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On a 4th of July weekend, three barnstorming skydivers arrive to perform in a small Kansas town. They are hosted by the youngest member Webson's aunt, the unhappily married Elizabeth. While Browdy one-nights with a topless dancer, a doomed romance flares up between Elizabeth and Rettig. Tension builds, and explodes with a spectacular skydiving show. Written by
A CD of Elmer Bernstein's complete musical score for the film was released in 2002 by FSM (Film Score Monthly) Silver Age Classics. See more »
During the parachute jump that opens the film, the Gypsy Moths jump from the exact same plane flown by the same pilot they meet and hire - supposedly for the first time - in another town several days later. See more »
We'll be jumping from a Howard DGA-15. "DGA": that stands for "Damn Good Airplane", which if course it is. Very tricky to land though. Heh heh. You're much better off jumping out if it than you are taking a chance on landing in it. This one's in good shape.
To Browdy, a airplane is in good shape if it has wings and a prop.
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John Frankenheimer's drama of itinerant skydivers intersecting with small town doldrums is heavy on atmosphere but frustratingly ambiguous in its storytelling.
Not having read James Drought's source novel, it's hard to say just what went wrong here. Perhaps in an attempt to avoid conventional melodramatics, adapter William Hanley's script was kept as low-key and naturalistic as possible, to the extent that all of the silences and unspoken words end up conveying practically nothing of the characters' motivations beyond a kind of inchoate yearning. Usually I'm all for scripts that don't shout and scream, that rather rely on subtlety and restraint, but this one is so elliptical that its own best intentions are undermined. The ending seems flat and pointless. Yes, a death has occurred, but has anyone in the story really changed?
It's particularly frustrating given the talent involved. Stars Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, with support from younger players like Scott Wilson, Gene Hackman, and Bonnie Bedelia, give strong and convincing portrayals. Add to that some remarkable aerial photography of skydiving derring-do -- plus a love scene which features the beautiful Ms. Kerr's bare breasts -- and you probably won't feel you've wasted 2 hours. But if only there were more.
Not a 'lost treasure' of Frankenheimer's, Lancaster's and Kerr's careers, but an intriguing, minor footnote.
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