The Disappearance of Fight 412 (1974)
Film review #382
Director: Jud Taylor
SYNOPSIS: During a routine exercise, a U.S. military aircraft sees three UFOs on it’s radar screen, and two fighter jets are scrambled to intercept them. When the UFOs and the fighter jets disappear from radar, flight 412 is ordered to land and its crew is detained by a special investigations branch, who attempt to convince them that they saw nothing.
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Disappearance of Flight 412 is a 1974 TV movie. The story is based on the stories of UFO sightings, who knows about them, and how they are covered up. The movie starts off with a narrator recounting people’s experiences with sighting Unidentified Flying Objects in the skies, and their continued unexplanation. You had better get used to hearing the narrator, as they return constantly to explain the story, rather than letting the film speak for itself through the acting and dialogue. That said, I think the aim was to go for a semi-documentary feel, speculating about the nature of UFOs, which at the time had very little explanation or detail. The trouble is, with so little information about UFO sightings, you can’t really convey any information in a documentary style if it simply doesn’t exist.
The story of the film deals with the crew of a military aircraft, who are launching an exercise to try and solve an electrical problem aboard the aircraft. While in the air, they see three unidentified flying objects on their radar, and two additional fighter jets are dispatched to investigate. The jets and the UFOs eventually disappear from the radar, leading to a Special Investigations Division ordering the plane to land and the crew being detained. They are interrogated and the investigators attempt to convince them that they saw nothing on the radar, and there were no jets. Meanwhile the colonel who dispatched the aircraft can’t get into contact with them, and tries to find out what has happened. A lot of the story revolves around dialogue in dimly-lit rooms and back-and-forths between the various divisions of the military and government. Over time it become difficult to follow as everyone really looks and acts the same, and the motive for wanting to cover-up the UFO is never revealed: it is never shown whether they were aliens, top secret military technology or anything like that. Leaving it a mystery is probably more appropriate for the semi-documentary tone, but it does leave the whole experience somewhat pointless without any answers or payoff. The characters are all bland and uninteresting (again, in aims of keeping it down-to-earth (pun intended)), but there’s some more interesting moments when the crew are being detained and – for lack of a better term – psychologically tortured into believing that what they saw did not happen. However, they are too few and far between to make the film interesting overall.
Being a 70′s TV movie you won’t expect a big budget and spectacular special effects, but for a film about UFOs everything does look a little boring. The shots of the cockpit when the aircraft is in the air is clearly done in a studio, and the plot gets even more confusing due to the various offices and locations which different characters are in all look the same. Every scene is also accompanied with some odd lighting which I guess is meant to give dramatic effect, but just makes everything look dark and difficult to differentiate characters and there expressions. While such a semi-documentary might have been an interesting speculation on the nature of UFOs in 1974, The Disappearance of Flight 412 isn’t really of interest today, and as a story it’s pretty dull and devoid of content.