Jet Over The Atlantic (1959)

“From here on it’s anyone’s guess. The transmitter’s dead. We’re out of touch with the whole world.”


Director:  Byron Haskin

Starring:  Guy Madison, Virginia Mayo, George Raft, Argentina Brunetti, George Macready, Ilona Massey, Anna Lee, Brett Halsey, Mary Anderson, Venetia Stevenson, Margaret Lindsay, Frederick Worlock, Cindy Lee

Screenplay:  Irving H. Cooper




Synopsis:  In Spain, FBI Agent Stafford (George Raft) has tracked down Brett Mattoon (Guy Madison), aka Brett Murphy, a convicted murderer who escaped while being transferred to death-row. Working with the Spanish authorities, Stafford formalises the arrangements for Mattoon’s extradition and flight back to the US. However, he approaches the job ahead with a certain reluctance, aware that Mattoon is in love with a nightclub entertainer named Jean Gurney (Virginia Mayo); the two plan have plans to marry on the very night for which the arrest has been arranged. Near the docks, Sir Robert Leverett (George Mascready) meets secretly with an individual who hands him a package and explains about a certain chemical’s properties, advising him to conceal it in a large piece of luggage so that when it is placed in the baggage compartment, it will be nearthe engines. When the man asks for his payment, Sir Robert stabs him to death… Mattoon is apprehended by the Spanish police, but a sympathetic Stafford gives him permission to phone Jean at the club where she dances. Mattoon avoids Jean’s questions, only telling her that he loves her; but as soon as he has hung up Jean, stopping only to throw a coat over her stage costume, goes in pursuit of him. In his hotel room, Sir Robert places the contents of his package in a large trunk, first attaching a timing device to the box, then scattering a chemical around. He is gazing sadly at a framed photograph of a young girl when Lady Leverett (Anna Lee) enters, saying nervously that she has changed her mind about going – that she hasn’t been feeling well – that she dislikes flying; finally blurting that they would be leaving Laurie alone for the first time. At the mention of their daughter, Sir Robert recoils, saying coldly that she isn’t alone, she is dead—and that he does not want her mentioned again… At the airport, Stafford watches carefully as the passengers to New York begin to board the plane. At the last minute, Jean arrives; bewildered, she sees Mattoon and Stafford moving toward the tarmac, but is too far away to see that they are handcuffed together. Impulsively, she hurries to the ticket desk and purchases a seat on the same flight. She and Sir Robert, who has looked on with interest as the luggage is loaded, are the last to board… As the passengers settle in, Miss Hooten (Argentina Brunetti) notices the handcuffs on Mattoon and Stafford and is quick to spread the word. Jean does not hear this piece of gossip: she stalks towards Mattoon, meaning to confront him—only to flee in shock as she grasps the situation. To Mattoon’s surprise and gratitude, Stafford releases him so that he can speak to her. Finding her in the lounge – and, although neither of them realises, with Miss Hooten listening avidly nearby – Mattoon explains to Jean that he is a convicted murderer. He swears his innocence, however, and tells her about the night in question, when two men were shot dead in a bar in Chicago, and he left unconscious with the gun planted in his hand. Meanwhile, below, smoke begins to seep from the Leveretts’ trunk, and is taken up into the plane’s ventilation system…

Comments:  I used to think I’d never meet an aeroplane disaster movie I didn’t like, but now I’m not so sure. This film is…weird…and not in a good way. In fact, I’m not sure that Jet Over The Atlantic isn’t the universe’s way of punishing me for getting too much of a kick out of films about bombs on planes.

There are issues with every aspect of Jet Over The Altantic, but the overriding one is the screenplay by Irving H. Cooper, which is about 40% clumsy exposition, 40% Misdirected Answering©, and 20% character schtick. Conspicuous by its absence is logic: this is the kind of film where you quickly develop a furrowed brow, and then – assuming that you don’t just switch it off – progress to throwing up your hands with a resigned exclamation of, “Okay. Sure. Why not?” as you repeatedly watch two and two adding up to sixteen and three-quarters.

