20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Driven by ambition, lust and glory-hunting
Filmed in Ireland (which explains the somewhat puzzling absence of trenches and mud in many of the aerial dogfighting shots, and the even more puzzling sight of the Irish parliament building in Dublin, a city masquerading as Berlin), this film is interesting in that the First World War's Western Front is merely the backdrop to a story surrounding a man who finds himself...
Published on 16 Feb 2003 by Christopher Crossley
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thank Gawd for James Mason
I usually enjoy this film but mainly for the few good actors in it. I never tire of watching the late James Mason anyway and Jeremy Kemp was a good supporter. Harry Towb is part of my youth, being frequently in TV plays of the fifties and always enjoyable to watch. For the rest ~ well they weren't so bad either.
This film, though based on a book written decades...
Published on 14 July 2009 by Kered Nosta
Most Helpful First | Newest First
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Driven by ambition, lust and glory-hunting,
This review is from: The Blue Max [VHS] (1966) (VHS Tape)
Filmed in Ireland (which explains the somewhat puzzling absence of trenches and mud in many of the aerial dogfighting shots, and the even more puzzling sight of the Irish parliament building in Dublin, a city masquerading as Berlin), this film is interesting in that the First World War's Western Front is merely the backdrop to a story surrounding a man who finds himself fighting not just the enemy (the British in this case), but fighting the attitudes of his fellow aviators.
Bruno Stachel (ably played by George Peppard) is a man who intends to climb not just out of the trenches but into the air, but also in terms of his social status as he does anything he believes appropriate in order to win the so-called "Blue Max", the highest medal the Germans awarded for gallantry until 1918. While his commanding officer, Otto Heidemann (Karl Michael Vogler) detests what he perceives as a low-lifer who totally disregards "how the upper class does things", the Countess von Klugermann (Ursula Andress) finds this man somewhat fascinating purely because she wants something different and wants to know what makes Stachel tick.
It is somewhat puzzling as to why her husband, the General (James Mason), and her nephew, Willi (Jeremy Kemp), do or say nothing to chase away this upstart from this upper-crust man-chaser, yet undoubtedly, in the absence of the actual fighting at the front, the sub-plots needed to work, interwoven as they are with the main plot involving Willi himself, who wins the medal after destroying 20 enemy aircraft. Stachel's ambitions are spurred when Willi is awarded the medal, though he is somewhat shaken after his rival (and, dare I say it, friend) accidentally ends up crashing into a lone chimney stack and killing himself after a reckless stunt to prove who was better at flying aeroplanes.
His commanding officer's prejudice is well maintained (kudos to Vogler) and is unremitting even when he demands that the general have Stachel court-martialled for disobeying orders, only for the latter to refuse outright - the man was now a hero to the common people, something that the general had planned once he realised Stachel's abilities. Heidemann then realises that the war did not revolve around individuals and that what had been certain and applicable before was not necessarily applicable now. He is therefore forced to back down.
Yet a white lie by Stachel, who rejects a fiery Countess's advances, landed him unknowingly in a predicament that he remains totally unaware of. Given the ending (which is different to that in Jack Hunter's original novel, but which I won't reveal here), it reveals that just as people are prepared to put them up on pedestals, so the same people are prepared to drag them down in as shocking a way as possible.
This is a well-done movie about the human psyche in time of war, not a collective psyche as seen in many American war movies like "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket", but of an individual who stands out and makes his mark by bucking the trend as very much a non-conformist who does things his way and doesn't care who knows it or who objects to it. Peppard does an excellent job, even though, back in 1966, he was not a star and was surrounded by star actors like Mason and Andress (who'd been in THAT bikini just a few years before when Connery popped up). Like "Battle of Britain", filmed over England in 1968, the aerial sequences are spectacular and well done but they remain strictly secondary and do not overpower the plot.
Personally, I would have liked the film to explore more of Stachel's personality - about what really drove a working-class man to reach new heights in the face of a social class whose way of thinking and acting was totally alien and anathema to him. His involvement with the Countess seemed also a bizarre sub-plot, but, as in "Zeppelin" (1971), her involvement was merely to serve as a (female) distraction in a male-dominated society that would change irretrievably after the fall of Imperial Germany in 1918.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Despite its flaws, still the best airborne WW1 talkie,
Very much Room at the Top with biplanes and battlefields instead of bedsits and boardrooms, The Blue Max follows the progress of Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), a former German infantryman who sees becoming an air ace as a means of climbing out of the trenches and up the social ladder. While aristocratic general James Mason uses him to provide the demoralised working class with a hero of their own and the general's wife (Ursula Andress, modelling a line of gravity-defying towels evidently superglued to her nipples) uses him to pass the time, his desire to win the Blue Max, the highest award Germany can give, to prove that he is as good as his condescending, socially superior comrades sets him at odds with Karl Michael Vogler's squadron commander, who simply wants to fight the war with chivalry, and Jeremy Kemp's famous ace.
