Though based on a real-life event, this air crash drama shows little suspense. Cast, heavy on unknown Canadians, lacks star value of various “Airport” and airplane-terror films; still, “Falling From the Sky! Flight 174” shows canny instincts from network execs counterprogramming NBC’s female-oriented “A Woman of Independent Means” and, for that matter, CBS’s Monday comedy bloc.
Most imagination here comes from the title, with exclamation point replacing the colon that’s virtually mandatory in TV docudramas.
William Devane stars as Bob Pearson, pilot for Canadian World Airlines which is, in 1983, converting to new 767 airliners and metric system of weights and measures.
Best — and scariest — moments of film come in the beginning, as members of ground crew try to figure out if plane’s fuel tanks are properly filled — whether new capacity is measured in liters, pounds, gallons, or kilograms, and how to convert measurements from one system to the other.
Other than Devane, cast has little to do save look worried, panic, or maintain stiff upper lip. Plane lands safely, ho hum, with writer Lionel Chetwynd trying to pump up suspense by placing a young boy on a bicycle in jet’s landing path, and having Pearson run back to cabin with no obvious motivation after crew and passengers have been evacuated.
Most interesting passengers are John Novac as an uptight businessman, and Jeremy Wilkin as a retired Air Force officer who maintains his cool.
Production values look cheap, acting is adequate, and film is probably 30 minutes longer than it needs to be. Still, as a time killer, it doesn’t insult audience’s intelligence.