January 7, 2013
"Joey, you ever been in a cockpit before?"
"No sir! I've never been up in a plane before!"
Okay now this writeup will be short but sweet.
because there is no way I can describe the beauty of Zero Hour! and do
it justice without you actually seeing it for yourself.
and I know what you are thinking. You are probably looking at
this page and thinking "Mario! A black and white movie from
Are you shitting me? No way am I going to watch a
white movie from 1957. You forget, I am a teenager.
teenagers don't watch black and white movies from 1957."
"How's it handling up there?"
"Sluggish, like a wet sponge."
Well all I can say is... remember in my Top Secret writeup how I
mentioned the movie Airplane? Remember how I said that
Airplane is easily one of the funniest movies of the past 40 years?
Remember how I said that it shows up in virtually every
single poll ever published which counts down the all time funniest
Airplane is by far one of the funniest movies of all time.
Airplane is by far one of the most beloved movies of all
time. Airplane is by far one of the most often quoted movies
of all time.
Yet what most people don't know is that Airplane wasn't even an
original movie. Nope. Most people think it was a
ripoff of Airport, or of Airport '75, but those aren't technically the
movie that Airplane is parodying.
No, if you want to see the movie that Airplane was REALLY parodying,
you have to dig into the vaults of obscurity and track down a 1957
black and white movie called Zero Hour!
I swear to God, the first time I saw Zero Hour, I laughed so hard I
practically fell out of my chair.
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking."
You have seen Airplane, right? Please say that you have.
If you have never seen Airplane, please go rent it right now
and then come back to this entry.
The reason Zero Hour! is so hilarious... and this is going to blow your
mind if you have never heard it before... is that Zero Hour is the
EXACT same movie as Airplane. Seriously, it is 90% the exact
same movie. Right down to the fact that Airplane stole
character names, scenes, camera angles, actor staging, and dialogue.
Hell, Airplane didn't just steal dialogue from Zero Hour, it
practically lifted it right off of the page verbatim. There
are entire scenes in Zero Hour that were lifted out word for word and
placed into Airplane.
The only difference is that in Zero Hour, the scenes are played
perfectly straight. It is just dialogue spoken as you would
hear it in a disaster movie.
In Airplane, they took the exact same dialogue, and they added a little
punchline at the end. Such as the one below. They
basically just took the Zero Hour script and they added
a smartass little punchline to the end of everything.
"This plane has four engines. It's an entirely
different kind of flying, altogether."
plane has four engines. It's an entirely different kind of
Dr. Rumack and Randi (all
"It's an entirely different kind of
The first time I saw Zero Hour, it was one of the most surreal movie
experiences I have ever had in my life. Because the only way
I can describe it is "Airplane, only without all the punchlines."
You just sit there and watch the movie. And you
recognize the dialogue. And you wait for the punchlines that
you are so familiar with. But none of them ever come!
And after about five minutes of this it just starts
to become hilarious. Because the whole movie is just
Airplane scene after Airplane scene after Airplane scene.
Just without any of the jokes. It is all setups, no
punchlines. And I am amazed that so few people have ever
heard of Zero Hour before.
"Ted, that was probably the lousiest landing in the history of this
airport. But there are some of us here, particularly me, who would like
to buy you a drink and shake your hand."
Seriously, if you know Airplane at all (and pretty much anyone who is a
fan of comedy should already know it inside and out), go track down a
copy of Zero Hour. You will not
regret it. I can't possibly describe how surreal it is to
hear an air traffic controller say "So help me, we've got to talk him
right down to the ground!" and not have a watermelon immediately come
crashing down in the background behind him. Watch
Zero Hour for just ten minutes and you will be laughing your ass off.
It is one of the best keep secrets in American comedy movies.
Although this is one of the few Airplane scenes that wasn't stolen from
Zero Hour. This one came from Airport '75.
P.S. By the way, I know that Zero Hour is a hard movie to
track down, but hey, it turns out that somebody has already done most
of the work for you. Somebody over at Youtube has
already put together a comparison of Airplane scenes vs Zero
Hour scenes. You can see how close they are and how
Airplane just basically used the Zero Hour script. This isn't
all of the funny comparison moments though, there are a lot more than
These are just some of the highlights.
favorite IMDB user reviews about Zero Hour!
"I guess I picked the wrong week
to give up smoking."- 6 September 2003
Oh. My. Gawd. TCM had a ZAZ-fest recently, with THE NAKED GUN, TOP
SECRET, AIRPLANE!, and...a certain movie that I've never come across
ZERO HOUR! is the first time I've watched a movie I've never seen
before but could quote the dialogue along with. Examples:
"Sluggish, like a wet sponge."
"I just want to say 'good luck'."
"You're a member of this crew. Can you face some unpleasant facts?"
"Flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle."
"You ever been in a cockpit before?" "No sir, I've never been up in a
"The survival of everyone on board depends on just one thing: finding
someone on board who can not only fly this plane, but who didn't have
fish for dinner."
