Fifty years ago this week, a man calling himself Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft that took off from Portland International Airport, demanding a ransom of $200,000 cash and four parachutes upon arrival in Seattle. After collecting the goods and releasing the passengers, the plane took off again, purportedly heading to Mexico City.
Midflight, somewhere over Southwest Washington, the hijacker strapped on two of the parachutes and leapt from the plane, never to be heard from nor seen again.
This is, of course, the legend of D.B. Cooper, an unsolved crime that has puzzled official investigators and citizen sleuths for five decades now, as well as inspiring films (2004′s Without a Paddle), songs, and TV subplots in series like Prison Break and Loki.
The latest entry in this pop culture celebration comes from Wonderly, a pop duo featuring Mississippi Studios/Revolution Hall owner Jim Brunberg and Low Bar Chorale co-creator Ben Landsverk. The pair are honoring this unusual piece of Northwest history with “November 1971,” a winsome ballad and short film that retells the story of the hijacking with exacting detail.
“Everyone wonders about what happened to D.B.,” Brunberg, who directed the utterly charming short subject, said. “This film contemplates why the legend has endured (for better or worse) and guesses at some of what I imagine the flight attendant Florence Schaffner felt during and after the ordeal.”
Brunberg and his team went to great pains to make their retelling as authentic as possible. They filmed aboard a defunct Boeing 727, reused the logo for the original carrier Northwest Orient Airlines, and gave the actors period-appropriate copies of Life and Mad magazines to flip through onscreen.
Their efforts made an impression on the voters of the Oregon Short Film Festival, a thrice-yearly showcase of short films held most recently in The Dalles. The video for “November 1971″ was a finalist for Best Action Micro Film and netted Brunberg an award for Best Oregon Director.
Watch “November 1971″ and make your own judgments about the Unsolved Mysteries-like re-creations here.
Wonderly releases their new album Story We Tell, which features “November 1971,” on Saturday Jan. 22, at Polaris Hall.