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A biplane pilot who had missed flying in WWI takes up barnstorming and later a movie career in his quest for the glory he had missed, eventually getting a chance to prove himself in a film depicting the dogfights in the Great War. Written by
Keith Loh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This 1974 film was not first released on DVD until 2010. See more »
(at around 1 min) When Axel is flying over a town with Mary Beth out on the wing of the plane, there are many modern cars visible on the towns' streets. See more »
It's gonna be a monoplane.
A monoplane. Are you telling me you're building me an airplane with only one wing?
Just thought you'd like to know: the biplane's gone the way of the Dodo.
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I first saw this film in the theater almost 30 years ago and have caught it a few times on TV since. Finally, I was able to find a DVD copy on E-Bay (apparently it is not currently available on DVD through normal means) and I am glad I did so. This movie has stood the test of time. It is both fun to watch and has some depth to it - it is not just a piece of fluff.
The casting is excellent - not a single actor is unfit for the part. Redford's looks and charisma, coupled with the fact that while he is still pretty young he does have a few visible age lines, make him perfect for the part of a debonair flyboy, ten years removed from World War I, who is stubbornly resisting the increasing regulation of flying as a profession. Bo Svensen is a great complement as the slightly older, more experienced, and more even-keeled Axel Olsson. Geoffrey Lewis' Newt Potts, Pepper's old squadron commander, represents the future that Pepper is trying to avoid. Ed Herrmann is the embodiment of the "seat of your pants" spirit of the early aircraft producers. Phil Bruns is a convincing "carnival barker" as Doc Dillhoeffer. And the Swedish actor Bo Brundin puts in a great turn as Ernst Kessler, German fighter ace turned barnstormer, who has long since realized that the bravery and chivalry he found in the air (both among comrades and opponents) is rarely found on the ground.
Kessler is based on Ernst Udet, the second-highest scoring German ace of WWI. Udet barnstormed after the war, had a shortened version of "Lola" painted on his Fokker D-VII, and had a fight similar to the epic battle that is an important subplot in the movie. Thus it is a nice touch that Udet is shown in the opening photo montage. (It's also good that no sequel was made
I'd hate to see the Kessler character return to Germany, join Hitler's
Luftwaffe and commit suicide.)
This is also notable, on a personal level, as the first place I ever saw Susan Sarandon. I've been a fan ever since. Hell, she still looks great.
The flying sequences are magnificent. There's no CGI here, folks. These are real aircraft - beautiful replicas of Curtiss Jennies, Standard E-4's, and of course the Sopwith Camel and Fokker Triplane (plus a few others) - doing real stunt flying. The talented stunt pilots are credited under the umbrella of Tallmantz Aviation, which I'm guessing was formed by legendary stunt pilots Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz. Tallman himself flew in this film (and died in a crash three years later; Mantz died making "Flight of the Phoenix," another of my favorite flight movies, in 1965.) And the climactic sequence, while it may seem unlikely to some, is actually based (perhaps loosely) on a similar incident that occurred during the filming of either "Hells' Angels" or "Wings" in the late 1920's. The only possible anachronism that I can spot is Kessler's stunt plane, which looks a little too advanced for 1928. But I could be wrong there.
Beautiful aircraft, great flying sequences, fine acting, and even a real plot - what more could you want?
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