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Q Planes [DVD]
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Starring alongside Ralph Richardson and Valerie Hobson, Laurence Olivier portrays a test pilot engaged in secret experimental missions in this witty, cleverly plotted World War Two spy drama. Briskly directed by Hollywood veteran Tim Whelan and featuring typically innovative art direction from Vincent Korda, Q Planes is presented here in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements.
The frequent disappearance of new bombing planes on their trial flights - one off the coast of America, one off the French coast, another in Russia, and a fourth in England - has left the authorities perplexed. While there is no clear evidence of foul play, the authorities call in Scotland Yard, and Major Hammond is assigned to investigate the mystery. He is one of only three men who refuse to believe that the disappearances are not the result of sabotage - much to the resentment of Mr Barratt, head of plane manufacturer Barratt and Ward...
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Top Customer Reviews
Directed by an American, Tim Whelan, and co-written by Jack Whittingham author of a couple of later James Bond scripts. Reputedly dialogue between the principals is full of ad-libs and improvisation.
Try to keep track of Major Hammond's umbrella, and his girlfriend.
The story, briefly - Major Hammond, of the S.I.S. ( Ralph Richardson, playing - as another reviewer has pointed out - a sort of prototype John Steed) is convinced that top-secret aircraft the world over are being brought down and their secret apparatus stolen by an un-named foreign power (obviously Germany, though this is never explicitly stated). The latest disappearance is of a British aircraft equipped with a new supercharger. The boss of the aircraft company, an obstinate northerner straight out of the pages of an Arnold Bennett novel, refuses to believe this espionage tale, but his top test-pilot (Tony McVane, played by Laurence Olivier) does, and he and Hammond conspire to unmask the spy working for the company, solve the mystery of the disappearances, and save the world from everything (remember, the war had yet to start).
There is excellent support from Valerie Hobson (playing McVane's love interest) and George Curzon (playing the spy). The film is beautifully made, with excellent photography and, for anoraks such as myself, film of several interesting aeroplanes - Tiger and Gypsy Moths and, above all, the lovely Airspeed Envoy, surely one of the most beautiful aircraft ever to take to the air, and shown here in all its glory, both on the ground and in the air.
A short film of less than 90 minutes duration, this is a light-hearted and enjoyable romp that only the most stony-hearted could fail to enjoy.
The key to it all is Jenkins (George Curzon), a rather unsavoury character who works at the same company which employs McVane and it transpires that the aeroplane’s engines are being neutralised by a secret ray, used by an unnamed government who all speak with German accents.
It’s a glorious bit of hokum - the love interest, McVane and Lawrence, spark nicely off each other with some very witty lines, as do Hammond and his valet Blenkinsop (‘a perfect swine!’), very amusingly portrayed by Gus McNaughton. Major Hammond’s own despairing love interest, Daphne, is nicely played by Sandra Storme (aka Irene Needham) whose cut-glass accent is wondrous to behold - hardly surprising that in real life, she married into the aristocracy.
Muir Mathieson is credited as musical director, although I feel sure that the score was written by Miklos Rózsa (a Korda favourite) and Tim Whelan’s direction keeps the action racing and Ian Dalrymple’s screenplay, the gags flowing.
A lovely piece of nostalgia, released in 1939 - just in time to alert the British public that whatever aeroplanes they possessed had better stay up in the air.
I read that one of the directors, an Arthur B. Woods, was regarded as one of the most promising talents of the time, but was killed in action in 1944.
So, buy this film for yourself and to see what a tremendous talent was cut short. God bless you Mr Woods, along with everyone else involved in this wonderful and uplifting film. Now, do as you're told and buy it NOW!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good idea -- and I never thought Ralph Richardson was such a polished actor. ... and a little funny too.
The plummy accents seem so dated. Read more
A witty and fast paced romp. The 'special effects' are of their era, i.e. not very special, but the interplay between Richardson, Hobson and Olivier make it very worthwhile.Published 2 months ago by Linda Worrell
Offering a handy pre-war blueprint for both the Bond films and The Avengers (Steed and Mrs Peel variety), 1939’s Q Planes sees Laurence Olivier’s bad tempered test pilot and Ralph... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Trevor Willsmer
This film is fantastic to watch: funny and charming!
Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson both played great together in the film!
A rather fun 1930s thriller, some aspects of which have aged rather but which still have a fair amount of pace, wit and tension which more than makes up for the sometimes rather... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mark Pack
Interesting bit of socio-cultural history and cracking romp. Amusing dialogue and decent pace. Ralph Richardson alone is worth the price of admission.Published 12 months ago by Garve