I have seen this film maybe, 20 times over the last 30 years. It's one of the rare movies that entertains each and every time. Seeing movies like Flight Of The Phoenix only reminds me just how bad "Hollywood" has gotten.
The plot. It is quite simple really. Survival. But how the writers, producers and directors mold the basic premise into a complex and compelling 2 hours of cinema is a delight.
To watch Stewart, Finch, Attenborough, Kruger and company work in this movie is to see the difference between actors of yesteryear and movie stars of today.
I am watching the movie as I type this and I'm watching Attenborough react to finding out Kruger's "secret". His laughter is both hilarious and pitiable. And the look of shock and confusion on Stewart's face says it all.
As you can tell, I love this movie. I cannot vote it or recommend it highly enough. You would be well served to find this on DVD. Enjoy and happy flying.
The movie talks about a motley group in a small airplane piloted by a stubborn and obstinate man (James Stewart) and a navigator (Richard Attenborough) . The aircraft crashes on Sahara desert rounded by sand seas and passengers crew (Peter Finch , George Kennedy , Ronald Fraser , Christian Marquand..) have to survive against extraordinary odds and risks and they try to rebuild their plane in order to avoid sufferings caused for hostile elements . This has a well sense desert atmosphere filling one with revulsion for the conditions in which unfortunates are forced to exist stranded on an Arabian uninhabited spot : starvation , famine , heat , thirst , enemies and confrontation among themselves .
This exciting movie is an intelligent variant upon the Hollywood scripts in which aircrafts crash in remote locations such as : ¨Airport¨ series or ¨Alive : Miracle of the Andes¨ . It's a thoughtful and broody film with excellent interpretations and an utterly male star-studded casting . James Stewart as a veteran and embittered pilot is the intrepid hero who's considered guilty of the accident for his error , he's magnificent likeness to Richard Attenborough , a previous RAF pilot and now a boozy alcoholic navigator in a damaged plane . Hardy Kruger as the cocky German engineer is splendid . John Finch as a rigid and stiff officer is very fine and similarly to his coward subordinate Ronald Fraser . Ernest Borgnine as a nutty with enormous eager to escape is sensational . George Kennedy , Gabriele Tinti , Christian Marquand , Dan Duryea are well but make roles quite secondaries . Special mention to Ian Bannen , as the group's mechanic , he only achieved the Academy Award nomination but he didn't obtain it . Frank de Vol musical score (Robert Aldrich's usual musician) is spectacular and lively . Joseph Biroc cinematography is glimmer and colorful . The motion picture is stunningly directed by Robert Aldrich . The second and recent version with Dennis Quaid , Giovanni Ribisi and Miranda Otto is worst deemed . Rating : Awesome and astounding .
I agree with most of the people here that this movie is an overlooked gem. It always comes to mind when I think of movie classics, but most people I've known have never seen it. If it comes on TV or you get the chance to rent it, definitely give it a look.
While the movie stands alone as a great suspense and survival movie with great dialogue and a greater cast, it also has some aspects that give it deeper significance. A couple of people have commented on the "old school seat-of-the-pants flying" vs. "mathematical engineering" conflict in the movie, and this is certainly a big part of it.
Another conflict, subtler but just as important, has gone completely unmentioned here. That's the issue of the crew's mistrust of Kruger for being German. This movie is pretty important for the way it excellently touches on the tension many people still felt by the sixties on working side by side with the former enemy in the new postwar world. It's not an accident that the three main characters that have to come together to survive are American, English and German. "Flight of the Phoenix" is one movie that is timeless in its direct appeal but should be taken in context of the time in which it was produced in order to be fully appreciated.
Taking these conflicts together, the overall message is clear. In the brave new world, unless we put aside old divisions and value input from everyone, no one gets out alive.
