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Fugitive in the Sky

Fugitive in the Sky (1936)

November. 28,1936
| Drama Action Mystery

Reporter Terry Brewer goes to the Los Angeles airport to say goodbye to his sweetheart, airline hostess Rita Moore. He notices G-Man Mike Phelan among the passengers and assuming Phelan is on the trail of a criminal, decides to go along to get a story.


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The setting; A 1930's airliner (a classic Ford Tri-Motor!) on a cross-country flight.The weather grows worse, with a mid-west dust storm threatening to bring down the aircraft. Suddenly, the situation becomes much worse with two further complications:1) A passenger is stabbed to death--while all are sleeping! Whodunit?2) A notorious gunman, "Killer Madsen" is in disguise on board and fleeing from the law!The crew and passengers must keep their cool as the weather gets worse and the desperate gunman takes over the aircraft, threatening everyone!The kicker; The hard-as-nails, gun-pointing 'Killer Madsen' claims that he is NOT the murderer of the passenger ! So the question remains; Who killed the passenger?... ....And Why??A fast-paced little film with sly, slick and sharp dialogue, great atmosphere, and a LOT of Fun !


I recently had the opportunity to see this film via the TCM Cable Channel and found it enjoyable, but more as a comedy with dramatic overtones rather than a drama mystery. As a product of its time, 1936, I am sure it probably entertained viewers as a mystery, but time has sheered that veneer from it especially in light of these times. I agree with an earlier comment made about the dialogue, which is now somewhat comically outdated. As I listened to Howard Phillips go on as killer Madsen, I could not help but be reminded of current actor Bruce Campbell. I especially enjoyed the performances of Don Barclay as an inebriated passenger and John Kelly as a boxer, which I felt in many ways stole the movie from the leads, such as the lovely Jean Muir. I do give credit though to those who set the scene involving the dust storm segment and found it to be well done. With a little more work this movie had the potential to be a good thriller and I feel would be an excellent candidate to be redone today.


I was flipping through channels and happened to catch this gem last night on TCM. I don't normally enjoy the older movies at all, not even the highly rated stuff. Usually when I see b&w I just keep on flipping. Something about FITS caught my attention and I was rewarded with many laughs. My rating is based simply on the laugh-a-minute, old-school dialog. It's too bad people don't still speak this way. A lost art, I guess. 'Killer' Madsen is the sort of criminal we just don't see enough of these days. The other main characters were also quite entertaining, and the fella with John Kerry's eyebrows was a particular favorite for me. Alls I can say is that I found FITS to be full of humor (whether it was meant to be that way or not) and I'd like to see more like it, See?

John Seal

Fugitive In the Sky is an hour of non-stop thrills delivered by the 'B' team at Warner Brothers. Heck, with no stars worth mentioning and director Nick Grinde behind the camera, it's the 'B' team's 'B' team at that. Nonetheless, thanks to some outstanding miniature work, good set design, a game cast, an exciting screenplay, and some ridiculous but vastly entertaining plot twists, this remains one of the most enjoyable bill fillers of the period. Howard Phillips does a nice job as psycho 'Killer' Madsen, Jean Muir is fine as self assured stewardess Rita Moore, and watch out for those disguises! Besides being one of the first films--if not THE first--to establish many of the plot devices and cliches that would be further developed in films from Zero Hour (1957) to Airport 1977 (1977), Fugitive In the Sky also features cross-dressing, a bleak Dust Bowl farm straight out of the Universal horror playbook, and the best cockpit set this side of Plan 9 From Outer Space. An unusual and surprisingly satisfying effort.