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52
4.2 out of 5 stars
Aces High [DVD] [1976]
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2006
The opening scenes show our "Ace" GRESHAM telling his old house that "We are caning them. You will want to cane them too when your turn comes. I only hope it isn't all over before you get the opportunity"
The film revolves around, and tries to recapture, the life of a scout squadron " somewhere in France" 6 months after "Bloody April 1917" during the First World War. I first watched this film as a child in the early 80's and even at that tender age, found it rather moving given the fact that the aim is not to glamourise war but to demonise it. For RFC purists, there are a few anomilies, mainly that 76 Squadron RFC was never used as a fighter squadron. That aside, The story was well constructed, the cast impressive and nearly 20 years later, I still feel this is a film that can be watched over and again A firm favourite in mine and Pete Tarski's eyes. Thanks for reading my review.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Aces High is one of very few films about World War One air combat. I also believe that it is the best. It is intense, yet its laid back scenes are very good as well. I've owned this on VHS for years, and have finally replaced my well worn tape with this DVD release. Whilst devoid of special features (not even a trailer), this is worth the price simply to watch this very good film. I did notice at least one little part of the film which is cut from the DVD. It is in the French restaurant scene, and a risque joke by Wade appears to have been cut out.
Otherwise, the DVD is nice. The picture is slightly blemished, put not distractingly so. On the whole, this is a very good buy, and comes highly reccomended. If you liked The Blue Max, you'll like this (in fact, some footage from the Blue Max is used in this picture).
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 15 August 2000
Aces High is a film which, like so many great films, was adapted from a book. The film shows how futile the western front fighting was, and how men were giving of thier lives and all to often dying, for no real gain. The film features a young boy, just turned seventeen named Peter Croft, who "pulls strings" to get into the squadron which his old school house captain commands, only to find that war has made the man so hard and brittle a first, but kind in the old way he was before the war. The starting scene is excellent, with Major John Gresham (Malcom McDowell) coming back to his old school to get more recruites to feed the ever hungry western front. But the sceen interlinks with Gresham out in France, and this helps to show how contradictive propoganda is of real war. There are some interesting scene changes, like when the school master enters the school hall, and the command to stand is given, Gresham is seen to stand, and then the scene changes to him standing up in his SE5 (fighter plane) to change the ammo' drum for his Lewis Gun. Some of the prop aircraft used for filming are not the actual planes being portrayed, so the enthusiast is let down there, but the film is great barring this, and can be watched over and over again.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2004
Aces High is a gripping tale of the war over the trenches in 1917. Following Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Plummer and Peter Firth into the air prepare for some of the best biplane action filmed in Britain. Though not accurate in every way (don't look too closely at the SE5s) it is still a great war film that captures the pluck and daring of the British knights of the air.
2nd Lieutenant Croft is assigned to Maj. Gresham's 76 Squadron RFC and has to deal with the death of comrades and squadron life in the Great War. With 15 hours training (4 of them on SE5s!) he must quickly adapt to the realities of aerial warfare and the changes brought on by war in his idol and former school house captain Maj. Gresham. If you've seen Blackadder 4 then think 20 minuters and you're on the mark.
The DVD release is slightly disappointing, hence the rating, as it has no special features whatsoever. Only a chapter menu, actually. The sound is mono, the picture quality average. Basically, buy it for the film: that's what I did and I haven't regretted it.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
"We are caning them," says a boastful Major John Gresham of the Germans when he visits his old school, of which he had been a house captain a few years earlier. It is clear that his young and hopelessly naive audience, especially Stephen Croft, approve of his words, and the smile on his face is evidence of someone who idolizes this RFC major, a symbol of Englishness in war.
Such is the opening for this World War I film, which, like "The Blue Max" (1966) before it, examines the way in which war shapes people. Malcolm McDowell is excellent as the CO of 76 Squadron, RFC, especially where the difference in personality between the "recruiter" (at his school) and the hard-bitten veteran who has seen a good many young people like Croft die like flies - and for what? A few inches of mud in no man's land?
Gresham is appalled when Croft (Peter Firth) arrives at 76 Squadron in May 1917, for he is now about to realise that his white lies about "caning" the Germans are about to be revealed. Serving as a "link" between the two men is "Uncle", ably played by Christopher Plummer, who can see only too well the gaping void in personality. Gresham effectively dismisses Croft's attitude as gross naivety and is not at all prepared to wet-nurse him.
To add to his difficulties, Crawford (Simon Ward) is cracking up and is prepared to desert. Gresham confronts the would-be deserter with the stark reality that, if he tries anything, he wouldn't hesitate to have him shot. Yet it is clear that the major sympathizes with the lieutenant - if only everyone could just pack up and go home, there wouldn't be any more war.
The fact that "Day 1" to "Day 7" go by in just under two hours shows how time goes by so quickly that one barely has time to digest what is going on. Yet what does go on is powerful and the film-makers produce some memorable images, showing graphically the hideosity of mass mechanised warfare waged just to protect the interests of politicians and generals back home.
The sudden and fiery death of Thompson, whose body is a flaming torch when it plunges to the ground, affects Gresham deeply. The death on a mission of "Uncle" affects Croft so deeply that he shuns his fellow officers, only to be criticized by Gresham for making himself look like a laughing stock in front of the mechanics. Gresham appears still to attach a great deal to social class (as does Heidemann in "The Blue Max"), yet the fact is that anyone of any social class can be killed in war.
As with other films, this one is a highly entertaining, yet disturbing film about how life is just thrown away needlessly in the pursuit of ideals, and about how those who remain are changed forever and can never look in the world in the same way. The "safe" world of the English public school and the "real" world outside are rarely more starkly conveyed than in this film.
The grotesqueness of war is evident on Gresham's face when Croft, who appeared to grow up very quickly in the latter half of his seven-day "stay" at the squadron, is shockingly killed in a mid-air collision with an enemy fighter plane, and his grief is genuine. He then finds it hard to keep a straight face when three more young second-lieutenants with barely a few flying hours between them are paraded before him - more lambs to the slaughter of the Western Front. Kudos to McDowell for a powerful performance right from beginning to end.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
As the saying goes (if it is not broken, do not fix it).
I own the essential war collection copy on dvd, and with upscaling the picture is natural and vibrant.
In the blu ray version the picture is totally washed out with over use of digital noise correction.
Nothing about it seems right so stick with your dvd copy.
the extras though are very well done and interesting
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Whilst it is a pretty reasonable but very loose adaptation of Journey's End, what it lacks (apart from the rather pointless name changes) in the opening-out is the depth of characterization and pathos of the play. It has some cinematic moments on the ground but still feels rather stagey. Apart form some misjudged 'waving' at one another from the cockpits, it is the aerial sequences which are the best thing, but they do rather rely on loop-the-loops and explosions, ripping rigging and the like so they become a bit repetitive. However, there are some good performances in the ensemble especially from Christopher Plummer in his dignified way and some old-timers' cameos (Trevor Howard, Ray Milland etc.). In the end not really satisfactory as the characters are not (mostly) allowed to breath like R.C.Sherriff's originals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2009
This has got to be one of the most powerfull war films of all time.