A twin-engine propeller airplane, carrying a group of oil company people to a Saharan outpost, crashes in the African desert
On board, a handful of disparate characters: a jovial pessimist, a noble doctor, a 'frantic' fellow, a distrustful bitter pilot, determined to contradict most suggested plans; a British military officer who reacts in the only way he knows; an insubordinate sergeant who refuses to take any risk; an eccentric airplane designer proposing a seemingly impossible goal and a nervy navigator who tries to hold the group together
The marooned survivors (with no hopes of being found or rescued) realize their best hope is the 'impossible': to accept the task of building a smaller plane, a "Phoenix," from the wreckage of the old
The depiction of the construction is fascinating as much of the true characters of the men (facing the savagely violent environment) come out under the threat of thirst, hunger, and exposure The degree of their weakness, consternation, arrogance, selfishness, and cowardice is successfully described
Aldrich tries to build a film filled with self-sacrifice, crazed arguments, and, above all else, a slow descent into foolish acts by all He keeps us in constant suspense, wondering if the rebuild plane will get successfully off the ground?
"The Flight of the Phoenix", based on the Elleston Trevor novel, has little more than one set and no costume changes; and the action is confined to the few yards around an airplane crashed in the desert. Yet its story is more gripping than most "action" movies.
An old airplane owned by an oil company crashes at the hands of a crusty old pilot (James Stewart) whose bitterness and fatalism are brought out when he's forced to admit the crash was due to pilot error. His half-alcoholic navigator has insured that the plane was off course, and cannot be discovered by rescue craft (if any); he's a nice guy and becomes the mediator between the rancorous passengers and crew, but he lacks self-confidence (Richard Attenborough in a finely understated performance). The passengers include a company accountant (Dan Duryea); a shell-shocked employee (Ernest Borgnine, by turns touching and silly) sent home in the company of his doctor (Christian Marquand); a straight-laced British officer (Peter Finch) and his mutinous sergeant (Ronald Fraser); several oil company employees, including one who is always making vicious jokes at the expense of the others (Ian Bannen); and a German "designer" (Hardy Kruger) who went to the oil fields to visit his brother.
Stranded in the desert with no hope of rescue, they debate various schemes for salvation, all of which fail, until Kruger tells the others he is an airplane designer and he has discovered a way to build a new plane from the spare parts of the old one. All it needs for a handful of unskilled men, living on a little water and no food but pressed dates, coping with unbearable heat during the day and unbearable cold at night, to transform themselves into aircraft manufacturers before they all succumb.
All performances are good. Some of the actors (George Kennedy, the always interesting Dan Duryea) are woefully underused -- perhaps large segments of their roles wound up on the cutting-room floor. The major tension is the confrontation between Stewart's old-school pilot and Kruger's technologically self-righteous engineer (at one point, Stewart's character makes the incredibly prescient remark that one day the little men with their slide-rules and computers will inherit the earth).
Even when they all decide they'd rather attempt building the new plane with hope than sit around watching each other die, new surprises spring up that compromise the whole thing.
The script and the acting are solid, especially James Stewart in a different and challenging role. The music is sometimes overwhelming, and stings give unnecessary emphasis to some lines. Also of interest is the listing in the credits of "The Love Theme" which seems like a silly thing to call it.
A superlative story of men living on the ragged edge of survival, working together but not necessarily getting along or surrendering their own values.
This masterpiece is now 40 years old and has lost nothing of it's excitement due to it's fantastic, outstanding actors (Attenborough and Kruger have never done better from my point of view), director, scenery and the simplicity of the story itself. A plane lost in a desert, no help and a challenge to master by people, who never chose to master their destiny together in a hostile environment.
The way the conflict is layed out can serve as an example for organizational conflicts, cultural conflicts, simply: whenever humans have to solve a problem that jeopardizes their future under resource constraints. Or even mankind on earth in the hostile universe, who need to solve their very own conflicts? All actors are able to deliver fully convincing natural emotions in this kind of situation to make the audience understand why humans usually fail to solve these conflicts. How many actors can you name today that are superstars and can do it like them? It's becomes evident how difficult the first step to compromise or to accept leadership of another person is, especially for western individuals. Accept leadership and downgrade oneself in the hierarchy, despite the fact that there is usually one solution which suits the groups interest as a whole better? How many leaders or e.g. managers are able to do this? In the end, the collaborative approach is successful, staged behind a general struggle for power, influenced by the cold war environment, containing an explosive mix of historical facts and clichés on British imperialism/militarism, American heroism, German nazihodd/engineering rational and various other aspects. You could easily work out how difficult the situation would be, if nowadays a e.g. member of priest of a Christian church would crash land together with a Muslim mullah. How would they be able to work together to master the hostility of the desert? Would they be able to accept a compromise? You can spend months to identify all the clichés that are used to increase the tension between the characters they have to understand to manage their faith, unfortunately you need a lot of historical background knowledge on 19th century till cold war to understand all the details, but that is only another good reason to start studying this.
