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The War Lover [DVD] 
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Steve McQueen fights his own private battle as a volatile "war lover" in this gripping story based on a novel by John Hersey. Stationed in England during World War II, Buzz Rickson (McQueen) is the bravest Air Force pilot in his squadron and the most reckless. His maniacal quest for thrills takes him to the brink of destruction during the B-17 bombing raids on Germany. But while Buzz's daredevil heroics win the grudging respect of his crew, his rebellious attitude alienates everyone, except his co-pilot, Ed Bolland (Robert Wagner). Ultimately, Buzz destroys even this relationship by pursuing Ed's girlfriend, Daphne (Shirley Anne Field). Featuring spectacular aerial footage, THE WAR LOVER is one of the most explosive adventures you'll ever see!
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Some errors of fact occur, but overall it shines with a good script, good acting and some wonderful flying. It doesn't gush with patriotism, it doesn't force its morality down your throat. A non-intrusive score by Richard Addison rounds out a very worthwhile production. The DVD contains the original trailer (pay no attention, it is rather sensational!!) and subtitles.
Great Britain, 1943. Captain Buzz Rickson (Steve McQueen), an American pilot flying a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, is being watched with a growing concern by his superiors - and ultimately also by his co-pilot, Lieutenant Ed Bollander (Robert Wagner). Rickson is an incredibly gifted pilot, an absolutely fearless man and also a suprisingly charismatic war time leader - but he is also prone to most serious insubordination and mind defying crazy stunts... The flight surgeon who observed him for some time is uncertain whether Rickson is a hero or a psychopath - but hints at the possibility of both those things being true...
Things will ultimately start to go REALLY south when Bollander starts to meet regularly with a young British woman, Daphne (Shirley Ann Field, adorable). Daphne lost her British fiancée already some time ago and tries to move on by engaging into a "no strings attached" war time romance with the young and dashing American officer - but it turns out it is not that simple and the whole thing may get more serious with time... For some reason, this romance enrages Rickson, although he certainly doesn't seem to lack for female companionship and even has a kind of Casanova reputation - even if he is a really nasty @hole in his treatment of women... I will say no more about the story.
I found this film interesting in both of its main plots. The air war against Germany is well shown and even if it contains definitely less action scenes than "Memphis Belle", exactly as one of other reviewers stated this film is actually better. But the main story is not about war but about a very strange and atypical "not-exactly-love" triangle between Rickson, Bollander and Daphne.
The character of Daphne is very well conceived, as a girl both tough and vulnerable, adorably conservative on the surface and in the same time unexpectedly adventurous - and Shirley Ann Field played her perfectly! The character of Bollander was also well thought over, as he is not some kind of romantic guy smitten by a young adorable damzel - much to the contrary, all charming that he may be, he is also in the same time a cynical, tough b@st@rd who looks mostly for a "war time, good as it lasts" comfortable booty call... Although, it may - or may not - change...
But it is of course Rickson who is the center of the film and his character is as equivocal as he is disturbed. He is a riddle, and the director, very wisely, didn't want to give us the solution - although the hints keep accumulating during all the film. Me personally I had the impression, that either Rickson is a deeply closeted homosexual, who is in love with Bollander and insanely jalous, or, and that is my personal favourite hypothesis, he is straight but was rendered completely impotent by an episode from his early teenage years. No matter which one of those answers is true, he has been utterly miserable since like forever and as his whole adult life was dissimulation, acting, pretending and lying, all of this slowly but surely drives him crazy - and suicidal...
Now of course I am not certain if I got this right - so the best thing is for you to watch this film and make up your mind.
Bottom line, this is a good, solid, honest war film, a good, solid, honest war time romance and a good, solid, honest psychological drama. Enjoy!
Wagner backs up McQueen ably as the co-pilot with the reason and common sense to counter-act his leader and soothe their working relationship in the air. Shirley-Ann Field plays the girl with the stiff upper lip Britishness who is attracted to Wagner for his charm and calmness, but is thrilled by McQueen's toughness and directness. She gives a very stiff-looking acting performance that lets the film down on occasion, though probably not helped by the script.
Overall the film is worth buying for those who like me had never seen it before, the sound and quality of the DVD is fine.
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