It deals with the innocence of youth in the harshness of a brutal war. One feels that that the aviators around which this story is based should be dashing and daring heroes, but they're not, they're human beings. We see their failings, their triumphs and their ultimate destiny in graphic detail.

If you want a technical documentary on the aerial war, stear clear, those aircraft aren't real.

If you want to understand what makes young men lust to go to battle and how they end up, take this home!

This film should be re-made using todays special effects but keeping true to the original story line. It can only be a winner.
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I managed to finish watching this film, but I found it disappointing. Watchable, but nothing more. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

This film tells the story of a young British fighter pilot, Stephen Croft (Peter Firth), who in October 1917 reports for duty to his first assignement in France. His commanding officer, Major Gresham (Malcolm Mc Dowell) is a friend of his family and is also engaged to his older sister - and yet, maybe exactly for that reason, their relations will fast become somehow strained... This film follows the tribulations of young Croft and other pilots, confronted by fast growing casualties due to the high skills and agressivity of Germans...

The main reason to see this film is the cast, as other than two actors already mentioned we have here Christopher Plummer, excellent as always, and also John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Ray Milland, Tim Piggot-Smith (in a small role) and last but not least Simon Ward, who plays Lieutenant Crawford, a pilot who reached the end of his mental and physical endurance long time ago... For me Ward completely steals the show in every scene in which he appears in this film.

However, that cast was not very well used. This film was made in 1976, in a time when almost every war movie HAD TO contain a heavy handed anti-war message - and it is easily perceptible in every scene in "Aces High". As already stated in the title of the review, the whole dashing, flamboyance and gallows humour of WWI fighter pilots are completely MIA and instead we have a tale about a bunch of very tired, extremely depressed, frequently drunk and all the time bickering people - from time to time interrupted by some air fights.

Air fight scenes, which could have saved this film, are honest but not terribly good.

For my personal taste this film is many levels below the old 1930 Howard Hawks classic "The dawn patrol" (for me still the best film about WWI fighter pilots) and the excellent "Blue Max" (which had great scenario). I even found it less good than "Flyboys", which, even if it had a weak scenario, at least included some very beautiful air sequences... On another hand it is certainly better than this infect "Red Baron" abomination...

Bottom line, this is a very average film, to see once, mostly for the great cast. Most appropriate rating should be 2,5 stars. I don't think I will keep the DVD.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2008
I was among the Eton College boys filmed when the headmaster (Sir John Gielgud) introduced Gresham (Malcom McDowell) to the boys. There must be many of us out there. It was filmed on a school holiday, and we were given the choice of an excursion or taking part in the film. I seem to remember that we were not terribly well behaved, but the director eventually sorted us out. We were thoroughly amused when the make-up artists re-arranged the hair of some of the boys. We each got £10, which was quite a lot for a schoolboy in 1976!

Sir John was gracious enough to give me his autograph when I knocked on the door of his caravan between lessons. I also got Malcolm McDowell's. I think this was when they were filming the romantic bit at the beginning, because he persuaded me to get hers as well!

I am sure that all of us who were there still feel very privileged to have been associated with such a great film. It was of course based on the classic WW1 play, 'Journey's End'.
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