Very loosely based on the book by international flying and sailing expert, Ernest K. Gann, Fate is the Hunter has finally been captured on dvd in a pristine format with excellent, distortion-free video and audio components - the audio track is captured separately as an extra feature. The story follows the character of Jack Savage - playboy, adventurer, and a seat-of-the-pants pilot - ably portrayed by the venerable Rod Taylor. Following a fatal passenger plane crash in which the tragic pilot is singled out as the cause, the story is told in a series of flashbacks that attempt to restore the unfortunate and voiceless victim. Saddled with the investigation and the ultimate reconstruction of the crash, is airline executive Sam McBane, wonderfully and capably played by Glenn Ford. McBane flew with Savage in the past and understands his complex character - he knows that Savage was a man of compassion - who wanted to help and not hurt.
As the dead pilot is continually villified via media crucifixtion, we are introduced to the many people who interacted with him. Wally Cox, Suzanne Pleshette, Nehemiah Persoff, Nancy Kwan, Dorothy Malone, Mark Stevens, Robert F. Simon, Robert J. Wilke, Jane Russell, and a stand-up cast of some of the finest character actors in Hollywood help to make this semi-documentary as real as the headlines. Passenger aviation had reached an apex in the mid-sixties - the demand for air travel had reached a tipping point and the new jet technology was venturing into areas that were fraught with unforgiving situations - each crash provided information that was part of a continuing evolution of hard and costly lessons that have slowly led to one of the safest modes of transportation.
In a form of life imitating art, the crash of a twin-engined 737-400 in Kegworth, England in 1989 - Flight 92 - involved the misidentification of a malfunctioning engine - the crew decided to shut off the fully functioning engine - the aircraft subsequently crashed with a tragic loss of life. In 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 sustained bird strikes rendering both engines inoperable. The flight crew, led by Captain Chesley Sullenberger III, made split second decisions that ended with the unpowered aircraft gliding into the Hudson River without a loss of life.
As an accident reconstructionist, I can say that this movie and "No Highway in the Sky" were factors in my early interest in crash interpretation and analysis. And, yes - it's easy to speculate that the dead operator was the sole cause of an accident - but proper reconstruction techniques allow for highly advanced evaluations of causal factors. While attending a seminar at the NTSB Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia, I finally decided to take a tour of the TWA Flight 800 remains that are sequestered in the basement/hanger. 230 passengers and crew perished in that controversial disaster in 1996. As I solemnly examined the elaborate patch-work reconstruction of the fuselage, I couldn't help but think back to "Fate is the Hunter".
It is welcome to see Twilight Time enter the DVD production world. I hope to see many wonderful and exciting new titles that have been here-to-for unavailable.