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Recommended: The Invisible Pilot on HBO and HBO Max

Don’t Google before watching this WTF docuseries from Adam McKay about a thrill seeker who vanished in 1970s Arkansas.
  • Gary Betzner photographed with his family in 1974. (Photo: HBO)
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    The Invisible Pilot | HBO and HBO Max
    Three-Episode Docuseries (True Crime) | TV-MA

    What's The Invisible Pilot About?

    In 1977 a pilot with a death wish vanished in rural Arkansas. That was weird enough, but then the DEA, the CIA, Pablo Escobar, and the Nicaraguan contras got involved.

    Who's involved?

    When Gary Betzner stepped off a river bridge outside his hometown of Hazen, Arkansas, he left behind wife Sally and two small children, Travis and Sara Lee. These three opened up to their neighbor Craig Hodges, an amateur filmmaker who spent a decade collecting source materials and interviews.

    Directors Phil Lott and Ari Mark (Cooper’s Treasure) took it from there, expanding the coverage to include the very real and very weird twists the Betzner disappearance would take in the 1980s, involving drug smuggling, gun-running, a prison breaK, and a murder committed by no less than Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar. By the time the whole thing winds up in Congress, you’ll be wondering “did of all this really happen?” It did! But don’t Google it! You’ll be cheating yourself out of a great watch.

    The directors also caught up with Gary Betzner's daughter from his first marriage and did their own interviews with Sally, Travis, and Sara Lee Betzner. No matter how exciting the global intrigue of the Betzner case, the series reminds us again and again that Gary’s disappearance took a terrible toll on his family.

    The Invisible Pilot is executive produced by Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty) and bears the familiar marks of a McKay production, which only adds to the entertainment value.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    This review has made every effort not to spoil a single jaw-dropping twist from one of the craziest true-crime docuseries you will ever watch. At less than three hours, it’s a no-brainer if you’re a fan of the genre, are a Narcos addict or just want to brush up on your '80s history.

    Pairs well with

    • Icarus (Netflix), in which the filmmaker stumbles into the middle of the biggest doping scandal in sports history.
    • Crime + Punishment (Hulu), Stephen Maing’s epic whistleblower account of abusive policing inside the NYPD and the brave officers who stepped forward to say enough.

  • The Invisible Pilot
    Premieres on HBO and HBO Max Monday April 4 at 9:00 PM ET. New episodes Mondays through April 18.
    Directed by: Phil Lott and Ari Mark.

    TOPICS: The Invisible Pilot, HBO, HBO Max, Ari Mark, Phil Lott