34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2002
This is a truly memorable film - comprising of a memorable story, memorable acting by Gregory Peck and memorable economical directing. However, the most memorable aspect of this film is the way it allows the story to seize your attention and then hands over to Peck and others to ensure your emotions are enagaged to the final end. The end is about victories of the soul and spirit as well as of men and machines. The feel of the film brings to ones remembrance the times of grave peril endured by Britain in the early years of the war. In essence the story tells of the redemption of a US Bomber Squadron based in Britain in the early years of the war after a run of 'bad luck'. It also tells of the great sacrifices made in the journey to final victory. If you are after a memorable movie experience - make this film your next stop!!
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2006
Written by two airmen who lived the story and made at a time before revisionists lost the plot, this film accurately portrays life for the airmen during the early part of the American daylight bombing campaign, initially over France and then the first raids over Germany. The characters and bomber group are all ficticious but the real people on whom they are based can easilly be identified by anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the history.
Technically the film is very accurate but with a few blunders : American scenary like a plank-built railway station and picket fences, several of the "enemy" fighters are actually Spitfires and P47's and some of the airplanes are B17G's instead of B17F's.
The acting varies from stiff to brilliant, with Peck delivering an oscar-worthy performance. Camera work and direction are very good.
On another level the film is an excellent study of military leadership methods and styles. It is also a basic lesson in warfare which the west seems to have forgotten in the 1950's.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2007
Forget the war (there's no bloodshed), forget the action (that's limited), forget sex - the nearest we get is Gregory Peck's thigh and there is not a woman in the film! - what Darryl F Zanuck's masterpiece shows is the positive attributes of great leadership along with the challenges it faces. It also exposes the leader as a 'friend' as a weak and ultimately failing approach. This film was designed to show leadership in its toughest environment and it achieves this wonderfully - remember it's based on fact so it has relevance where many other films fall down (Braveheart, Jerry Maguire etc) which are so far removed from any origins they are no longer connected to achievable outcomes.
Watch the nuances of expression - with no music to mask these, they are raw and meaningful.
Some amazing one-liners 'I didn't ask you to ask me....' 'Spit it out, with the bark on...' etc
A must for any aspiring Leader! - watch it at least 3 times to start to fully appreciate its complexity and subtlety, with the lessons it holds.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Through the history of film there have been a few classic pairings of director and actor that have produced some out and out great films - Anthony Mann/James Stewart, John Huston/Humphrey Bogart, John Ford/John Wayne for example. I would humbly add Henry King/Gregory Peck to that list. Though (as far as I know) they only made three films together, The Gunfighter, Twelve O'Clock High and Bravados, all three stand as some of the best work in the canon of either man, and all three were great movies that had that extra something that set them apart from the herd.
Whereas The Gunfighter and The Bravados were Westerns, Twelve O'clock High sees the pair tackle a WW2 film. There are many types of war film - the boys own adventure sort (such as Where Eagles Dare), the shockingly viscerally realistic (Saving Private Ryan), and attempts to dramatise real events (The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far). Generally I like them all in one way or another, but what really gets my interest are films that show the human cost of war, films that show how ordinary people are forced by circumstance to extraordinary acts, and the effect it has upon them. Films such as Cruel Sea, Dawn Patrol, and this fine effort.
Peck stars as the commander of an air force unit. The unit has been underperforming, and Peck believes this to be the fault of the commanding officer, who he replaces with himself. The film follows his efforts to bring the unit up to scratch, at first clashing with the men and eventually winning their respect. The constant pressure takes it's toll on him, until finally he breaks down, leading to the film's final moving and powerful scene as he waits for teh squadron to return from a particularly deadly mission.
General Savage is one of those characters Peck played so well - a fundamentally decent man, he has the best interests of his men at heart. Everything he does, every seeming cruel act, is purely motivated by the desire to make sure they return alive from their next mission. He portrays the pressure that this puts upon the man to a tee, and you really feel for Savage as he descends into breakdown. It's a moving portrayal, and one of the better of Peck's performances for my money.
This Studio Classics release from Fox is pretty good, with an excellent transfer and picture quality. I have been impressed with all the DVD's I have had from this range. Highly recommended purchase to those who like action and a bit of thought provoking. 5 stars.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is an extremely powerful, intelligent and BRILLIANT war film! Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.
USAAF air base Archbury in United Kingdom, autumn 1942. The 918th Bomb Group of USAAF, operating the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers, one of the first American units to attack targets in Nazi-occupied Europe from British bases, attracts attention of allied high command for its repeated bad performances and especially very high losses. It is now known as "Bad Luck 918" and morale in it is low, even if its commanding officer, Colonel Davenport, is known for his courage under fire and also for the attention given to his men welfare. He is therefore still popular with his men. But the high command decides to sack him and replace him with Brigadier-General Frank Savage - a somehow extraordinary appointment, considering that Bomb Groups were usually not commanded by generals.
