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Hell's Angels
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Hell's Angels More at IMDbPro »

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131 out of 136 people found the following review useful:

Possibly the best aerial battles yet!

9/10
Author: eliasen from Boulder, CO
18 November 2001

My roommates and I saw a few minutes of this many years ago, and we spent weeks poring over TV listings and video rentals to find more of this movie. We were not disappointed. The aerial combat scenes are, quite simply, the most astounding ever. Some scenes show DOZENS of REAL airplanes roiling in a frighteningly tight ball like a cloud of gnats, and barely missing each other. 3 pilots died filming this movie. I'm forever spoiled for the safe choreography, heavy editing, and airplane-free skies of Top Gun... Hell's Angels has real pilots doing really scary stuff. Real planes crashing into real hillsides, not "drifting behind a sand dune and then setting off a gasoline pot."

I now scoff at the computer-generated zeppelin scenes in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Howard Hughes kicked their butts over 70 years earlier.

Some of the movie is melodramatic and dated, but some human scenes are brutally harsh, powerful, and would never get filmed today because they're TOO chilling.

A really stunning movie, which not only holds up, but betters today's air movies.

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58 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Great combat special effects, but so-so "special mission" story.

Author: Fisher L. Forrest (fisherforrest@jeffnet.org) from Jacksonville, Oregon, USA
10 October 2003

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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46 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

The First Great Action Epic of the Talking Era

9/10
Author: FEAvera from United States
19 February 2005

With the release of "The Aviator" there will be renewed, and well deserved, interest in this classic. Hell's Angels holds together surprisingly well for a 75 year old film. Sure there is the over-emoting one would expect from a film that bridges the era between silents and talkies, but the character development is good, the flight scenes are amazing and the story holds the attention from beginning to end. And we haven't even talked about Jean Harlow!! There can be no doubt that Howard Hughes was a genius, a perfectionist, and that he set out to, and did, produce of of the greatest movies of all time. The most expensive film of it's day, and worth every penny.

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50 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Head In the Clouds

9/10
Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
3 January 2003

Howard Hughes produced and directed (with a little help from Edmund Goulding and Howard Hawks) this 1930 aerial extravaganza, whose plot is both hackneyed and largely irrelevant, since one is merely waiting for the heavy melodrama to end so as to feast one's eyes on Jean Harlow and aerial combat scenes. The photography is magnificent, and one gets a kind of God's eye view of reenactments of World War I dogfights. The leading actors, Ben Lyon and James Hall, playing brothers, give such intense performances as to suggest at times that they are not merely emotionally but romantically attached to one another. Those old-fangled airplanes are something to see, as is a gigantic zeppelin, and the combat scenes, full of billowing clouds, the sky full of airplanes that resemble orange crates with wings, buzzing and whistling through the air like flies, are the stuff of dreams, and make this otherwise turgid movie come alive and live in one's mind long after it's over.

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41 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

An early epic film,that enthralled the audiences of the day.

Author: Leonard Curtis (lenliqbar) from Brighton England
2 April 2001

I saw this film (movie) in about 1933 and still remember every scene. Without the use of bad language it conveyed the fear,excitement,and gallantry of the time. The German evil was perhaps overplayed,but it was made just a very few years after the War. The flying scenes were dramatic and at least as effective as any made in recent years.

Is it possible to obtain a copy?if so where.

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36 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Its time ahead!

10/10
Author: Robert Grill from Torrance, California
7 March 2005

This is a fabulous film, far ahead of its time. The screenplay is outstanding, and all the actors did a marvelous job, and the ones who played Germans as well. There was only one German in a minor role and one Finnish actor, who played a German, all the others were Americans, to my big surprise! I am an Austrian and German is my mother tongue and I would have bet that there were at least half a dozen Germans in this movie! I was also mesmerized by the details of the air battles, which were mostly shot in the air. Jean Harlow was beautiful and gave a persuading performance, not to mention her great looks! I rented this movie, because I heard about it the first time, when I watched "The Aviator" and I have to say that this picture is one of the most entertaining and exciting movies I have seen in a long time and it should be an example how movies should be made as a guideline for modern day Hollywood! It is a perfect example that a great story, action and special effects can live together in a beautiful piece of art without sacrificing anything!

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35 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

Dated, but still interesting and exciting.