It is the screenplay which prevents this film from having any chance to overcome its other limitations, which include a cripplingly meagre budget and an uninspiring cast. Jet Over The Atlantic was shot in Mexico, standing in for Spain, and features all too many “location” scenes on tiny, unconvincing sets and blank stone walls used as backdrops. An attempt has been made to put together the usual disaster-movie ensemble, but when your cast is headed by Guy Madison, it rather speaks for itself.

(This was Madison’s last American film before he relocated to Italy and reinvented himself as a mainstay of the spaghetti western.)

Virginia Mayo, always a trouper, tries very hard in a role written for a much younger woman, but George Raft just wanders around in a kind of daze, looking like he’s wondering how on earth he got from Some Like It Hot to this.

Of the rest, perhaps the less said, the better—although we cannot avoid mentioning that the makers of this film saw fit to inflict upon the viewer not one, but two, Odious Comic Reliefs: Ilona Massey in full-on “Darrrrlink!” mode as opera-singer Mme Galli-Cazetti; and Argentina Brunetti as fluttery spinster Miss Sophronia Collinson Ridgeway de Hooten (I think). The combination is nothing less than brutal.

Jet Over The Atlantic opens at the airport, where Agent Stafford is making arrangements for the transportation of escaped murderer Brett Mattoon, aka Murphy. He liaises with a local police official, and the two share a conversation that is a prime illustration of what I was saying about the script, so I think I’ll transcribe it in full:

Policeman:  “Going over the extradition papers, I noticed that your Mr Murphy was Lt Murphy, with 53 bombing missions over North Korea.”
Stafford:  “That’s right.”
:  “How did he escape?”
: “Oh, just a freak of luck. They were transferring him to death row two days before his execution date.”
: “Just in time. You know, I’d do the same thing if I had two convictions of murder hanging over me.”
[chuckling]: “Yes, he’s quite a man.”

I’m not sure what I like best about this passage – that they’ve already forgotten that “Murphy” is an alias, or Stafford’s odd sense of humour, or the totally credible and unforced way in which we learn about Mattoon’s war record and flying experience.

Stafford then makes his way to Mattoon’s apartment building, watching as two silhouettes on the blinds become one silhouette on the blinds…

The introductory scene between Mattoon and Jean Gurney goes on far too long, shoving into our faces how much they REALLY REALLY LOVE EACH OTHER—but also implying that they’re sleeping together, if not in fact living together, which is a note of realism we don’t expect.


The two are planning on marrying that very night, and Jean departs for work while Mattoon goes off to get the marriage licence. He then shows up at the club, where Jean is dancing—and you know, I’m sure Spanish people just love it when foreigners do “toreador” routines for their entertainment. (Or perhaps this is a place that caters to gringos.) It turns out that Mattoon has just dropped in to flash the licence before going home to get ready, and we learn that he has obtained it under his real name, which he must then explain to Jean: his mother remarried, he tells her.

We then cut to a painfully artificial dock set (this is supposed to be Madrid, so I guess we’re by a river), where Sir Robert Leverett is meeting with an individual called Lopez who, if he isn’t Peter Lorre’s Spanish cousin, is working awfully hard to convince us that he is. Lopez hands a package to Sir Robert, advising him on where to place it in his luggage and to set the timer for four hours into the flight. He also assures Sir Robert that the compound thrives on water, and that no chemical extinguisher can affect it. Lopez then asks for the agreed payment, but gets a knife between the ribs instead.

Stafford and some local muscle make it to Mattoon’s apartment building before he returns from seeing Jean, forcing the four of them to hang around the lobby and try to look inconspicuous while he walks past them—not easy considering they’re all wearing trench-coats and hats. (“Some large men NOT to see you, sir!”) It’s probably fortunate for them that Mattoon has other things on his mind. They move in and corner him in his apartment, and after some token resistance Mattoon resigns himself, but pleads with Stafford to allow him one phone-call.