Savage (Gregory Peck) is a young and extremely vigorous general - he also quickly proves to be absolutely ruthless in restoring discipline and squeezing from his men everything they can give! He quickly becomes object of intense hatred and things will ultimately go very, very far between him and the men under his command... That takes care of about first eight minutes of the film, and I will say no more here.
The great quality of this particularly brilliant film, which got two Oscars in 1949, is due in large part to the men who wrote the novel "Twelve O'Clock High", published in 1948 and immediately adapted to the screen.
Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant Sy Bartlett (he was born Sacha Baraniev in Ukraine in 1901), was first a journalist before becoming a screenplay writer in the 30s. During war he served as Intelligence Officer in USAAF in Europe and could therefore observe well the functionning of real Bomb Groups. Colonel Beirne Lay Jr. served during WWII in USAAF and actualy commanded a Bomb Group, the 487th, leading it into numerous missions over Germany (albeit the 487th operated the B-24 Liberators, rather than the B-17 Flying Fortress). Their co-operation produced an excellent book - and when they were also asked to adapt "Twelve O'Clock High" into a scenario, they did again an excellent job.
Actors did an amazing job in this film, beginning of course with Gregory Peck, for whom it was one of the most brilliant performances EVER! It is simply incredible how tough is his character and when a really bad@ss general is played by such a young, handsome and charismatic person the effect is particularly strong! Believe me, it is not for nothing that his character is named "Savage"...)))
The names of other actors are not instantly recognizable today anymore, as most of them were specialists of second roles - and it was fitting, because this film is first and above anything else a performance by Gregory Peck, who offers here a brilliant study about a lot of things but especially about the bittersweet taste of great power and about the unavoidable and necessary solitude of the man on the top...
This is a war film with only one real fighting sequence, about 10 minutes long, as almost everything happens on the USAAF bases, but believe me, what goes on far from the front is in fact as tense and dramatic as the shooting war. Also, it is a long film - 132 minutes - but I guarantee that you will not even notice the time passing!
The title "Twelve O'Clock High" is in principle the code word the crews of allied bombers used to signal enemy fighters attacking frontally and from above - this was considered the deadliest way to attack a heavily armed formation of heavy bombers and therefore those words, when heard on the interphone, were heavily packed with menace... However, this title means also A LOT OF OTHER THINGS - once you finished watching this film, take a minute to consider other possible meanings... This reflection is actually another reason why I consider this film as such a major masterpiece!
CONCLUSION: an incredible war film, without one weak scene, mostly VERY tough and brutal, but also with some discreet humor here and there. A thing to buy, watch, keep and re-watch! ENJOY!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
It's a great film about people and how they react to beiing led. It's about the commander of a base that loses his ability to lead as he goes native and joins sides with the very guys he's supposed to be leading. His job has to be taken over by one of his peer group - the character played by Gregory Peck. Peck's character has to come in and stop the whole squadron becoming dysfunctional or perhaps even going AWOL or a possible mutiny. Its 'tough love' time and he has to be hard to be kind. (It's a true story of what happened to a real bomber squadron in Anglia in WWII.)
If you want to apply the leadership skills you'll see in the film and give your management skills a work over, you'll need to have a copy of this book at hand Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness through Situational Leadership. This is exactly the same leadership skills set that used to be taught in the RAF. A friend of mine who commanded the RAF's Regiment School told me he'd seen this film about 100 times. I first saw it doing a leadership training course in the 80's and all the material in the book was taught, then we had to apply it to what we saw in the film. The exercise is to spot the four leadership styles and the four maturatity levels of those being led - how did they match? Where they effective? There you go, you've saved £250 and time taken attending a leaders course. Just watch the film, read the book, and match them up.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This has got to be one of the best movies based on the WWII experience. The story line is simple. A U. S. bomber group based in England is taking too many losses flying daylight runs against the Germans. It's failing to achieve the results it should and morale is drifting down. It could infect other bombing groups. The commanding officer is replaced by a tough-minded, no nonsense brigadier general who is utterly dedicated to winning the war. He uses harsh tactics, discipline and grinding practice to transform what was close to being a group of losers into an effective, cohesive force. The cost to the war effort was worth it; the cost to him was too high. Gregory Peck plays Brigadier General Frank Savage in one of his best performances. The movie itself is almost unrelentingly grim until we realize that the group is coming through, even as we see Savage begin to break apart.
The point of the film is summed up in two speeches. The first is by Major General Ben Pritchard (Millard Mitchell) to Savage as he tells him why he's going to replace Colonel Keith Davenport (Gary Merrill), a man they both respect, with Savage. "We're fighting all over the world. Every theater commander is screaming for crews and equipment...Our problem right now narrows down to one group. If the 918th folds it can spread to the other three groups. It can fold the whole deal...I guess I don't have to tell you what's coming, Frank. I'm going to have to ask you to take nice young boys and fly them until they can't stand it, then to take them out, put them back in and fly them again. We've got to try to find out just what a maximum effort is..."
