Air Force Colonel Shannon is assigned to escort defecting Soviet pilot Anna. He falls in love with her, but she is scheming to lure him back to the USSR. But Shannon has a scheme of his own.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
I waited a long time to see this movie, now I have and I must say I found it better than I had reason to expect. It is a fast moving comedy with many really funny scenes. Could it be this was the first movie that made fun of the Cold War? Could it be it was shelved for years for that reason (maybe the war in Corea made it inopportune to laugh about such matters)? Josef von Sternberg, steeped in German Expressionism, would be the last director you'd expect to helm a movie that at first sight seems to be an older version of Top Gun. But things are set straight very soon as it becomes evident that this is supposed to be a comedy in the vein of something by Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder. Ninotchka comes to mind, and in a way - a hilarious way - Janet Leigh as the (intentionally?) grounded Russian jet pilot is in the footsteps of Greta Garbo here. So John Wayne as American jet pilot is a reticent, rather shy Melvyn Douglas. In his part you'd rather expect Cary Grant, and Wayne does seem to be slightly embarrassed throughout the movie.
Vivacious Janet Leigh's physical assets are highlighted as much as possible and with great success. There is a nice striptease scene in which she gets out of her cute white overalls, and each time she starts peeling off a new layer of clothing - woooosh - a jet plane is heard diving down. It's really a hoot. Soon she reappears in the American's war room in a neatly pressed Red Army uniform, full of medals and fruit salad (she must have stashed it somewhere in that jet plane of hers). Soon she and Wayne are off to Palm Springs, so that she can see what the Commies are missing. Wayne, in turn, gets a whiff of Socialist reality later on, as he accompanies the Russien pilot he sort of married back home. It's grim and Stalag-like, of course.
There is a lot of aerial footage in Jet Pilot and it is high quality material that still fascinates. A lot of elegant acrobatics is performed and filmed from different angles. But even the jets are well embedded in the comedy this movie ultimately is. One of the scene I liked best: Janet Leigh escapes. She runs to a jet with its er engine already running, pushes away the ladder and dashes of as if it were a little sports car or some getaway after a heist in a gangster movie. It's unparalleled and one of many laughs Jet Pilot offers.
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