We only hear Jean’s end of the conversation, but evidently Mattoon is better at jailbreaks than making excuses, because Jean’s response is to throw a coat over her stage outfit – a leotard and fishnet stockings – and charge out in pursuit of him.


At his hotel, Sir Robert follows his co-conspirator’s instructions by placing the contents of his package inside a heavy trunk (Lady Leverett’s, judging by the contents). We watch as he attaches an old-fashioned watch as a timing device, and then scatters pellets of some chemical all through the trunk. Sealing it up again, he then turns and gazes sadly at the framed photograph of a young girl. “Laurie! My darling Laurie!”

He is interrupted by his wife, Ursula, who begins making excuses not to depart Spain, but finally blurts that they’ve never left Laurie before, that, “She’ll be so lonely and lost…” Sir Robert, though he was clearly suffering the same thoughts a moment ago, attacks his wife coldly: “She is not alone – she is dead – dead – and I killed her, if that’s the way you wish to think of it! Don’t talk about her!”

This is, simultaneously, the most frustrating and the most interesting thing about Jet Over The Atlantic. The screenplay never lets us in on what happened to Laurie, or why Sir Robert thinks he was responsible for her death; though for what it’s worth, Lady Leverett shakes her head vehemently when he accuses himself. Since his guilt and grief are about to send Sir Robert into full-on Angel-Of-Death mode, it would be kind of nice to know.

However, the intriguing thing about this scenario is how it parallels the one offered by the other aeroplane disaster movie of 1959, Jet Storm, wherein a grieving father plots to blow up a plane on which the man who killed his daughter in a hit-and-run is travelling, killing not only the guilty party but himself and everyone else in the process. Jet Over The Atlantic was, as I say, an American production shot in Mexico; Jet Storm is British. The two films were released within two months of one another in their respective countries, and must have been in production at around the same time. It is hard to think that one could have influenced the other, which makes this a peculiar coincidence indeed.


But it’s peculiar for another reason. Both of these films were, self-evidently, inspired by the real-life bombing perpetrated by Jack Graham, who in 1955 blew up a plane in order to murder his mother for her insurance money. Yet although this actually happened, both Jet Storm and Jet Over The Atlantic shy away from the sheer cold-bloodedness of it, offering instead bombers who have been driven insane by the death of a child, and who are suicidal as much as homicidal: bad enough, but not nearly as bad as the reality.

That said, the situation in Jet Storm makes a lot more sense, both psychologically and dramatically. Jet Over The Atlantic leaves the viewer wondering, why this? why now? what triggered it? The arbitrariness of the central premise is, unfortunately, quite in keeping with the overall tone of the script.

Stafford and his helpers transport Mattoon to the airport and while they wait, keep an eye on the other passengers—which allows us one of those patented disaster movie potted-history scenes.

(The character stuff used to pad out the running-time is feeble at best – or worst. I’ll spare you except where it crosses the main plot.)

The Leveretts show up; so does the dithery Miss Hooten, and the young Dr Vandenbird, who has “just inherited $25 million”. And so, sigh, does the film’s inevitable Adorable Moppet, Laura Lanyard, who is travelling with her mother. In a distinctly uncomfortable touch, Sir Robert will spend the rest of the film (or at least, his part in it – mwoo-ha-ha!) gazing longingly at this little kid in a way that is squirm-worthy even though we know where it’s coming from.


(The fact that – unless this has been going on for years – both of the Leveretts are rather too old to have been the parents of the child in the photograph just adds to the general discomfort. Meanwhile, Cindy Lee is a bit too old for the part she’s playing, making for even more discomfort.)

