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Two brothers attending Oxford enlist with the RAF when World War I breaks out. Roy and Monte Rutledge have very different personalities. Monte is a freewheeling womanizer, even with his brother's girlfriend Helen. He also proves to have a yellow streak when it comes to his Night Patrol duties. Roy is made of strong moral fiber and attempts to keep his brother in line. Both volunteer for an extremely risky two man bombing mission for different reasons. Monte wants to lose his cowardly reputation and Roy seeks to protect his brother. Their assignment to knock out a strategic German munitions facility is a booming success, but with a squadron of fighters bearing down on them afterwards, escape seems unlikely. Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Great combat special effects, but so-so "special mission" story.
Hughes as director had his limitations, but he was at his best in making possible the great combat and special effects scenes. The Zeppelin scenes are so realistic it is difficult to believe it was all model and special set work. In 1927-1930 there just wasn't available a "junk" Zeppelin for Hughes to buy and shoot down. It would not surprise me to learn that he offered the U.S.Navy or the Zeppelin Co. a good round sum to buy "Los Angeles" (LZ-126) or "Graf Zeppelin" (LZ-127) for that purpose! Hughes' inexperience as a director shows up at its worst in his handling of the cast. Even allowing for the difficulties of "Dawn of Sound" filming, and that HELL'S ANGELS started as a silent, Hughes tolerated some of the worst acting ever seen in a major film. There is some good work, though. Jean Harlow is very smooth and natural, and the actors playing the German officers are satisfactorily sly and evil.
The story? Oh, two brothers are in love with the same girl, who doesn't really give a hoot for either of them. They volunteer for a suicide mission in a captured German bomber, and .... But, see the ending for yourself. Meanwhile, the Germans are trying to bomb London with their Zeppelin, but the Royal Flying Corps in on the job. That's about it.
For true airship buffs, I'll add a word about the designation "L-32" visible in one scene when the "Zeppelin" is over London. In the minds of folks not too knowledgeable about Zeppelin history, there is apt to be confusion about the "L" and "LZ" designations of German airships used in The Great War (WW1) and after. The German Naval Air Service gave their ships an "L" number. The Zeppelin Co. gave its products an "LZ" number, and the two did not correspond. There was a real "L-32" (LZ-74), and a real "L-7" (LZ-32). Both were destroyed during raids over London in 1916. Perhaps Hughes may have had either of these airships in mind for his fictional one. Incidentally, there is no record of the "observation gondola", which figures in the film story, ever having been used over England. It was used to some extent in raids over European cities.
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