Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501 (1990)

Cheryl Ladd as Diane Halstead in Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501 (1990)

Crash and Burned

There have been numerous plane crash movies over the years from those based on true stories to classic disaster movies but I don't think I have watched one which is as much of a mixed bag as "Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501" before. Here we have a TV movie from 1990 which gives us a fictional plane crash and the widowed wife of the pilot who is determined to clear his name after the team of investigators say it was pilot error. Now ignoring the fact that being over 20 years old makes it dated we have a movie which basically throws everything it can think of at us, we have the parasitic journalist who tries to make out the pilot was drugged up, the shark of a lawyer trying to make as much money as possible from representing a victim but we also have the CIA with a top secret package, a bomb threat and of course a wife who knows nothing about planes but is determined to clear her husband's name. It is far fetched and frankly unbelievable because of these numerous facets but each one individually is interesting from the manipulation of the facts to the theory of what caused the crash.

Captain Greg Halstead (Doug Sheehan) is in charge of flight 1501 when he receives a report of a bomb threat forcing him to change routes to a nearby airport and heading towards a storm cell which somehow shows differently on the plane's radar to the radar in the control tower. Having gone with what his radar says flight 1501 heads into the worst storm cell and shortly after crashes killing all but Greg, one other a passenger and a dog in cargo. But as the investigation starts there are a lot of strange factors from the CIA retrieving a mysterious package from the crash site to the fact that Greg was on medication leading one reporter to label him as being drug crazed. As the investigation points to pilot error and Greg passes of his injuries his wife Diane (Cheryl Ladd - Love's Resounding Courage) is determined to get the truth and prove her husband was innocent.

Jeffrey DeMunn as Scott Cody in Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501 (1990)

So here is the thing "Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501" starts off relatively ordinary, we get a bit of an argument between Diane and Greg as they are having difficulty having children but it is not really important. Thankfully it doesn't waste too much time with this sort of padding before we get to the real start of the story which is the bomb threat, the storm cell and the fact that the plane's radar is reporting differently to the control towers.

Now what follows on from here can only be described as super contrived because we have so many elements from the CIA removing a mysterious package from the crash site, the seedy lawyer looking to capitalize on the sole civilian survivor, the even seedier reporter who tries to make out that Greg was on drugs and a heck of a lot more including a scene of a thief masquerading as a priest stealing from the dead bodies. It is simply too much and it is one of the major flaws of "Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501" but at the same time I would imagine that some of these elements are based on things which have happened at real crashes. As such it is interesting to watch how nasty the reporter and the lawyer get in trying to make money from the crash and it is also interesting too discover what part the mysterious CIA package has to play in the crash you just can't take them all seriously as being involved in the one crash.

Now talking of not taking things seriously you have the character of Diane who despite not having any knowledge of planes is determined to discover the truth. In a way it is typical and expected when out of nowhere she seems to grasp some deep knowledge of things but it doesn't stop it from being cheesy. And part of that cheesiness is that the various characters we get from the seedy lawyer to the one survivor are now dated and frankly not that well acted. Even Cheryl Ladd as the lead actress often delivers some terrible over acting which is so typical of the era.

What this all boils down to is as a whole movie "Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501" doesn't work it is too contrived and now seriously dated. But the various elements of the movie are interesting and it is a case that less would have made "Crash: The Mystery of Flight 1501" more.