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In 1952, as the Korean War rages on, American officers land in Kyoto. Among them are Major Ceve Saville, assigned to a fighter squadron, and Lieutenant Carl Abbott. The latter neglects his charming wife Kristina, who is sinking into bitterness. In Korea, Saville meets again Colonel Dutch Imil, a former brother in arms as well as other friends. Back in Japan Saville falls in love with forsaken Kristina, which arouses Abbott's jealousy. The two men turn into implacable rivals. But during a mission against Chinese Migs, Abbott is hurt and Saville decides to rescue him... Written by
Within the last week, Fox FINALLY released a DVD version of the VERY seldom seen Robert Mitchum aviation classic, THE HUNTERS. My advance ordered copy from Amazon just arrived.
This is one of two war films Mitchum made for Dick Powell. The other one, the submariner classic THE ENEMY BELOW, has been widely available for the last 10 years at least. I don't understand why the long delay in releasing THE HUNTERS... but finally, the wait is over.
The Korean War has long been a forgotten conflict in American history, and the air war there has been almost completely ignored by Hollywood.
That's a shame. Fighter combat in Korea marked a significant transition period in air warfare.
The Korean War fighter pilots were the last of the old Stick and Rudder fliers. They were the last generation of knights of the sky who fought with gallantry and a respect for the skills and courage of their opponents. Even tho they were officially enemies, wearing the uniforms of different nations, the unspoken truth was that every pilot was the brother of everyone else who flew. In common they'd shared the thrill of flight, and the dangers that came along with it. They might fight to the death in the skies, but these warriors understood and respected each other.
After Korea, the airplanes became technologically advanced and ended the old ways of thinking. It was no longer a man to man confrontation; air combat became a matter of triggering a missile that killed your enemy 30 miles away, and you often never even saw your foe or his airplane. Air warfare became impersonal and detached.
In Korea, combat flying was still a very personal matter. The PILOT still flew, and FOUGHT, the AIRPLANE. After that, speeds increased and things in combat happened so quickly that men couldn't control them directly anymore... the old piloting skills were replaced by electronics, and the pilot became a mere backup system in case a fuse blew, and in reality the AIRPLANE flew the PILOT. He was just a piece of hardware... the Nut that held the stick and throttle!
There's a big difference between the men in THE HUNTERS and those in TOP GUN. I have my doubts that Maverick would have acquitted himself very well over Korea. Mitchum as Cleve Seville is a direct descendant of Flynn and Niven in THE DAWN PATROL, and Cruise in TOP GUN is a very different animal.
As far as the CD production is concerned... I'm surprised that they were able to find as good a print of the movie as they did for the DVD transfer. It appears to me that it's been digitally cleaned up; it was almost certainly computer processed to take care of color shift in the '50s vintage single strip Technicolor.
What was VERY surprising to me was the extra features. I was astonished that the teaser and trailer both feature a vocal theme song by Frankie Lane, the guy who did all those vocals for '50's westerns! You probably remember him best for his vocal on the theme of Mel Brooks' BLAZING SADDLES.
I always thought that the music for THE HUNTERS was badly overblown, but after hearing the ill conceived Frankie Lane theme song, I can now appreciate the film's score as VASTLY preferable... I like Lane, but THIS effort definitely STINKS, and invokes little more than shocked laughter.
Well, fellow airplane nuts, the waiting is over. GET YOUR COPY NOW of one of the most sought after aviation films ever made.
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