But all of this pales beside the film’s real Scene We Didn’t Need To See: a pan across the luggage compartment, from Sir Robert’s deadly trunk to the cage where one small dog is confined already, and another being locked up as we watch…

Having sent Lady Leverett ahead to board, Sir Robert stops to make a phone-call. As he steps out of the box, he overhears the following exchange between Mrs Lanyard and her daughter:

Laura:  “But, mommy, how do we know the plane won’t fall?”
Mrs Lanyard
:  “Because, Laura, it’s a wonderful airplane, and because the pilots are the best in the whole world, and because God would never let an airplane fall with a good little girl like you on board!”

Well! – that sounds to me like a challenge! What say you, Sir Robert?

(I guess there weren’t any good little girls on the same flight as Jack Graham’s mother.)

Jean finally shows up, having been directed to the airport by the porter at Mattoon’s apartment building—who is either the most discreet individual in the world, or the most indiscreet. Or maybe just a practical joker. She is confused that Mattoon is not on the passenger list (oddly, she only asks for him under that name, not as “Murphy”), and wanders around in a panic, just missing her quarry on a couple of occasions.


And then we have Mme Galli-Cazetti thrust upon us, declaiming, “Please, no photographs!” while posing for the cameras and generally making herself as conspicuous as possible. Because it’s funny, right?

In fact, the only thing less funny than Madame’s antics is that she is – oh, lord – carrying her small dog…

On the other hand, we do get some minor relief here in the form of Maria, Madame’s tart-tongued personal assistant, who is even less impressed by her than the rest of us—which is saying something.

We also get another odd cul-de-sac as the photographers descend upon a gentleman introduced impressively as “Dean Halltree of St Swithin’s”—although the significance of this, and why it is significant to the Spanish media, is left entirely to our imaginations.

With all the passengers accounted for – funny how we only meet the American and English ones (and why are there so many English people on this flight?) – Stafford goes to collect Mattoon, under guard in a back room. Handcuffed together, the two move towards the exit, at which point Jean catches a glimpse of them—and rushes to the ticket desk.

The PA then broadcasts the last call for “Air Conquistador prop-jet flight #400 to New York” – which is I guess is the film’s way of assuring us that the plane is a jet – of a sort – in spite of the propellers, thus excusing its tagline: Jet-hot action! Jet-hot suspense! Jet-hot thrills! (The plane is a turboprop-powered Bristol Type 175 Britannia airliner.)

Once the plane is well under way, we get an amusing after-you-no-after-you bit of business between Mattoon and Stafford as they try to negotiate their seatbelts around the handcuffs.


This is noticed by Miss Hooten (who, in fact, could not possibly see it from where she’s sitting), who makes it her business to broadcast the situation to almost everyone on board except Jean. One passenger reports placidly that, “I heard something about him at the ticket counter. Seems he’s a murderer being taken back to the States for hanging.”

Jean picks this moment to declare her connection to Mattoon by stalking up the aisle towards him. She’s obviously got an indignant speech prepared but it dies on her lips when she sees the handcuffs. An awkward moment follows, as you might imagine, and then Jean bolts, leading to the first of three startling revelations about this plane:

  1. It has a lounge.
  2. It has a bar.
  3. It has a state-room.

Really. A state-room. For a nine-hour flight.

Mattoon accuses Stafford of giving him away to Jean, which he denies—although he admits to knowing all about them. It is implied that he timed Mattoon’s arrest so as to prevent their marriage, which is an unexpectedly subtle touch for this film. On the other hand, Stafford insists upon referring to Jean as “a girl” which, given that Virginia (if not Jean) was thirty-nine at the time, is just intolerable.

It is never quite clear whether Stafford is just deeply sympathetic, or whether he’s carrying a torch for Jean himself, but here he uncuffs Mattoon and allows him to go and explain himself – remarking, “You won’t get very far.”


(Maybe not, but as it turns out, more than one of the other passengers is carrying a gun… Airport security? What airport security?)

