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Fate Is the Hunter (1964)

Rod Taylor plays Capt. Jack Savage, a doomed pilot in an aviation "howdunnit."

The mystery unfolds in flashback, following opening scenes that depict the airplane accident.

Capt. Savage seems to be a prime scapegoat for a crash that kills 53 people, but airline executive Sam McBane (Glenn Ford) is desperate to prove that his old Army-Air Corps buddy is not to blame. Rumors emerge that Savage had been drinking before the flight, but McBane refuses to believe it, and he sets out to find another explanation.

In the course of the investigation, McBane learns about the true character of his friend, revealed through conversations with Savage's closest friends. True, Savage is a loud, womanizing, borderline reckless character. But he rises to the occasion in times of crisis -- of the aviation and emotional kind.

McBane uncovers the truth behind a seemingly grandstanding event during their Army-Air Corps days, and he learns why Savage squirmed out of an engagement to a manipulative socialite.

The investigator meets the bright young scientist (Nancy Kwan), who Savage recently made his sole beneficiary. And he learns why Savage was spotted in a bar with a friend named Mickey, just hours before the ill-fated flight.

With the help of the stewardess (Suzanne Pleshette) who was the only survivor of the crash, McBane puts the final pieces of the puzzle together in a suspenseful finale.

Variety magazine had this praise for Rod and the movie:

Taylor's role is more flamboyant and colorful [than Ford's], most of it in flashback sequences as the Harold Medford screenplay [mines] the character of the man and what made him tick.

Ralph Nelson's taut direction gets the most out of his script, the crash emerging as a thrilling experience and with suspense mounting in Ford's re-enactment of the fatality.

"Fate is the Hunter" received an Oscar nomination for best black-and-white cinematography. 


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