The movie also shows that every specific cultural background has it's advantages closely tied to its disadvantages, e.g. the heroism advantage of attack eaten up by a lack of rationality (for example due to alcoholism/boredom). Actually, this movie should be screened as an example for success for conflicts of international companies, global organizations or just humans between the frontiers of different cultures.
And if this is too educational for you: It is even great entertainment, if you are just watch it from a pure emotional point of view. Myself being a German I would wish that we still can show of some of the engineering mastership that Dorfner shows of - however I'm happy that no technocrats are now ruling my country.
A transport aeroplane carrying an assortment of men crash lands in the Sahara desert, these men must group together in spite of their varying indifference's and build another plane out of the wreckage.
It perhaps, on the surface, doesn't sound much does it? We as viewers are asked to spend over two hours watching these men interact with each other with differing results. The location stays the same, it is just sand, sun, and men awaiting death. Yet the film is one of the best exponents of the character piece because the characters each have their own personal hang ups. Be it carrying scars from the war, or a class difference of upbringing, or that demon addiction to alcohol, these men have to overcome themselves before they can overcome the biggest hurdle in front of them.
Boasting what reads as a who's who of great character actors, The Flight Of The Phoenix becomes a riveting watch because we feel the stifled nature of their plight, because we are blessed to have these wonderful actors fully realising the great writing from Lukas Heller. It is absorbing, it is very sharp, and fittingly we get a twist that makes the ending even more rewarding.
Edwin Aldrin the second man to walk on the moon was asked once if he was in his spacecraft and his engine quit running and he was going to die in an hour how would he spend that last hour? He replied `I'd work on the engine.' This film essentially is about that same type situation. A cargo plane with passengers aboard goes down in the Arabian Desert and the survivors quickly come to the realization that they eventually will be found but probably by that time they will be dead. One of the passengers says he can build a flyable plane out the existing wreckage and they can save themselves. However he's never taken on a project quite this large before.
There are a number of little subplots with the characters to include a hard-nosed pilot, his booze guzzling co-pilot, a British Army sergeant who has a dislike for officers, A by the book British Army officer, A doctor, A mental patient, A cynical oil field worker, an accountant, and so forth. It's somewhat of an all star cast so it helps the picture. Although a little long the film is intriguing. The only damper on this movie is that Paul Mantz a superb pilot was killed in the making of it.
I use snippets from this film in a project management class. It is hard to imagine how the casting could have been any better. Jimmy Stewart plays the part of the aging pilot with an adventurous past so well not only because he was a terrific actor, but because he really was an aging pilot with a an adventurous past. Richart Attenborrow (spelling?) is wonderful as the diplomatic copilot that stands between Stewart and the engineer played by Kruger.
The dialogue was some of the best I've ever heard. "Mr. Townes you behave as though stupidity were a virtue..." You have to love it.
I'm almost sorry to see this movie being remade since it was done so well, but I'll still line up for the new one just to see if the magic can be made to work twice.
Where as many films with star casts have failed, this one does not.
This film oozes quality by the bucket load. It centres round the story of the survivors of a plane crash who attempt to build a plane out of the wreckage. The tension is apparent from the start with the heat of the desert alone almost driving the characters to madness.
The combination of brilliant script and excellent acting brings to the fore a brilliant film. Ian Bannen, in particular, gives gives both grit and relish in his possibily his greatest screen performance.
It is not just because of Robert Aldrich Directing that this movie is a must see. James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, George Kennedy, and a fine cast have a lot to do with it. The solid material and script the film is based on has a lot to say for the film.
This plane crash film tells the story of humans surviving and then trying to pick themselves up after a plane crash in the desert. Stewart plays the pilot and the hero but in an Aldrich type of scenario he is the anti-hero. He admits his error causes the plane to crash. As it is obviously an old plane there is some conjecture to it all being his fault but he takes the blame anyhow.
