Captain Steve Morley (Rex Reason) must evaluate how the men under his command react to pressure and stress at high altitudes in the latest jet fighters, with the usual romantic subplot ...
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Captain Steve Morley (Rex Reason) must evaluate how the men under his command react to pressure and stress at high altitudes in the latest jet fighters, with the usual romantic subplot involving him, another officer, and a pretty young lady. Exciting flight sequences, filmed at Edwards (Muroc) Air Force Base, California, showcases Reason and other "pilots" going off into the wild blue ck & white] yonder, in wide screen Regalscope (CinemaScope). Written by
Donald John Long
Caution: *** May contain spoilers *** This movie was another in a series of unrelated Air Force-tribute "Flagwaver" movies made in the 1950s such as TOWARD THE UNKNOWN(WB, 1956) and ON THE THRESHOLD OF SPACE (Fox, 1956) which were bigger, better movies, and were wisely filmed in color while this was not.
Rex Reason, already a familiar face in a jet pilot's role from his lead in THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) as scientist Dr. Cal Meacham, was probably cast in this one because of his screen presence in the Universal sci-fi classic, and would be reunited once again with a Lockheed T-33A fighter jet in this movie as Captain Morley. Having been a big fan of actor Rex Reason since I first saw him star in THIS ISLAND EARTH in 1955 on the big Technicolor screen when I was 8 years old, it's a real shame I had to wait 50 years to see this poorly made film, after much great anticipation of perhaps discovering yet another lost classic, or lost cinematic gem. Imagine my disappointment when I finally got hold of a DVD copy made by a third-party bootleg movie business on the internet, and the print they copied onto the DVD was a very poor quality, choppy-splicy dupe of an old pan-and-scan 16mm TV print, and was NOT in wide screen format.
This film is interesting and engaging at times, and simply awful at other times, due to poor direction, a really bad music score by Irving Gertz (who usually composed high quality music scores, especially at Universal Studios), poor production values, faulty cinematography, and flawed sound mixing and reproduction. Add to this the liability of being an episodic soap opera mixed with a flag-waving tribute to the men of the U.S. Air Force, filmed in black & white instead of color, and you get equally drippy results.
On the positive side, the acting is first-rate, especially by star Rex Reason, who unfortunately does not get much of a chance to shine in this story due to his flawed character, Captain Steve Morley, who is too rigid and inflexible while training the men under his command to be the top-notch top gunner test pilots that the Air Force expects him to, under the Colonel's watchful eye, played by aging former 1940s matinée idol Dick Foran. Love interest for Steve Morley is lovely young Audrey Dalton, who plays the part well, but is limited by her script and being the only good-looking woman on screen for the entire movie. Look for Bob Conrad in his first screen performance as handsome, energetic and enthusiastic Lieutenant 'Tiger' Bob Kiley, who does his best but doesn't make the grade. And Gregg Palmer, who also appeared with Rex Reason in Universal's third installment in the CREATURE series, THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956) does a good turn as Rex's cohort, Captain Cory Dexter, and handsome young newcomer Barry Coe tries to steal Rex's girl as the hot-shot fly-boy Captain 'Cotton' Davis, driving a flashy 1957 T-bird in one scene, and then being saved from his own overconfidence by Rex's Captain Morley in a dramatic heroic moment in the air. And to round things out, delightful comic actor Sid Melton makes a bright, enjoyable appearance as the staff bartender, chief cook and bottle-washer, Sgt. Eddie Stone.
Also equally good are the flying sequences filmed at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, over Muroc and Rosamond Dry Lake beds, but it all falls flat due to the lack of color film to add much-needed three-dimensional realism. And to make matters worse, when the fly-boys are not in the air, it all gets rather tedious and dull after a few minutes of talky dialogue. Highly recommended to fans of Rex Reason like myself, but others may not find it interesting due to the irritating, silly music score which often sounds like Muzak playing in the background. Also highly recommended to Air Force history and jet plane buffs, for those who love to watch jet planes go through their paces in the stratosphere.
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