Hoping to push Britain to the forefront of aviation, a London publisher organizes an international air race across the English Channel, but must contend with two entrants vying for his daughter, as well as national rivalries and cheating.
In the infancy of aviation in 1910, a British newspaper offers a prize for the winner of a cross-channel air race which brings flyers from all over the world. There are many subplots as the flyers jockey for position and the affections of various women.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Michael Trubshawe's character's name is "Niven". Michael Trubshawe and David Niven were very close friends from when they served in the military garrison at Malta together, and David Niven would call uncredited characters in his movies "Trubshawe" - so this was Trubshawe's way of returning the compliment. See more »
At several points in Sir Percy's train scene, you can see post-1924 cooling towers in the background. See more »
The Neanderthal Man:
[watches a gull flying over a beach]
Ever since man started to think, he's wanted to fly. But flying was strictly for the birds.
The Neanderthal Man:
[flapping his arms enthusiastically, he leaps from a sandy bluff and falls onto the beach below]
And continued to be so for thousands of years.
[in ancient Greece, a man wearing makeshift wings is forced at swordpoint off a temple roof]
Man, eternally optimistic, kept trying.
[...] See more »
The 20th Century Fox logo appears on the screen of an early 20th-century movie theater, surrounded by a safety curtain featuring advertisements typical of the era, as the studio fanfare is played by a small ensemble of piano, drums and horn - typical for the movie theaters of the 1910s. The first few scenes in the prologue appear in black-and-white on the screen, until the depiction of Count Emilio Ponticelli's pioneering flight, during which the image expands to fill the modern screen and changes to color, followed by the opening credit sequence. See more »
By today's standards, "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes" is a slow (sometimes sluggish) comedy of the "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" school of thought that bigger is funnier (it generally isn't). Part of the problem is that the producer, working over director Ken Annakin's shoulder, wanted the love triangle between James Fox, Stuart Whitman and Sarah Miles accentuated. This was partly good thinking, because one cannot laugh solidly for more than an hour. Any comedy will pall after that period, and the story carries us through until after the intermission.
The glimpses of slapstick we see are well done, but few and far between. They include a runaway airplane/motorcycle and a duel fought from balloons (which does have a good pay-off).
The comedy might've been sharpened, but the draw to the theatres was probably to see the reproductions of antique airplanes. The movie does provide some of the best blue screen work before George Lucas, and one always believes the stars are actually flying. For this reason, the movie cries out to be seen in letterbox, as it is on DVD, but the grandeur of the photography and good effects is diminished on the small screen.
Still, the impressive international cast is game. The competitors in the air race all represent nationalities, and they are "types", so they are easily identifiable. The cast's obvious enthusiasm for the project raises the viewer's own spirits. And there are very bright spots. Gert Frobe ("Goldfinger"), the leader of the German contingent, manages some laughs by an amazing "one man band" effect (and yes, it's really him). Jean-Pierre Cassel has a running gag that doesn't really work, but which features the beautiful Irina Demick ("The Longest Day") so it's always worth watching. Jeremy Lloyd provides some bright humor as the silly naval officer who wants to take the first dog in flight. Tiny bits by Terry-Thomas, Eric Sykes, Benny Hill and Robert Morley are amusing. Tony Hancock, as the inventor with a leg in a cast, steals every scene he's in and his pay-off nearly steals the whole movie.
On the down side, Stuart Whitman is an astounding and ineffective addition to the cast as the American competitor. It turns out (from the DVD commentary), Ken Annakin first wanted Dick van Dyke, but van Dyke's agent never showed him the script and they had to cast it -- but why not find someone who has some comic timing? As it turns out (from later in the commentary), Whitman nearly wrecked the movie in other ways.
But the flying scenes of the reproduction airplanes make this movie imminently watchable. One grows weary of the interminable crashes early in the film, and the race isn't very exciting, but just watching them fly (and realizing with a shiver that human beings actually went up in the air in those things) make the movie fun. If you don't need high-speed, high-octane, full-throttle comedy but have time for a leisurely picture that's well acted and beautifully shot, this isn't a bad way to spend two hours and a half.
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