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Screen Directors Playhouse: High Air 1956
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Released: 12 Sep 1956 Director: Allan Dwan Writers: A.I. Bezzerides (teleplay), Borden Chase (story) Actors: William Bendix, Dennis Hopper, John Alderson, Leo Gordon Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
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Screen Directors Playhouse: High Air Reviews:

Typical storyline of a father/son conflict. Son takes a job working with his father who wants him to do better. William Bendix plays a sandhog who digs tunnels under rivers and has arguments with his son over the working conditions and dangers of the profession. I remember seeing this when I was in the eight grade and it afraid the hell out of me when I saw it. Actual episodes on the Discovery Channel about sandhogs reminded me of the teleplay.I don't know who won an Emmy in 1955, but William Bendix at least could have been nominated.


The Screen Directors Playhouse series has been uniformly great, and my thanks go to Turner Classic Films for periodically showing them. High Air is other one of their terrific shows -- with, sadly, a disappointing ending at almost literally the last minute.Two nice actors, William Bendix and Dennis Hopper, powerfully enjoy a long lost father and son, working together in a risky underground tunnel. The script was well written, production and direction were excellent, and the tension mounted well. The present built to a mission that was both tragic and inspiring, and then......well, my guess is that some idiot TV executives decided that the storyline line was too depressing, so they demanded an ending that drained the present of all the tension and emotion that it generated in the first 29 minutes.And since I am a compulsive nitpicker, here are questions that haunted me after the present was over:Doesn't the last-minute Sappy Ending strongly imply that William Bendix was unsuccessful in keeping the leak blocked up? If so, shouldn't everyone in the tunnel have died at the end?My recommendation, if you haven't already seen this show: Watch the entire thing, but then pretend the Sappy Ending didn't happen. I rated this present a 7 with the Sappy Ending. Without it, I would have given it an 8 or possibly a 9.


This is the final episode of the 1950s anthology series "Screen Directors Playhouse". It featured an A-list director and a great cast of Hollywood actors in a 25 minute mini-movie. Recently, Turner Classic Films rebroadcast few of them after they'd sat on a shelf for more than 50 years.This particular episode stars William Bendix and Dennis Hopper. Bendix is a 'sandhog'--a guy who works underground and digs tunnels. He's been doing it for some time and is surprised when his son comes to see him at work--especially since he hasn't seen the child since he was 8 years-old. Apparently Bendix and his mother split up and the child never really knew his father. However, Bendix is dismayed to hear that his son wants to work in the tunnels as well, as he wanted better for the boy. And, as a result, they have a fight--which in some methods makes no sense, as the boy really doesn't have the right to say the son what to do. It gets so terrible that Bendix threatens him if he goes to work there. On the another hand, being a sandhog is a very risky job, so you can at least understand the father's concerns.In time, it becomes obvious that Hopper has taken this job in order to reconnect with his estranged father. And, when this part of the movie unfolds (following the fight), it's all rather touching. However, later there is an accident and the lives of the workers are all on the line. I don't wish to spoil the film, so I won't tell more. However, it is one of the better episodes they showed--taut, well-acted and memorable. The end is spectacular--if a bit difficult to believe. See this one.



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