The cast and direction here are excellent. It is great that Turner Classic Movies has started running this as I have to admit this is a film I had not seen. The film is a bit long though when you consider rebuilding a wrecked plane, you have to factor that in. The movie avoids the drag of length with sold performances and a good script.
These comments are partly inspired by other comments and the message boards. This film presents a hypothetical survival situation and does a great job of showing how innovation and persistence bring the survivors through. Strengths and weaknesses are plausibly portrayed in characters who have depth and a mix of vices and virtues. That Sgt Watson does not suffer for his sin is just the sort of thing that makes this an adult movie. That's what "real life" is like. Often people who do the wrong thing seem to go unpunished, or worse, to actually benefit. You could get a whole other novel out of the Sgt's subsequent life. There was a real survivor story a few years back where a trimaran, the "Rose-Noelle" capsized, and the crew existed on the overturned craft for many weeks. There were tensions between people. Each individual seemed to be weak in some ways and strong in others - eg one guy was very despondent and was often treated with contempt by 2 others, but he was also far more patient at fishing, he caught a lot more than anyone else. The skipper/owner kept up his leadership role and the others resented him being hard on them (I thought no harder than was needed). When the trimaran eventually ran ashore, and they were picked up by emergency services, at least 2 of the crew immediately separated themselves from the skipper and never contacted him afterward, according to his book. When these two wrote their own book, they stated that they had taken food from the common store when they weren't being watched. I was flabbergasted that they would admit such a thing without feeling any guilt. They didn't express any anyway.
In the 70s I read a self-improvement book about so-called "non-eroneous" people who would never worry about what other people thought about them or what they did. I now believe the old saying that "Only very competent men, or very beautiful women, or very rich people of either gender can afford to be totally forthright all the time." Hardy Kruger's character was a wonderful example of the "non-erroneous" person. His view was that he worked harder, he planned everything, he was essential to the project, so it was OK for him to take more water than the others. He openly admitted it when confronted by the pilot (James Stewart). However he changed his behaviour because he saw that he had to get people on-side if the project was to succeed. That a model aircraft engineers skills were as good as a full-size engineers was self-evident to him.
He was not without his faults however. During the engine-starting sequence, he rather lost his nerve. He was not able to trust the best man for the task (the pilot), to do the task, without trying to interfere. Hardy Kruger is one of my favorite actors, very versatile, he always managed to please even when cast in utter tripe like Hatari!
Returning from an oil field with a plane full of crew etc going on leave, Frank Towns' plane enters a sandstorm over the Sahara desert and crashes. As various attempts at rescue or escape fail one passenger, Dorfmann suggests his plan to rebuild the plane as a smaller version and attempt to fly out, leaving the bulk of the damage craft behind. However tensions mount as personalities conflict as all the men face death.
I had only ever heard of this film before I finally got round to watching it last night on television. I was aware of the basic plot and had assumed it was more recent that it actually was. I watched it assuming that it was made in the early seventies when the disaster movie genre was just starting to take off (sorry accidental pun). However this was made prior to this and is probably a much better film for it in the seventies the film would have required more spectacle, so the crash would have been much more dramatic and horrifying. As it is now, the film is more about the men under stress than it is about anything else.
This is brought out well and the majority of the drama and tension within the film is as much from these conflicts as it is from the pressure to escape the desert. The film is longer than I expected it to be but it pretty much sustains itself for that length. The main reason for the film working so well is the cast, which has it's fair share of famous faces but also has more than it's fair share of good performances.
Stewart is really strong in the lead (although, in fairness, there is no one main character) and becomes increasingly grizzled as the film goes on. His character is not without flaws even if he does come out of this well. Attenborough is also good but is less evident in the film than some of the others. Krüger has the least pleasant of the roles given that he plays a tough German. He manages to make the character likeable while still going about his task with a strict organised German air to him. Finch is good and is well supported by Fraser. The support cast includes strong performances from Borgnine, Bannen, Kennedy, Marquand and the director's own son is thrown in for colour!
Overall this is much better than the disaster-type movie I had expected as it is a film where the plane crash isn't a blaze of spectacle and the death scenes aren't played out for full effect. Instead it is a tension adventure story that is driven by some great performances by a cast full of well known actors.
