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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • German: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer

The Blue Max

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 150 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

George Peppard didnít start his career as Hannibal Smith on The A-Team, much to my surprise as a kid. He in fact was once a good-looking cat who played Hollywood remarkably well. He also played Hollywood in the B-graders as well, but thatís another story.

Here he plays Stachel, a German infantryman who sees the bi-planes flying over his trenches one day during World War I. After serving his time watching people get the shit blown out of them, he transfers to the elitist air force which has previously been filled with aristocratic snooty types who got into the job due to family connections or money.

Dealing with this aristocracy and outward disparagement, Stachel proves himself more than capable of flying and becomes something of a determined fighter in trying to earn The Blue Max, Germanyís most distinguished medal for heroism. Because he takes chances in the air to get kills, he becomes the media darling for the working classes. Due to his notoriety he also succumbs to the temptations of the local Generalís wife.

Then came the intermission, where I went to get some more popcorn and a Freddo.

Then the rest of the film plays out with Stachel fighting on and trying to earn the rest of his 20 kills that will enable him to get The Blue Meanie. But will his obsession drive him to yet greater risks to secure it?

This is a war film of epic and magnificent scope and one that is, unusually, delivered from the German point of view. Peppard, that good-looking rogue in his youth, does a masterful job of playing the vain and bitter Stachel and impressively gets to shag Ursula Andress. There are some huge war scenes here with hundreds of soldiers streaming out of trenches in the mud and barbed wire and planes buzzing them from above. This is a war film made back in the day (1966 in this case) when they didnít deliver perfectly placed CG animation and that rogue element is one of the things that makes these older war films far more impressive. It has that Ďseat-of-the-pantsí feel that wartime itself must have, instead of a polished final render of 30 layers that still looks dodgy.

As a rousing Sunday afternoon war flick, this one is a beaut and the fact we get to see it from the Germanís perspective is a bonus. The dads will love it.

  Video
Contract

This picture is fairly clean and of the expected quality from a Fox transfer. The edges are fairly sharp, while the colours have been muted by the mostly earth palette. Flesh tones are okay, but the blood effects are pretty poor. It seems Red Paint #4 was still popular back then. However, blacks remain true even if the shadow detail has been thoroughly dispatched. Intermission is also included here in its full regalia, running for around two and a half minutes from 1:26:02 to 1:28:40. Iím fond of productions that do the film this service in the transfer. It is a part of the original film after all and should be included in the DVD. We also get to see the epic scope of the film in its full cinema aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. There are a couple of original edits of shots that look slightly snipped, but this is most likely how the film was presented and isnít the DVD transferís fault. (See 1:01:45 for a couple of missing frames or 1:03:39 for a quick replay of seven frames).

  Audio
Contract

The audio package is quite nice for a film of this oneís age, however it has suffered a little through the years. The score is an early work from Jerry Goldsmith and this is thoroughly impressive as a rambunctious call-to-arms piece, dividing its loyalties between tightly militaristic and free-floating adventurous. It is perfectly suited to the film and sounds mostly okay.

Dialogue is fine, though all the Germans speak in English, but it does come across sounding a little clipped in parts. Again this is the original edit I imagine and not the transfer. Sound effects borrow heavily from the Stock Sound Effects Room at Fox Studios with repetitive gunshots, explosions and plane roars overhead. Plus the eternal classic of a hit plane spiralling to its doom below. Dolby Digital stereo brings us all of this satisfying stuff and while not the best transfer Iíve ever heard, it is adequate for the film.

  Extras
Contract

Just a trailer that looks a lot like it fought in two World Wars itself. Itís only in enhanced 1.85:1, but runs a lengthy 3:01. Plus it has thousands of captured enemy film artefacts.

  Overall  
Contract

The Blue Max is one of those nice long old war movies that progresses along almost casually in its pacing but holds the attention nonetheless. A good rainy afternoon sort of movie, this one will sit nicely alongside other classic war films that Dad may have in his shed. The aerial sequences of dogfights have all been recreated for the film and they look quite extraordinary and still better than most CG stuff could attempt to duplicate today. When old films look as good as this does having had a decent budget behind it, there almost seems no need for the CG element in film today. However, movies are big money and any way they can make more by spending less is always going to win, unfortunately.

Be that as it may, The Blue Max is an excellent war film reminiscent of the old Commando war comics in its almost cartoonish portrayal of the Germans at times, but they were the bad guys after all. Still, itís great fun and well worth investigation.


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      And I quote...
    "War as told from the Germanís perspective, as a proud young peasant rises to the flying aristocracy of World War I."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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