Sound familiar? In addition to the verbatim dialogue (and the
exclamation point in its title), AIRPLANE! contained many other
similarities. The co-pilot played by a former Los Angeles pro-ball
player. The female passenger in hysterics. Little Joey visiting the
cockpit (where the pilot puts his arm around him with perhaps
inappropriate affection before giving him a toy plane). The unmarried
stewardess. A wife awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call
telling her to come to the airport immediately. Ted Stryker flashing
back to the war and recovering in a veterans' hospital. Newspaper
headlines prognosticating disaster. Inclement weather. The plane
landing while losing its wheels. I could go on, but, really, the only
things missing were a jive-talking black duo and a crucial moment in
which the heroine's bobby pin saves the day.
ZERO HOUR! was of course never intended to provoke laughs, but how can
anyone watch this story now with a straight face? Try watching an old
Leslie Nielsen drama without cracking up. It was actually a delight
learning where the ZAZ boys got a lot of their material (and AMC
occasionally runs AIRPORT 1975, which is where, if I remember
correctly, the nun, sick little girl and singing stewardess originated).
If TCM ever runs ZERO HOUR! again, I implore every fan of AIRPLANE! to
sit down for eighty minutes and watch it. It's an eye-popping
experience, in a whole new way.
This poor movie - 18 May
I defy anyone to watch this film on its own terms. You sit down in
front of the TV with the best will in the world, and then Crazylegs
Hirsch asks the little boy if he's ever been in a cockpit before, and
suddenly you're rolling on the floor.
What's amazing is how many of the jokes in *Airplane* work even though
they parody specific moments in this movie (which fairly few people had
"How about some coffee, Johnny?" "Looks like I picked the wrong week to
quit smoking." "He's a menace to himself and everything else in the
air!" "Stewardess? I think the man sitting next to me is a doctor."
"It's a different kind of flying altogether."
I do wonder why they dropped the Jerry Paris character, who seems like
he would have been a rich subject for parody.
To die for - 18 July 2010
All I can say is, if you saw the comedy hit "Airplane," don't miss
"Zero Hour!" on which much of "Airplane" was taken. Of course, this
film was intended to be a drama. Thanks to "Airplane," it's almost as
much of a comedy as its successor.
I doubt "Zero Hour" was a major Hollywood release - it's an independent
production in black and white, and by 1957, Dana Andrews and Linda
Darnell were no longer the stars they once had been at Twentieth
Century Fox. Both suffered from severe alcoholism, and Darnell
additionally committed the mortal sin in Hollywood in those days of
turning 30. The two play husband and wife, and you know the story -
meat or fish? And don't say fish.
I tried to decide if I would have liked this film on its own merits. I
decided that it is over the top with some bad dialogue. The ending is
suspenseful. The actors do what they can with some hokey moments.
Surely, the writers could have come up with a better script. And don't
call me Shirley.
Zero Hour! - 30 December
I have no excuse for not watching this sooner. You see, I'm a huge
AIRPLANE! fan. I've seen it 30-40 (maybe more) times over the past
three decades. When I was a kid, I knew it only as a funny movie,
perhaps a parody of all those AIRPORT movies I'd never seen. Eventually
I learned that it was a parody of this film, but even then I assumed it
was only an inspiration, a jumping off point. Oh no. Almost everything
in Zero Hour! is referenced in some way in its spoof. The plot is
almost entirely the same (the largest differences being in the
Ellen/Elaine character). Many of the lines ("Sluggish, like a wet
sponge") and even whole passages of dialogue are lifted from it. Shots
and musical cues are duplicated. Even things like Joey's outfit and the
casting of a pro athlete in the co-pilot role are here. I'm sure almost
everyone else who watched it in the past 30 years did so only because
of the connection, and even at the time I doubt many people were
familiar with it.
That is all to say, it is impossible for me to judge this movie as
anything but the blueprint for one of my favorite comedies. In that
capacity, it's absolutely hilarious. Every few seconds I was reminded
of another terrific gag. But I can try to comment on the film on its
own terms. Noir fans might be thrilled to see Dana Andrews, Linda
Darnell and Sterling Hayden in the lead roles, but only Hayden brings
anything interesting to it. The plot is... gripping, I guess? It's hard
to say when you're so familiar with it. There's some terrible use of
stock footage, but otherwise it seems reasonably well put together. Oh,
I give up. You owe it to yourself to see this if you love Airplane!,
and if for some ungodly reason you've never seen Airplane!, watch this
first. I have to imagine it can only make both films better.
* My Favorite Scene in Zero Hour!
If you know Airplane at all, it is almost impossible to hear this
exchange from Zero Hour! and not laugh:
Unless I can get all these people to a hospital quickly, I
can't even be sure of saving their lives.
I don't understand. What is it?
Why, something toxic in that food tonight. Some
kind of bacteria poisoning.
at the IMDB
Hour! at Wikipedia
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