Savage takes command and moves to impose his will and standards on the group. One of his first actions is to call the air crews together to tell them to suck it up. "I don't have a lot of patience," he says. "with this 'what are we fighting for' stuff. We're in a war, a shooting was. We've got to fight. And some of us have got to die. Now I'm not telling you not to be afraid. Fear is normal. Stop worrying about it...and yourselves. Stop making plans. Forget about going home. Consider yourselves already dead. Once you accept that idea it won't be so tough."
We're 30 minutes into the movie before Savage takes over. All that time has been spent establishing the situation, getting to know the crews and what they go through every time they fly and survive a mission. And, through Pritchard, what the bigger issues are. Once Savage takes over, however, the movie focuses on Savage and the men, the way he deals with them, the standards he insists on, the techniques he uses to shame or force them to accept what they must do.
The movie climax begins with their first bombing run over Germany. The sequence takes about 20 minutes and is built up of actual aerial combat footage and realistic staged scenes. There's no music. All we have is the muffled drone of the engines, flak blossoming and German fighters diving through the bomber formations. One by one bombers are hit and go down. Some of the crews can be seen bailing out, sometimes they don't make it. The formation keeps going toward the target. It's a harrowing sequence.
This is a tough minded movie. It has none of the Hollywood patriotic bombast exemplified by all those WWII John Wayne movies (as good as some of them are) or the Hollywood post traumatic stress syndrome exemplified by many of the Viet Nam films. It simply shows without too much preaching what happened to a WWII bomber group that started to fall apart and then was brought back up, and shows what happened to the men.
This is a first-rate film. The DVD transfer (the movie was filmed in black and white) looks very good.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2014
The USAAF, formed in WWI, was left in a moribund state after 1918. It was Brig. General Billy Mitchell who alerted the US Defence Dept to the parlous state of the US air capability. What was effectively a new air force came into being, and it was this that fought in WWII. The USAAF formed the 8th Air Force (the "Mighty 8th") to fight in the European war. This film is a composite picture of life in a Bomber Group that entered the war green and untried in battle. The story begins as the group tries to come to terms with the results of bruising encounters with an experienced, battle-hardened Luftwaffe. Morale is low, and discipline somewhat lax. A new commander is brought in to identify and rectify the problems within the group. I will not spoil the story br revealing how it ends. The cast icludes Gregory Peck, Millard Mitchell (Singing in the Rain), Dean Jagger (White Christmas) are the best known actors in a brilliant cast.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
'Harvey Stovall' makes a nostalgic return to the airfield he'd served
at as 'Major Stovall' during the war, the memories of that time comes
flooding back to him.
He remembers when 'Brigadier General' 'Frank Savage' takes command of
U.S. 918 squadron, where he had replaced popular commander 'Col Keith
Davenport' at a time when morale had become low, too many missions,
too many losses.
'B/General Frank Savage' try's to re-build pride and confidence among
the crews despite overwhelming resentment among the ranks because of
his hard-line approach.
a well made war-movie which, during the bomber -raids toward the end
of the film shows several newsreel clips of actual air combat and
Filmed in black and white (1949) with 4.3 screen ratio. the film does
benefit in picture quality as a result of it's format up-date.
well worth a viewing.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The movie is rightly considered a classic and was probably quite surprising for the time it was made - focusing so heavily on the psychological trauma of war, even air war in 1949 was far from established practice in war films.
Gregory Peck takes on the role of bringing a problematic squadron back up to speed - in effect he is asked to establish how far one can push men in the air war before they will crack. His attitude, different from that of his predecessor is much sterner and more autocratic - I would not be surprised if the character was not at least in part modelled on Curtis LeMay - the US Air Force general responsible for the strategic bombing campaign against Japan and known for his hardline attitude towards his men. While Peck does not have the right stature or the obligatory cigar, he displays many of the same qualities and atittudes - the name Savage probably being chosen tongue in cheek.
On top of that the movie delivers in spades during the Schweinfurt raid scenes - these are takn from original WW2 footage, both from the US bomber crews as well as partially from German archives. The fact that some of the scenes are repeated, some aircraft a bit iffy (early Bf-109E occasionally standing in for the Gs and/or Fw-190s and US P-47s on occasion supposedly portraying Fw-190s) does not really detract as badly from it as it would were the scenes to be shot later for the movie specifically. This is no Memphis Belle [DVD]  - the scenes are real and largely uncommented - not that one needs to say much.
The psychological breakdown of crewmembers and crews, the high sickness rates to avoid what many considered certain death, all of them have been addressed and handled - it is surprisingly unlike your typical US war movie, where the focus is often on the heroic aspect of warfare and is all the better for it. Sure, the footage must show many more German fighters going down for each bomber but overall this is a much more balanced effort that typical of either the time or the country that brought this movie about.