As Mattoon walks past her, Lady Leverett comments, “Oh, the poor man! They’re going to—electrocute him!”

What, hang him and electrocute him!? Isn’t that cruel and unusual?

Sir Robert, however, merely smirks. “Somehow, I rather think they won’t.”

And we cut to the baggage compartment, where smoke is beginning to seep out of the Leveretts’ trunk. There is a small explosion…

Jean is in the lounge [*snicker*]. As Mattoon joins her, Miss Hooten scuttles up on the grounds that, “Somebody has to keep an eye on him!” – can’t really argue with her – and eavesdrops on the two of them. And while I was not remotely amused by the official comic relief, I did end up developing a great affection for the flight’s highly professional steward, who keeps wandering in with drinks during this scene without batting an eyelid at the conversation he must be overhearing.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that Mattoon is innocent on all counts. We get a flashback here to explain how he got into this mess, and hoo, boy! – it’s not hard to see where the money ran out!

Mattoon wanders into surely the smallest, barest, dingiest little bar that ever embarrassed Chicago. In addition to the bartender, some poor schmuck is cleaning up; and if the income generated by this joint can support two employees, I’ll eat my hat.


The bar pretty much reaches capacity when Mattoon is joined by two goons, who apparently haven’t heard that Prohibition was repealed a good quarter-century earlier. They order “two beers” (unspecified). After one sip, Goon #1 spits his out, says furiously, “You still buying this lousy stuff? I warned you to buy our beer!”—and casts the contents of his stein back in the barkeep’s face before drawing his gun.

Because the income from this pathetic excuse for a bar is totally worth two murders to the local mob. And why would they do this in front of a witness? It can’t possibly be hard to catch this place when it’s empty.

Mattoon jumps Goon #1, but just a little too late. As the barkeep keels over, Goon #2 brings his own gun down on Mattoon’s head. The goons then turn to leave, belatedly noticing the poor cleaning schmuck, who is cringing in the corner rather than making a dash for the door. So they shoot him, too. Goon #1 then returns to the unconscious Mattoon, wiping his prints off his gun and pressing it into Matton’s hand.

“When I came to, that gun was still in my hand, like I’d been born with it,” concludes Mattoon, “with a dozen cops standing around.”

Question: if both victims were dead, who’s supposed to have knocked Mattoon out? Or did the cops think he fainted? Also, Victim #2 was gut-shot, and probably still would have been alive when the police arrived. But then, movie shots are always immediately fatal, right?

A sobbing Jean declares her love and loyalty, and insists that the two of them can be married as soon as the plane lands. Mattoon rejects her offer, on a variety of grounds:

Mattoon:  “It’s a Spanish licence. It’s not going to be any good where we’re going!”
:  “Excuse me, would you care to order dinner now?”


Sadly, Mattoon only wants more booze, so we never do find out what they’re serving on this flight. Fish? Lamb? Chicken pot-pie??

But never fear, Miss Hooten is on the case. Mattoon’s sad story has shaken her to the bottom of her thwarted romantic soul, and before we know it she’s arranging a wedding.

A wedding.

Okay. Sure. Why not?

Not everyone is enthusiastic. (No, really!) Miss Hooten tries to convince Dean Halltree to officiate, although he takes some persuading that it is his place to do interfere – “I really can’t go around soliciting!” As she pleads her case to various parties, Miss Hooten feels that some people are missing the point:

Miss Hooten:  “I had rather be married to a man I loved for one day, even had he died in my arms before the marriage was consummated!”

And if he was that lucky.

Stafford, who I can only assume has three days left to retirement and doesn’t think he’s going to see the end of the film, throws himself into the wedding scheme with inexplicable enthusiasm.

(Why is he going along with this now when he deliberately separated them earlier?)