Flying across the deserts of North Africa, one can imagine how dangerous it would be to be stranded in the trackless ocean of sand. In 1965, a film called "The Flight of The Phoenix" appeared on movie marquee's around the country. From the first moment audiences took in this film, they recognized the distinctive traits of a true drama, which would establish for itself, the foundations of a classic. The tale is that of an outmoded airplane load of oil employees, who in conjunction with a couple of passengers, run headlong into a desert sand storm and are forced to crash into the forbidden wastelands below. Thus begins the impossible task of not only surviving in the empty miles of life-less sands, but to somehow return to civilization. James Stewart is Capt. Frank Towns, an experienced pilot, who realizes the 'push-button' age has made him obsolete. Richard Attenborough is superb as Lew Moran, the boozing asst. pilot. Peter Finch plays Capt. Harris who believes his army training and Sgt. Watson (Ron Frasser) will save the desperate group. Ernest Borgnine, plays Trucker Cobb, who's only concern is to move up to become line chief. Ian Bannen, Dan Duryea, and George Kennedy are the company crew. But it is Hardy Krüger who plays Heinrich Dorfmann, who astonishes disbelieving Capt. Towns and everyone else with his boost that with their help, the on-board tools and supplies and some undamaged parts of the crashed plane, he can design a model air-craft which will fly them to safety. Fantastic idea, but no one cares for his suicide plan. What ensues is a test of wills, against each other, the unforgiving landscape, hostile Arabs and the scant water supply and time they have left. *****
"Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) is a survival story about a group of men who crashland in the Libyan desert. A German airplane designer (Hardy Krüger) amongst them suggests utilizing the workable remains of the wreckage to create a new Frankenstein plane, "The Phoenix," and fly out. Although his scheme is initially perceived as mad they soon realize it might be their only legitimate way out.
Even though "Flight" is a survival adventure it's just as much a drama since the setting is stationary (a relatively small area of desert) and there's very little opportunity for action, except the occasional punch or two. The action here is the tension between the men. First and foremost there's pilot Towns' friction with the Kraut airplane designer, Dorfmann. Towns (James Stewart) is a man of old-fashioned practicality whereas Dorfmann is a visionary. Between the two is Towns' assistant, Moran (Richard Attenborough), who understands & likes Towns but sees the genius of Dorfmann.
A stiff-upper-lipped British officer and his sergeant provide more tension. The officer always seems to make the quasi-heroic decision that, while admirable on the surface, is usually the dumbest choice. The sergeant realizes this and is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Does the British Army's chain of command mean anything in such a survival situation? Should he follow this boneheaded officer to a premature grave in the name of respect and loyalty or should he follow the wiser choices for the sake of survival? Towns despises the sergeant for choosing the latter, but is he really wrong? It's debatable.
Other notables are on hand, like Ernest Bornine, Christian Marquand, George Kennedy and Ian Bannen. Borgnine's excellent as a half-crazed employee sent home in the company of his doctor, played by Marquand. One passenger resorts to constant joking and mocking to cope with the situation (Bannen).
The film runs 2 hours and 22 minutes but the drama is so well-written it doesn't seem that long. Like all great films it pulls you in and holds your attention until the end.
The film was shot, believe it or not, in the desert areas of Imperial County in SE California, as well as Yuma.
DVD INFO: Some whiners complain about the DVD being butchered, etc. but I just viewed it and everything looked great and there were no scenes cut out.
FINAL WORD: "Flight of the Phoenix" is one of the greatest survival adventure-dramas ever made. Although there's a little bit of datedness, the film stands head-and-shoulders above the 2004 remake.
[MINOR SPOILERS] The novel this movie was based on fanned my imagination as a kid - I read and re-read it several times. Hadn't seen the movie in over 30 years until the DVD came out, and was delighted that my long-ago passion was justified - this is a great film. Well-plotted, good suspense, good cinematography, great attention to how people really react under extreme stress. In addition, the physical action is 'real' in a way no CGI film of today ever could be.