This is one of those films that should be great but never quite makes it. Part of the problem is the watering down of Jack D. Hunter's original novel, which saw Stachel and his buddy Hermann go on to form Hitler's Luftwaffe, a more convincing conclusion to the class warfare and erosion of aristocratic values that the one the film offers in its place. Similarly Jerry's Goldsmith's beautiful and justly celebrated score found itself equally watered down, with many of his most ambitious and powerful cues either left unused or heavily abridged to fit in more plays of his soaring and euphoric main title (the full score has since been restored on CD, and it's an interesting experiment to play the unused cues alongside the film). Hopefully someday Fox might get round to a special edition with the option to hear the full score as originally intended.
Although one of the few films from the Sixties where when a plane crashes it doesn't go over a hill to do it, it suffers in comparison to silent classic Wings both from its back projection - it's dogfights never quite have the terror or adrenaline rush to push them that extra yard - and its lack of that film's real emotional power. Peppard still displays the early promise that was never quite fulfilled as the charismatic but utterly ruthless working-class obsessive, striking a nice balance between defensive vulnerability in his early scenes and unbridled ambition in his latter ones, but he is more a character you understand than sympathise with.
John Guillermin's direction is certainly ambitious with a striking use of the camera and a particularly effective use of tracking shots, though some of the tilted angles and overhead shots can make it seem a little Ipcress File at times. Yet if never entirely successful, there is still a lot to recommend it. It retains its schoolboy appeal without insulting the intelligence, is superbly designed and holds the interest throughout, while Skeets Kelly's aerial work is often astounding. And when its ambitions are occasionally realised, such as the bombing of an infantry column or a mass attack, it's strikingly effective.
Although the current release of the film is barebones - just the film's original trailer - it does restore the ten minutes of cuts from the widescreen video release, which omitted the entire attack sequence that saw Stachel saving the Red Baron's life and earning The Blue Max!
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Different from the book - but a good aviation film,
If you compare the film to the original book they are quite different in many respects. In the book the ruthless ambition of the central character, Bruno Stachel (a pilot in the German Army Air Service) enables him to survive the war while 'better' men are destroyed and, it is implied, that Stachel finds his thoughts and talents perfectly in tune with those of a nascent Nazi leader. The Stachel of the film is killed in the final scene - his ambition destroys him in the end and it is the good men who survive. Perhaps in the 1960s the film world could not quite accept an ending which implied that evil might well triumph after all. George Peppard's Stachel is not quite as successful nor as hard as his model in the written work but Peppard does portray, quite well, this young man's use of the officer corps of the German Army Air Service and his (dishonestly secured) fame as a fighter pilot as a means of escaping from lower middle class mediocrity.
That said this is one of those 'good' flying pictures. OK, we know that some of the aircraft used were Tiger Moths and Stampes painted accordingly though to be fair the film also arranged for replica Fokker DrIs (the famous 'Triplane'), Pfalz DIIIs and Fokker DVIIs to be built especially and they add some solid authenticity (on the other hand, the a/c are camouflaged in schemes that they never wore in service for greater dramatic effect). Nevertheless there are moments in the flying sequences when the camera (and Peppard to be fair) does capture those occassions when (to those of us who love flying) flight can be pure joy.
The very beginning of the picture when Stachel, as an infantryman of the German Army in the trenches of 1916 looks up to see two aircraft dogfighting (and is entranced by the 'silver' spectacle which contrasts with the mud and ooze of his existence), over which Jerry Goldsmith's terrific theme music is slowly introduced, is certainly one of my favourite film moments.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars World War One Air Combat,
This is one of a generation of great war films that were made in the 1960s. It is an exciting dramatic picture, which focuses on a low-born pilot, who finds himself in a squadron of aristocratic pilots. His only ambition is to win the Blue Max, and his ruthless ambition causes him not to win many friends. The one person who is attracted to him is Kaeti, wife of a German general. Their affair, while crucial to the story, is quite boring to watch, but the air combat scenes make up for it. They are breathtaking, and while there are some historical anachronisms and use of Tiger Moths in some scenes. Otherwise, a very entertaining picture, which complements the other great WW1 air combat epic, Aces high, very well.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the Best.,
This film was made pre-C.G.I. and it really shows and is all the better for it, I hasten to add, compared to the not so good Fly Boys and the very poor Red Baron, both these two films were totally ruined by unrealistic dogfights filling the screen with far too many planes, absolutely ridiculous and the action scenes were way too brief, unlike The Blue Max which still hasn't been equalled, let alone beaten yet.
