Robinson, from THREE THE HARD WAY and THE KROFFT SUPERSHOW's "Dr. Shrinker") during a flight from L.A. to Dallas, and hold it hostage for a cool million. Mike recruits a crew for the job, including a washed-up pilot and a blackmailed air traffic controller (his secret transvestite girlfriend is threatened with castration if he refuses to help!), and everything goes perfectly at first, with passengers that include an Under Secretary of State, a honeymooning couple, a hot-shot banker, a sexy stewardess, and even a retired heavyweight champion. Unfortunately, the tipped-off FBI awaits the plane's arrival in Texas, and when the Feds refuse to make any deals, the shit hits the fan as the plane runs low on fuel. It's a simple enough premise, with a good chunk of the plot taking place inside this plane, but the script rarely takes itself seriously and occasionally erupts in some loopy absurdity (such as when a dinner at a posh restaurant is interrupted by a random shooting at the adjacent table). Easygoing Roarke (veteran of Richard Rush drive-in favorites like PSYCH-OUT, HELL'S ANGELS ON WHEELS and THE SAVAGE SEVEN) wisecracks through this nonsense, while grizzled Brand takes the opposite approach as a sick sociopath who accosts the women, ridicules the men and threatens to toss people out of the plane in mid-air. Meanwhile, Jay Robinson is at his sniveling-rich-coward best, Lynn Borden (FROGS, BLACK MAMA WHITE MAMA) plays Christie's on-board girlfriend, Dub Taylor pops up as a good ol' boy Sheriff who delivers the ransom in his boxers, and Don Pedro Colley's ex-champ delivers the script's sweetest comeuppance.

© 2012 by Steven Puchalski.