Compared to the disaster films of the 1970s, the theme of the film is Promethean - instead of simply trying to escape, the characters do something fantastic - they come up with a way to survive that practically amounts to stealing fire from heaven. Gazing at a wrecked plane lying in the desert, Dorfman ("Stringer" in the novel) sees a new plane rising from the ashes, couched in the new language of math and aerodynamics. The rest of the film seesaws between who has the power of the future - analytic, engineer-style dreamers like Dorfman versus seat of the pants Stewart's pilot character. In the end, both are vindicated - only Dorfman can envision the Phoenix, but the Phoenix can't fly without Stewart the "outstanding" pilot.
There's a moment of Christian symbolism (common in films of this vintage) when, after a night of exhausting work, one of the characters gazes at their work and comments "it looks like an airplane." Actually, the Phoenix looks like a cross with the sun behind it, in contrast to the crosses marking the dead on a nearby dune. Cool. This motif is repeated as the engine of the Phoenix powers up on the last day - a thrilling scene. There's even a Calvary reference where the half-dead survivors drag the cross-shaped plane to its launching place - if they endure this last trial, they will be reborn.
But the most amazing thing for me is that the Phoenix was actually built for the film. The original author of the novel worked hard to make sure that the story was possible. The movie producers went further - they built the actual, physical Phoenix and flew it. One stuntman died, but it flew. Other scenes have the same reality that no longer exists in film - for example, A-list actors standing a few feet in front of an unshielded, roaring propeller. Wouldn't happen now.
What would we have done today making this film? We would have hired a computer graphics company create an overhyped, impossible plane, that could only fly on their monitors. Not the same. In this film's climax we see a real plane flying. The film shares a common mood of the era seen in the real desert of "Lawrence of Arabia" and the real bridge in "Bridge on the River Kwai."
Since film today seems destined to go 100% CGI in the future we won't be making films like "Flight of the Phoenix". Is this a loss? Whatever you think of the culture of the early 1960s, their entertainment had a "reality check" that has vanished.
I remember seeing "Phoenix" years ago, maybe in the early 70s, when I stayed up late one night. It came on and for some reason I didn't bother to change the channel to something different and to this day I'm glad I watched it. It stayed with me and when I saw it again sometime in the 90s, it was as good as I remembered it to be. Maybe it's the story, the acting, James Stewart (in a different sort of roll being as far from dashing and handsome as any actor can be) - I don't know - but it clicks for me and I still watch it whenever it comes on. The actors are all good in their rolls and leave nothing to be desired. FX MOV is showing it as I type. The print is beautiful and the letterbox format beats pan & scan any day.
I don't know if I'll see the remake. It's hard to improve on a lot of originals and I don't think this original version needs any improvement.
The pilot character "Frank Towers" played by the wonderful (life) Jimmy Stewart is typical of the era it portrayed. Many ex-service pilots found work in the civilian aviation world - their training, paid for by Governments, was a cheap way of crewing aircraft. This film portrays such a pilot - taught to fly "by the seat of his pants" demonstrates the risks of such a policy.
"Frank Towers" flies on regardless of his navigator's (Dickie Attenborough) concerns, into a cloud of locusts. The engines air-intakes clog up and the outcome is inevitable.
Hardy Kruger's performance as "Hienrich Dorfmunn" is a classic. As an model-aircraft designer, "Frank" fails to accept the parallel between models and "real" aircraft calling them "toys". His arrogance almost scuppers the plan to build a flyable contraption made from the wreckage of the crashed aircraft.
The labour for this endeavour comes from the motley group of passengers whom include Earnest Borgnine as a simpleton, Peter Finch as a British Army officer with Ronald Fraser as his reluctant sargeant. Ian Bannen as "ratbags" plays the cynical Scot. Dickie Attenborugh's "Lew Moran" becomes the arbitor in a complex chronology of events which collectively conspire to prevent success.
Stunt pilot Paul Mantz to whom the film is dedicated, died during its making. Clearly the aircraft with skis on sand was a non-starter, and "wheels" miraculously appeared during the take-off scene. This takes nothing away from the story and it is certainly gripping stuff.