Stafford accompanies Miss Hooten to the lounge:

Mattoon:  “Oh, hello. This is Miss Gurney – Mr Stafford.”
:  “How do you do?”
:  “Glad to know you. Miss Hooten – Miss Gurney – Mr Mattoon.”
Mattoon:  “How do you do?”
Miss Hooten
:  “Charmed!”

That’s right, folks: escorting someone – or being escorted – or having your fiancé escorted – back to an execution is no excuse for forgetting your manners!

Anyway, Mattoon is persuaded, and various other people are pressed into service. Madame lends Jean a dress and later gives up her state-room so that the bride and groom can [*tee, hee*] have some privacy; while Dr Vanderbird fulfils his function of best man by looking thoroughly disgusted with the entire proceedings. The service itself is rather interesting, inasmuch as it’s full of those little verbal stumbles that people do tend to make in that situation. (Unsurprisingly, Mattoon has a little trouble with, “Until death us do part.”)

NOW—there have been a few cutaways to the Leveretts’ trunk through all this, and now the smoke that has been sucked into the ventilation system begins to affect the pilot, who goes to lie down, leaving the co-pilot in charge. As the passengers settle down for the night, several of them complain that it is hot and stuffy. Sir Robert puts a hand on the floor, and smiles contentedly.

Sure enough, the trunk has now burst into flames; the fire spreads quickly through the baggage compartment…


Meanwhile, Mattoon and Jean are, ahem, taking a short break. Mattoon leaves the state-room to get Jean a drink of water, and sees that one of the large Spanish gentlemen sleeping nearby is carrying a gun. (It is obscurely conveyed, but what we have here are a high-ranking official and his bodyguards.) Mattoon gently slips the weapon out of its holster and into his own pocket—unaware that Jean is watching him… She confronts him at once upon his return, proving unexpectedly amenable to his decision not to give up without a fight—or a federal offence. In short, Mattoon plans to hijack the plane and fly it to a little airport near Montreal that he knew back in his training days, and make a break from there.

Blame Canada.

But all of a sudden, Jean smells smoke.

Somewhat belatedly – probably because smoking is allowed on board – the sprinklers come on. This alerts the co-pilot to the situation, and he radios New York (where the airport seems to employ an unusually high number of Latinos). He then makes an announcement to the passengers, reassuring them that the baggage compartment is sealed off and the fire should not be able to spread. There is some panic, nevertheless—though in my opinion, not nearly enough.

Where are the dog owners? Why is no-one screaming for their pet?? And yes, I am looking at you, Madame Odious Comic Relief!

On the other hand, another of the large Spanish gentlemen, who also happens to be carrying a gun, tries to smash a window. Mattoon intervenes, wrenching the gun away from him—only to have Stafford immediately demand it of him, at the point of his own. Mattoon surrenders the weapon, not willingly, but without an overt confrontation.


Laura Lanyard, in the meantime, is huddled in her mother’s arms. Sir Robert has been watching her all through the flight, and now utters solemnly, “It appears I bring death to little girls! Wherever I go! Whatever I do! Whatever I do!” Whenever I plant a bomb on a plane! What is with that?

Sir Robert then moves to sit beside the Lanyards:

Sir Robert: “I am Sir Robert Leverett. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with planes. I thought perhaps if you’d let me hold your little girl— She’s so very young. I thought I might comfort her!”
Mrs Lanyard
:  “Of course—I’m very grateful. Darling, this nice man wants to hold you for a little while!”

And she plonks the (understandably reluctant) Laura in the “nice man’s” lap.


(And trust me, it’s even creepier than it sounds.)

As for “comfort”, well, Sir Robert tells Laura not to worry, because if the plane does crash, she’ll go to heaven—which I guess is preferable to her mother’s “God doesn’t let bad things happen to good little girls” stance. Although if Sir Robert actually believes that…

Meanwhile, down below, the water from the sprinkler system has penetrated the Leveretts’ trunk and is mixing with the scattered chemical. A thick, noxious foam begins to pour out into the compartment, giving off fumes that, like the smoke, are taken up by the ventilation system.


