Rocky Descent: Angel Flight Down (1996)

Sure, it’s standard ‘movie of the week’ boob tube fare – but Dave is contentedly appreciative of this true story.

It was 13th February 1992 when a plane went down in the Rocky Mountains in the midst of a raging blizzard, leaving the passengers fighting for survival. On board were a pair of paramedics from St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, as well as a pilot, and an ailing two-year old girl who was being escorted by her father to a nearby emergency room that could treat her worsening condition. Thankfully, following a successful rescue mission, their ordeal was over by Valentine’s Day,

For Carla Singer, the boss of her own big-time production company that had churned out a gallon of small screen true stories like Shattering the Silence (1993) and Death in Small Doses (1995), the event was the perfect recipe. Let’s not forget the saleability of the pitch either: only two years prior, Frank Marshall’s Alive (1993) had become a sleeper hit on home video. Admittedly, ANGEL FLIGHT DOWN is lighter in tone and slighter in incident, but the concept of a plane down in the snowy wilderness would certainly have been considered bankable.

By the time Angel Flight Down went before cameras in chilly Calgary, director Charles Wilkinson had several Canuxploitation classics under his belt, such as the barely-seen horror flick Blood Clan (1990) and Crash (1994) with Michael Biehn. Although this is certainly more banal, not helped in the least by Michael Petryni’s cookie cutter script, there are some tidy visuals supplied by the experienced Michael Slovis, who in the same year also shot Crash Dive (1996) for Andrew Stevens.

In terms of personnel, Patricia Kalember and David Charvet comprise the on-flight medical team of Teresa Bagshaw and Brad Brown; The Blue Lagoon (1980) star Christopher Atkins is Jack Bahr, the doting Dad to daughter Sammy (Paige Magnussen); and Garwin Sanford (who’s actually qualified to fly commercial aircraft) is Rick Fowler, the pilot. All of them do a fine job, with a God-bothering Atkins (“God will protect us if we pray to him”) excelling at panicked and concerned, while Kalember and Charvert cover stoic and measured with consummate ease. Alas, the pluses contained within this fine if unexceptional time-passer weren’t enough for Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel who, on the day of its premiere on ABC, wrote that “the five survivors deserved better than hackneyed dialogue and superficial characterisation.” [1]

Canada ● 1996 ● Drama, TVM ● 88mins

Patricia Kalember, David Charvet, Christopher Atkins, Garwin Sanford ● Dir. Charles Wilkinson ● Wri. Michael Petryni

[1] TV Review by Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel, 29th April 1996.

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