I would have a hard time omitting this from my top 25 movies of all time. To start I have not come across this movie on ANY list of top 100 movies ANYWHERE. This movie isn't from the 90's so if you're looking for special effects you're better off watching Die Hard or Lord Of The Rings.... Flight Of The Phoenix was made in the 60's and relied more on acting than it did special effects. Honestly I thought Richard Attenborough did about as terrible a job of acting as he possibly could while Hardy Kruger (Heinrich Dorfmann) a virtual unknown more or less made the movie as good as it was. At the time I am writing this there was 2812 votes and it had a rating of 7.6 out of 10.... not bad considering it doesn't make the top 100 lists. I have to note I am very curious as to why 19 people gave it 1 vote and 11 people gave it 2 votes. Were they watching the same movie that I was? It is simply a story of survival and human reaction under very stressful circumstances. I have watched it at least 10 times and it keeps getting better each time. Knowing people in their 20's i can tell you right now most of them (97% or higher) won't like it because it doesn't have special effects and relies solely on the ability of actors who had to act.
A MUST SEE movie if you are over 40... in my opinion of course.
You'll be drawn into the claustrophobic struggles of a group of men facing a desperate challenge. The psychology of personality, ego and sheer human determination are all examined here. As an audience, we are treated to some wonderful performances from Hardy Kruger, Richard Attenborough and Peter Finch. The cast is solid as they come with notable American actors; George Kennedy and James Stewart contributing.
Since I happen to know an aircraft enthusiast, I can assure you the passion and knowledge displayed by Heinrich (The model-maker) could get any tin can off the ground. I guess it boils down to the magic of conquering the skies. Men (and these days women) must take to the air... Resulting in the Space Race that is one of mankind's greatest achievements.
Oh, and yes - This original 1965 offering outshines the worthy remake due, in most part, to outstanding character acting.
I am gonna have to say it's a shame that this movie is not in IMDb top 100, but then again the top 250 list isn't really indicative of anything as so many mediocre movies have made it to the list. Regardless, "The Flight of the Phoenix" is one of my all time favorite movies. Great direction, acting, story and above all chemistry between the characters is phenomenal. This movie truly represents the golden era of movie making that is the 60's and 70's (I must mention I was born in the early 80's). Hardy kruger's character as the aircraft designer is one of the most though provoking character I have encountered in movies. He doesn't speak much but when he does he leaves other characters in the movie as well the audience speechless. His character was well researched and Hardy Kruger was the perfect choice to play it. The second character that impressed me the most was of Richard Attenborough. There is a lot of friction between characters played by James Stewart (pilot) and Hardy Kruger (aircraft designer) and Attenborough acts as oil to reduce the friction between them and he does that in an outstanding manner. This is not to say other characters in the movie didn't impress me, there wasn't a single character that was unnecessary or not paid attention to. This movie is a work of art with every part chiseled to perfection. Its hard to imagine what it would feel like to be stranded in the middle of a hot desert with a limited supply of water and waiting for death on the other side of sand dune. But director Aldrich does a great job of playing those emotions perfectly and his cast doesn't let him down. A 10 out of 10 .I would greatly recommend this film if you prefer substance and story over CGI and bad acting.
For whatever reason, most of my favorite films somehow involve surviving some ordeal in the desert. This one is certainly no exception. Although I have a tough time believing that the weakened survivors of a plane crash could build an airplane in the middle of the desert from parts cannibalized from their crashed ship, the acting is strong enough to allow you to suspend reality long enough to enjoy the film. Jimmy Stewart, borders on being a very unlikable character, Ernest Borgnine convinces you that the desert can drive a person mad, and Hardy Kruger makes you believe that a motivated German can overcome any obstacle. There hasn't been a film made that doesn't involve the viewer suspending something in order to enjoy it. This one is worth the effort.
I concur with the reviews of the many others on this page who love this movie. I bet I've seen it at least two dozen times over the last 35 years--maybe more. One of the most chilling scenes for me is the one where Richard Attenborough's character begins to chuckle, then to laugh, then to belly laugh, and then the laugh evolves seamlessly into an uncontrollable maniacal sobbing/shrieking, expressing his terror and frustration at the awful situation he and the others are in. This sort of thing has been done by other actors, in other venues...but no one ever has done it better.
In case you haven't heard already, this movie is about a plane that wrecks in the desert, and the struggles of the survivors to keep surviving.
