Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Fate Is the Hunter" Is Just So-So

Cleveland Press 1964

Flier-author Ernest K. Gann, in a rambling autobiography about his 19 years in aviation, had something to say about fate being constantly in pursuit of him and his colleagues.

He also likened the flying business to gambling, conjecturing that the key to survival was knowing when to get out.

But the work was essentially plotless and Hollywood, in transferring it to the screen, has retained the title and jettisoned everything else. The result is a melodramatic and sometimes suspenseful plot about an air crash and the attempts to find its cause.

AS THE FILM opens a fully loaded passenger plane is taking off. Only moments after takeoff it crashes, killing all aboard except one stewardess (Suzanne Pleshette).

Though the pilot (Rod Taylor) reported one engine out, inspection of the wreckage indicates that he could have made it on the other engine. With the experts ruling out mechanical failure only human error is left. Then rumors begin to circulate that the pilot had been drinking before the flight.

The airline's director of flight operations (Glenn Ford), who is also an old friend of the dead flier, is determined that the company is only looking for a scapegoat even if it means blackening the dead man's reputation.

He sets out to find the cause of the crash and along the way flashback episodes reveal the dead flier's character.

IN A FINAL attempt to clear his friend, Ford recreates the conditions of the original flight as he takes the controls of a similar plane.

Glenn Ford underplays his role, as do most of the cast in this generally well acted film. Rod Taylor as the seemingly carefree flier again proves his skill as an actor. Nehemiah Persoff makes more of a minor role than it is worth. The women -- Suzanne Pleshette, Nancy Kwan -- handle their parts capably

The difficulty of the cast's job is that the series of minor situations that are important in revealing character are also very trivial and lacking in drama.

Harold Medford's script has tried to be faithful to the presentation of a fatalistic philosophy, but audiences are likely to come away with the notion that all that has transpired is less the result of fate than it is the product of a series of outrageous coincidences.