Monday, February 17, 2020

"The Blue Max" (1966) Has Merit

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tapes. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes:

The Blue Max (1966) An underrated epic. Three or four years ago I rewatched it after a prompt from a friend who had himself reappraised the film. He was right. The screenplay is superior, not typical of a 'roadshow' picture, I find. There is the brand of spectacle usually found in the form -- in this case fabulous flying and combat scenes -- but also present is a lot of human-based machinations, the kind that might have impressed the Bard. These finely wrought narrative streams roll to a satisfying climax.

Star George Peppard, while much too old at the time to be playing a fighter pilot (those guys were in their early to mid twenties), is believable as a man who will stop at nothing to get the big prize: The Blue Max, the "Pour le Mérite". Ursula Andress, James Mason, Jeremy Kemp, and Karl Michael Vogler give fine support. As for tech credits, cinematographer Douglas Slocombe and composer Jerry Goldsmith fly high. (What is typical of a blockbuster film is the staffing of top people, in front of and behind the camera. More often than not this loading of talent does not translate into a great movie, or an okay one, even if the individual contributions can be spotlighted and raved about.)

Some of the film's highlights: The balloon-busting sequence; a game of "chicken", with contributions from a bridge; Peppard and Andress; the clash of Allied and German soldiers, complete with visceral hand-to-hand combat (which film critics had somehow not known about when they raved about Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan); and James Mason's 'big stamp' (it packs a punch).

The Blue Max deserves a spin on DVD or Blu-ray....


The above was first posted as "My VHS Purge: The Blue Max" on March 4, 2017.

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