The cast is all star: James Stewart is an the protagonist, an experienced pilot, but considered aged by a character who slowly emerges as his antagonist, Hardy Kruger, who is the young smart college guy who can save them. Stewart's character doesn't buy this, and the arbiter character, his navigator played by Richard Attenborough, tries to bring a peace between these two when he realizes it is the only hope they have of surviving.
Meanwhile, other characters have other ideas of survival, notably a British officer played by Peter Finch, who has one troop, Sgt. Watson, played by Ronald Fraser. While Stewart dismisses Finch's plans of traipsing through the desert, he clearly believes it better than what he considers half cocked ideas by the upstart Kruger. He learns better, but is unsure of what he is learning.
A brilliant look at clashes of personalities in a situation where everyone needs to work together. Even if George Kennedy and Dan Duryea are little more than bit players, it is good to see such giants. This is an all star cast, so some stars were relegated to smaller than usual roles. The characters are all well drawn and played.
A brilliant and scenic movie, excellent in every aspect. I can't imagine anyone being disappointed at seeing this movie.
Phoenix is one of the whole time greats. I saw it when it was new in the cinema and I must have seen it fifty times on TV since then, usually turning on half way in and then getting hooked again. I decided to get the DVD so I could watch it from the start.
This movie has a great cast and a great story. James Stewart plays the pilot who feels he is responsible for the deaths of several of his passengers following a forced landing in the desert. Eventually, he and the rest of the survivors are persuaded by Dorfmann (Hardy Kruger) to attempt to build an aircraft from the remains of the old one. The survivors are a very mixed bag; Ian Bannen does a wonderful job as Crow the obnoxious one. Ronald Frazer has Sgt Watson is another beautifully played sad case but by the end of the movie they've done enough to make us care about them.
Aircraft bits dominate almost every shot and the movie illustrates beautifully the nature of machines; normally we see aircraft only has complete things, continuous and perfect. We could miss the fact that they are made of parts, each one crafted to a determined shape. Parts which if put together in a certain way can subjugate the laws of nature.
Dorfmann has to figure out how to make a plane from what's left intact of the old. He must come up with a design that's viable. He has to work everything out, how the old plane must be torn apart, how the parts of it will be moved around, and how they will be reassembled, how the controls must be rigged. In reality this would be an almost superhuman feat. Could a real life aircraft designer do such a thing? And Dorfmann is very young, what young engineer would have been involved in the entire lifecycle of aircraft production? But of course Dorfmann's company makes model planes, and Dorfmann has always had to design everything on his projects!
The pilot Towns (James Stewart) has to surrender his authority to Dorfmann so that the new plane can be built. Towns doesn't believe the plane is feasible but he is persuaded that the project is better than letting them sit around waiting to die. Towns doesn't want to be responsible for more deaths should the plane get finished. Towns rails against Dorfmann long and often but always Dorfmann is right and Towns wrong. But Dorfmann knows he needs Towns' skills to fly the plane.
After many problems the plane is finished and Towns must start it up and fly it. The point where Towns climbs aboard and pulls the ladder up behind him is very sweet. This is where the Towns takes the plane back from Dorfmann. He must use all his skill and experience to get the engine started.
The engine can only be started with a Coffman starter, a cartridge system. If the engine does not start all their efforts have been wasted, but at least Towns won't have killed more in another crash. But Towns will have failed as a pilot if he does not get the engine started.
In the event, of course Towns chooses to start the engine and is shown to have skill and knowledge that Dorfmann does not have. In one sense getting the engine going is the end of the story, Towns has finally made his choice and committed wholeheartedly to the project and in doing so got his self respect back.
And now with the motor going the Phoenix has ceased to be a collection of useless parts, it's become the difference between life and death and every last one of them has made it happen.
Paul Mantz a veteran pilot of movies from Howard Hughes's day was killed flying for this movie. Perhaps that is why the actual flying shots look a bit truncated; we don't actually see the Phoenix land and the scene where the survivors appear over the horizon looks rather naff and smacks of cheap TV movie. Well nothings perfect but Phoenix comes pretty close.
BTW in the original story Krugers character is called Stringer, (model aeroplane fans will get it)