What's wrong with film directors and producers these days must they continually wait for Steven Spielberg to show them how its done? What I mean is there's a real opening here for a decent WW1 flying film, he should pick up the gauntlet and make a really great one, you could rest assured that if he did, it would be really good; maybe one about Eddie Rickenbacker of the 'Hat Through the Ring' squadron or in my opinion the greatest German Ace, Werner Voss or even the French pilot Nungesser now he was a real character or better still the greatest and bravest pilot ever, William George Barker the Canadian Ace who won his V.C. for taking on some 40 enemy planes mostly Fokker DV11s, which was the best plane at that time and was only given to experienced German pilots... (sigh) we can only but wait.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pour le merite,
Stirring up the tension of the last days of Imperial Germany and blending this with the war in the sky over the Western front gives the film a great setting. George Peppard captures the role perfectly and shows that the war in the air is losing its gallant edge.
Stirring music and great acting add a edge to this film which although a bit dated now in effects is still one of the best WWI movies out there alongside All Quiet on the Western Front.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film on a parallel to Aces High,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Blue Max [VHS] (1966) (VHS Tape)
Although made earlier, Blue Max complements Aces High in that it portrays the German view, and Aces High that of the British and French. Aerial combat scenes are little detered by the age that they are beginning to show,and still deliver that vital punch at the beginning of the film to wet the watchers' appitite. The stoyline is good, and deals with the rivalry and the aviators' wants for success well. The aircraft used are not always the actual ones the German forces actually used, but nonetheless help to convey the feel of a real working airfield throughout the film. A very enjoyable film to the entusiast and casual watcher alike.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy memories renewed,
Time was, in the 1970s, this film was omnipresent on British TV when sport or other programmes were cancelled (this, and 633 Squadron). So a certain weariness set in about seeing it - but then, it disappeared and has rarely been shown since. The tale is of an infantryman from 'the lower orders' who, seeing an aerial dogfight determines to join the fliers and gain Germany's highest award, the Pour Le Merite - or the Blue Max of the title - for 20 aerial kills. En route he treads on many toes and makes many enemies, which may be his undoing. Filmed in the big style of 60s blockbusters, Peppard glows as the anti-hero, but the limitations of his acting style are evident later, especially up against masters such as James Mason as the opportunist General who sees propaganda uses in this upstart - but only so far. Ursula Andress (dubbed as always) is Mason's younger, trophy wife who adds to the tension. The aerial sequences are well done for the time. An unusual 'extra' is the inclusion of the full 'Intermission' - so do go make a cuppa - accompanied by elements of Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score. A rare WW1-themed movie on the large scale; well worth adding to a collection.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid ariel photography in this excellent film,
George Peppard clearly has a great deal to prove as a civilian wounded in the carnage of the trenches of WW1.He sees the heroic and galant pilots flying a different war above and desides to enlist seeing the glamour of the fighter aces.
He is never really seen as one of the unit,the majority of the squadron are officers from the upper classes who live life to the full drinking champagne and eating excellent food.
The scenes of trench warfare are amongst the finest ever filmed and the film magnificently captures that era of the Great War.
The only way Bruno Stachell the character played really well by Peppard can prove himself to his superiors is in the air.
The awarding ceremony of the coveted Pour Le Merit or Blue Max to the squadron leader brings on a singleminded determination to win the award for himself.
It is this part of the film where the ariel cinematography is the making of this film.
Peppard through all devious and less devious actions sees his kill tally steadily rise to that elusive target of twenty kills when then few piolts lasted longer than a few weeks.
His ability as a pilot sees the famous Von Rhichtoffen offer him the opportunity to join his squadron but he declines wishing to remain with his unit.
James Mason the distinguished General and his gorgeous younger wife played by Ursula Andress soon learn of his prowess in the air,and it is Mason who eventually presents Peppard with the highest honour of Prussia THE BLUE MAX.
Peppard's stunning looks attract Ursula Andress and the two carry on a secret love affair.
Peppards fame as the common soldier who becomes a famous air ace is great moral for a Prussia that clearly is loosing the war.
As a great honour Peppard is allowed to be the first pilot to test the far from safe new monoplane that if successfull could turn the tide of the war.
Peppard has become to big a hero and must be quickly removed from the scene,and the finally of the film sees a tearfull Ursula Andress and James Mason listen to the plane crash to the ground.
Her secret of the pashionate love affair is out and the scandal of the upper class ladies fling with a commoner must be kept secret.
The Blue Max is one of those magnificent war time dramas that came out of the sixties and early seventies and its a shame such films donot get regular coverage.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Blue Max by John Guillerman (Blu-ray)
Used & New from: £39.99