THE BLUE FLUNK
It’s been said that The Blue Max has fierce champions but I’ve yet to meet any except the permanent striplings over at Film Score Monthly. This is the kind of class-exclusive war movie—about German World War I aces having a go at winning the highest military flying honor bestowed by Kaiser Wilhelm II—that shows the elite conveniently finding time for games, sex and champagne on or near the air and battle fields. What’s there to champion? The air battles are at best adequate, hardly spurting jizz. Whoever decided that this is reserved seat stuff has kept his secret. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe wasn’t fortunate enough to hide from some of his least appealing work and making matters worse was that for some engagements, the CinemaScope print was blown up to something unofficially 70mm—cynics mocked it as Grandeur 70—that eliminated the usual Fox gloss, caused distortions and made images look darker and dirty, adding to the already depressive atmosphere by production designer Wilfrid Shingleton and art director Fred Carter. On TV, the pan and scan looked as shitted up as Josh Logan’s Bus Stop, with one shot after another chopped and washed out of color that sometimes you’re not sure what you’re watching. But the bad mood changes with the Blu-ray edition, delivering a vastly more tolerable and entertaining viewing for the right wrong reasons. One of them is the joy in disliking George Peppard, which seems a natural intention; the essence he imparts here and in other movies is that he likes that he could do that to us. Something about blond hair and insincerity too, especially in an otherwise educated man. He did have four months of special flying training before filming started. sufficient for the Harvard Lampoon to name him 1966’s worst actor. James Mason is once more looking downright puny and unconvincing, if not impotent in uniform, just as he did in 1951’s The Desert Fox and 1952’s The Prisoner of Zenda. (Is it because he hasn’t the neck for military collars?) So poor sexy muscular-back Ursula Undress has to get her kicks from you know who, though it seems likely she’ll get much more affection from the little kitty meowing on her bed pillow. With dyed blond Jeremy Kemp and short-of-tongue phenomenon Anton Diffring. Directed by John Guillermin; music by Jerry Goldsmith (whose major theme resembles parts of Alex North’s for The Shoes of the Fisherman); aerial unit photography by Skeets Kelly. Filmed in Ireland. (Opening 6/29/1966 at the Cinestage, running 14 weeks.)
ROLL OVER IMAGE
Text COPYRIGHT © 2002 RALPH BENNER ( Revised 9/2014) All Rights Reserved.