8/10
Author: train464 from United States
13 August 2004

This film, produced only three years after sound entered the movies, is entertaining and thoughtful. It makes good use of sound effects and has great visual effects as well. The flight scenes are impressive. Hughes flew a plane in this film (but crashed it) and three other pilots were killed during filming. The scenes of dozens of tiny aircraft swarming in the sky are still breathtaking. The plot is standard good-guys/bad-guys but adds some sensitivity to all parties. We have groups fighting a war in the air, and not too happy to be doing it. But they do their jobs, and give their lives for victory. The scene of Germans abandoning their airship is particularly wrenching and affective. Some token love interests and the usual inept comedy characters round out the cast, which all stood up to the task as well as anyone in 1930.

Jean Harlow gets her first billing in this film (she's one of my all time favorites), so it is her breakthrough movie.

Not a keeper, but see it if you can.

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28 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Jean Harlow in Technicolor!

7/10
Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
22 May 2005

'Hell's Angels', now available on DVD in a beautifully restored version, can now be enjoyed by all of us with tinted and full colour sequences intact.

Directed by Howard Hughes (with dialogue scenes staged by James Whale), this war movie is famous for two reasons - one, it has some of the most exciting air-borne battle sequences to appear on film; and two, it marks the feature film debut of Jean Harlow. She appears in colour for the only time in the 8 minute Lady Randolph's Party sequence about halfway into the film.

The story starts with three friends at Oxford - two brothers, the good-natured Roy (James Hall), and the fly-by-night Monte (Ben Lyon); and a German student, Karl (John Darrow). An early sequence features one of the brothers taking the other's place in a duel - important to remember for later in the saga; while the turning point of the first part is of course the start of the Great War (forcing Karl to join the enemy, and Roy and Monte to enlist as pilots). Roy has a well-to girlfriend, Helen (Harlow), who isn't quite the angel he takes her to be.

The aerial battles are by far the highlight of the film, although Harlow is good in her role, vamping all who come into her path. Evelyn Hall is agreeably twittery as Lady Randolph, while Lucien Prival overacts as Baron von Kranz. Roy Wilson provides some comic relief as 'Baldy' Maloney.

Originally planned and started as a silent movie, 'Hell's Angels' still has some problems with pacing and comes across as rather stilted in places. Ben Lyon is a bit of a problem as Monte - fine as a relaxed civilian, he doesn't convince in the later sequences.

All this aside, 'Hell's Angels' is a good film and looks fantastic after its clean-up. A very interesting viewing experience.

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27 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Still a great movie!

Author: Al Rowland (karow55@yahoo.com) from Kansas City
12 February 2003

Having just watched my VHS of this and wondering if it was out on DVD yet, I came to the IMDB to check and saw a comment about how hackneyed and awful this movie was, with the worst traits of the silent movies...lol! For those who don't know, this WAS a silent movie, and Hughes took so long trying to perfect the aerial sequences that sound came along, so then he had to try to rework everything else into sound, delaying things even further. Hughes was a "bit" of a perfectionist, ala Chaplin with "City Lights" and for every wonderful thing that does, it creates dozens of others you have to deal with as well... My favorite story of the making of this movie (recalling across 30 years from a book by Donald Dwiggins called "The Stunt Pilots" involved Paul Mantz (one of the lead pilots, later to die making "Flight of the Phoenix" after being the king of the Hollywood pilots for over 30 years) and Jean Harlow waiting in an airport restaurant for Hughes to fly in from somewhere and Mantz placing a nickel Coca-Cola bottle under a table leg before Hughes arrived and telling Harlow to "watch this". Hughes arrives for the meeting and being the perfectionist but also a bit ?, he never says anything about the table, never looks under it, but spends the whole lunch trying to eat with one hand and hold the table level with the other....

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26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Still exciting and entertaining

9/10
Author: Venarde from United States
24 February 1999

OK, so the story is corny, and some of the performances (dialogue coached by James Whale!) are early sound acting at its worst. This is nonetheless a very watchable movie, even its hoariest plot devices (all about friends and enemies and duty and how betrayal is sometimes the greatest expression of devotion, creeeeeeeeeak) excused by breathtaking aerial footage and a truly memorable sequence in the middle involving a German dirigible over London. Some German dialogue adds realism, although that sign in occupied France that reads "Munitions Depot" is not too authentic. The portrayal of women, including a very young Jean Harlow, makes the late 20th-century viewer squirm; it's also unfortunate that that German general looks so much like Pee Wee Herman. Watch it anyway for the flying and the extremely effective two-color and three-color sequences. "Top Gun" doesn't look nearly as good and will not age this beautifully.

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