NY Times article


Published: December 17, 1982

IF you like helicopters, you will love ''Deadly Encounter,'' the new television movie that can be seen at tomorrow night at 9 on Channel 2. In lieu of Santa in his sleigh, CBS is giving the country Larry Hagman in his chopper, complete with Susan Anspach providing ''Perils of Pauline''-style tidbits.

Filmed in Mexico and Arizona, the movie aspires, with almost admirable candor, to nothing more than action-adventure. Mr. Hagman plays Sam Hooten, a Vietnam pilot veteran who runs the Y.G.H. (Yankee Go Home) Helicopter Service in the Mexican town of Guayamas. Sam is on the lam from a phony drug charge in Tuscon. Enter Miss Anspach as Chris Butler, an old flame of Sam's in Vietnam, where she was a nurse and ran off with another guy. Chris needs Sam's help. Sam doesn't want any part of her. ''It's murder seeing you, honey,'' he says.

In no time at all, however, Chris is being kidnapped by thugs using an ambulance as their cover. Sam, who just happens to be hovering overhead, gives chase in his helicopter and gets the drugged Chris to a nearby hospital. Just when the action seems to be subsiding, though, another batch of thugs arrive in their own helicopter, crashing through the glass ceiling of the hospital and throwing the other patients into an understandable screaming panic. Once again, Sam hops into his trusty chopper and gives chase. The pattern for the rest of the movie is now entirely clear.

Meanwhile, between chases, Chris begins explaining why so many people are pursuing her so vigorously. Her husband, she says, has been killed by a racketeer, who also happens to be from Tucson. He had compiled a black book with names of people being paid off by the gangster. The thugs are really after that book, which they think is in her possession. The plot is indeed perfunctory.

In any case, scene follows scene in which helicopters can be found climbing over picturesque mountains and dipping into spectacular canyons. If not fighting one another in the air, the choppers are dueling with assorted vehicles, even a bicycle at one point, on the ground. One begins to wonder what the producers can come up with for a rousing finale. Not to worry. A couple of single-propeller, double-wing planes are recruited, and Sam gets an opportunity, in midair, to jump from a plane onto a helicopter in his effort to subdue the villains. ''I love you, Sam Hooten,'' shouts Chris. ''After all that,'' he asks, ''who wouldn't?''

Mr. Hagman has a knack for keeping a safe distance between himself and the silly roles he sometimes assumes, including J.R. in ''Dallas.'' Miss Anspach always gives the impression that she is exuberantly ready for just about anything the world may throw in her path. But the real stars of this curious exercise are Frank Holgate, the director of photography, Larry Kirsh, the helicopter stunt coordinator, and about a half-dozen stunt pilots employed for the occasion. Fred Karlin and Michael Hoenig provided a musical score very much in the inspirational manner of ''Chariots of Fire.'' Music Specials Feature Pavarotti and Como.