The pilot never returned to the cockpit, and now the co-pilot also begins to feel woozy. He calls out to the navigator, then looks around to find him slumped over his instruments—dead. He reports in to New York, returns to his seat—and puts the plane on auto-pilot…

The rest of Jet Over The Atlantic is very strangely constructed: it keeps feeling like bits are missing, as if they chopped out random scenes to make it shorter. It is also profoundly dishonest. While the random action of the poisonous fumes, which affect some people more than others, is actually likely, the fact that no-one dies but minor characters – minor Spanish characters – is pretty damn tacky.

But worst of all – yes, I said that, and I mean it – WORST OF ALL – the film at one point gives us a look at the dogs, all lying dead in their cages…

Oh, thank you, film. Thank you so very bloody much.

This is – like the rat scene in Contamination – not just cruel, but gratuitous. We’ve already seen dead human beings; we don’t need to see dead dogs—any more than, having seen exploding human beings, we needed to see an exploding rat. And while (unlike the rat, perhaps) I’m sure these dogs weren’t actually harmed, what the hell was the point of including them at all?

(You know, when the dogs first appeared, I was naive enough to say to myself: “Oh, well, that means that the bomb won’t go off at all.”)


Anyway— No-one’s really sure what’s happening, but the co-pilot is sure he’s not going to last much longer. He warns the passengers that he may have to ditch…and then slumps over his instruments.

As New York calls unavailingly, Sir Robert wanders unhindered into the cockpit, and sabotages the electrical system, including the radio. The lights flicker, the passengers cry out and cough, and Mattoon decides to take a look “up front”. He finds the entire flight-crew dead—the pilot in his bunk, and the co-pilot and navigator in their seats.

Stafford appears, and his first instinct is to warn Mattoon at gun-point to get away from the co-pilot—but is quick enough after that to grasp the situation. It is Mattoon who belatedly realises where the fumes are coming from, and he insists on Stafford accompanying him below.

(At first Mattoon covers his face with a wet handkerchief, but the film forgets about that as soon as it gets inconvenient.)

The two of them are using a metal bar to try and break into the cage containing the oozing trunk when Sir Robert appears. He gives one of those cross-purpose commands – “Get away from there! You can’t possibly stop it!” – and then starts rhapsodising over the easy, painless death induced by the fumes, which rather contradicts what we’re seeing amongst the coughing, choking passengers upstairs, as well as Dr Vanderbird’s description of the cause of one woman’s death as “strangulation”.

(Apart from the inadequate fire-detection system, why is there no oxygen on this plane?)

“We’re all very fortunate,” Sir Robert concludes. “Death is the most beautiful experience we’ll ever know. I learned that from Laurie. She’s waiting for me in heaven.”


And then he pulls a gun.

Uh, yyyyeah, I’m not sure he’s really grasped all the essentials of this “getting into heaven” business.

Stafford makes a feint, while Mattoon throws the metal bar, which deflects Sir Robert’s first shot. Before he can fire a second, Mattoon produces his concealed gun and shoots him dead. “Murder number three,” he then spits at Stafford. “Pity you weren’t around for the first two. Then we wouldn’t be stuck on this miserable crate.”

They climb back up to the cockpit, where Stafford grabs Mattoon’s arm. “You saved my life. I’ll take that gun,” he says, not missing a beat. And he’s not finished yet: “It’s up to you to get this plane into New York!”

“First you want my life, now you want miracles,” jeers Mattoon. But first things first: Mattoon takes the plane down to six thousand feet, ordering Stafford to break some windows. In spite of this, the fumes don’t seem to disperse, and nobody stops coughing. In fact, some people won’t stop dying.

With understandable reluctance, and no little heroism, Mattoon gives up his Canada scheme, accepting that everyone on board will need medical treatment as soon as possible. Jean, on the other hand, seems willing enough to trade the other eighty passengers for Mattoon.

It’s at this point that Mattoon discovers that the radio isn’t working, and why, which has strangely little effect on anything—except that we don’t get the traditional scene of Jean handling the radio while Mattoon flies, though she does sit in the co-pilot’s seat.


Out in the cabin, Stafford forcibly quells the growing panic by telling everyone that sitting still and quiet will slow the action of the poison. He and the ubiquitous steward then start demonstrating the life-jackets (although only the latter can do so bilingually). Meanwhile, at Idlewild, though there is no radio contact, the plane has been spotted by the radar system and they begin making arrangements for an emergency landing.

Jet Over The Atlantic is rather hilariously offhand about the landing of the plane. Granted, there’s nothing mechanically wrong with it, and so no drama in that direction; but still, you’d think Mattoon would have some unfamiliarity issues, or at least be a little rusty—or just panic a bit. But no. They don’t even make an issue out of the navigation: Mattoon just kind of “figures out” where New York is. (He sees Connecticut up ahead and hangs a left. Seriously.)

So Mattoon puts the plane down without fuss—and then bolts, shoving Stafford out of his way. Stafford responds by shooting him—while he is struggling up a crowded aisle.

However, not only does Stafford avoid hitting anyone else, he also manages to achieve his goal of “shooting to wound”—unlike, he explains grimly to the horrified and indignant Jean, what the gentlemen waiting at the airport for Mattoon would do if he tried to escape. Nevertheless, Stafford does have the grace to look a little ashamed of himself, what with the whole landing-the-plane-and-saving-your-life thing.

The surviving passengers begin to disembark, also with an amusing lack of fuss; no-one seems concerned with the dead bodies in the lounge. (Several plot threads are resolved at this point, but they are entirely unimportant.) Only Lady Leverett, who has put her own two and two together, fails to leave her seat.


Stafford finds his fellow officers out on the tarmac. They are accompanied by a certain handcuffed individual who we recognise as Goon #1 from Chicago, and who speaks bitterly of, “That stoolie!” The prisoner is taken over to the ambulance that is to transport Mattoon, to identify him. Instead he helpfully exclaims, “That ain’t the guy that squealed! That’s the chump we framed!”

Yes. Well.

All things considered, I’m sure Mattoon would prefer to be known as “the hero who landed the plane” rather than “the chump we framed”, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers…

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5 Responses to Jet Over The Atlantic (1959)

  1. Dawn says:

    Either movie shots kill instantly, or the victim keeps going with no ill effect whatsoever, possibly some limping (depending on what’s IITS).


    • lyzmadness says:

      …and getting shot doesn’t really hurt, at least not if you’re one of the Good Guys…


      • Dawn says:

        or one of the really really bad guys (think Jason)
        In “The Mask of Zorro” (first one, was that Mark or Mask), the bad guy gets beaten up, shot, and stabbed several times. It takes a few tons of gold bricks falling on him to finally finish him off.


  2. RogerBW says:

    And being shot in the shoulder is not a life-changing injury.

    As for the bombing incident… I find it interesting that the “hide a tree in a forest” turns up so often in real-life crime. The first documented case of product tampering was perpetrated by a man who apparently believed what at that time was just urban legend, and wanted to make his wife’s death look like another example of it.

    If one good little girl produces an aerodynamic lift equal to her own mass plus 10%…

    Fire in the baggage compartment, if there’s enough oxygen to sustain it (and since our heroes can move freely back and forth, it must be pressurised), usually leads fairly quickly to a loss of aircraft incident, given all those electrical wires and control runs and things. ValuJet 592 ( is a good example.


    • lyzmadness says:

      Yes, that is odd. I did wonder whether at this time, because the hold was accessible, they had a record of successfully putting out fires and therefore considered them “less dangerous”. That might explain Leverett’s overkill in going for un-put-out-able fire + poisonous fumes.


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