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    The Blue Max Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox Twilight Time

    Feb 19 2014 02:40 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    John Guillermin’s The Blue Max is an epic length film without an epic length story. It has exhilarating aerial photography and an interesting antihero at its core, but this is one film which has been stretched out far longer than it should have been with an unnecessary and not particularly remarkable romantic subplot and not quite enough tension in its battle scenes. Still, it's something to see, and World War I buffs are likely to really appreciate it.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: Twilight Time
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 36 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 02/11/2014
    • MSRP: $29.95

    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    Brash, talented aviator Bruno Stachel (George Peppard) has taken less than two years to progress from an infantry corporal to a lieutenant in the German air corps. He’s embarrassed about his lack of an aristocratic background (his fellow flyers all seem to be of the upper class), but he can challenge anyone of them in the air, and his skills can be put to good use in 1918 as Germany is pushing for an all-out forward offensive trying to make the Allies capitulate before the Americans can arrive en masse. Though his commander Colonel Otto Heidemann (Karl Michael Vogler) dislikes his cocky ways, General Count von Klugermann (James Mason) sees in Stachel a brave man he can build into a national hero (especially after he saves the Red Baron – Carl Schell – during an air skirmish with a British plane), so much so that he even ignores his wife’s (Ursula Andress) sexual dalliances with him and with Stachel’s friend and rival Willi von Klugermann (Jeremy Kemp). More than anything, though, Stachel wants to win the Blue Max, the highest aviation medal awarded only to pilots who have twenty corroborated kill shots against enemy planes.

    The screenplay has the names of David Pursall, Jack Seddon, and Gerald Hanley adorning it (and with several other hands working on the adaptation of the novel by Jack D. Hunter), but there still isn’t really enough story to justify the length of two-and-a-half hours simply with continual evidence about how much of a jerk Stachel is by disregarding orders, ignoring the safety of his fellow officers, and taking credit for kills that were achieved by others. What distinguishes the film are the several aerial sequences which have been photographed majestically and which sometimes achieve some worthwhile tension during a couple of heavy dogfight sequences (the major German offensive against the Allies with ground fighting and air support is an especially eye-opening set piece as directed by John Guillermin) or most especially in the climactic test of a new monoplane that Stachel had been enthusiastic in endorsing. The romantic subplot with Stachel seducing the general’s wife played by Ursula Andress seems like an afterthought, inserted just for a change of pace from the male-heavy cast of flyers and grounds crew but with no particular sexual sparks struck between the two gorgeous actors.

    With a cast once again of mixed nationalities (see my review of The 300 Spartans), accents are a jumbled bed of American, British, German, and other nationalities all playing Germans. George Peppard had many times before played the braggadocios schemer to fine effect, and he’s just as good here even without any kind of accent. But Ursula Andress gives a miserable performance of stilted phrases and uncomfortable body language, burdened by deeply cut gowns and flowing or over-elaborate 1960s hairstyles which are definitely not period but which emphasize her major physical assets. As the two in command of the flying regiment, both James Mason and Karl Michael Vogler bring pomp and circumstance to their acting, both ably portraying men who have different senses of what makes for honor and national pride. Jeremy Kemp is playful and crassly agreeable as the randy rival of Stachel’s, while Carl Schell’s one scene as charismatic Baron Von Richthofen makes one regret more wasn’t done with his character in the story.

    Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film’s 2.35:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio is faithfully presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This is another triumphant Fox transfer offering a sparklingly clear and detailed image which boasts excellent sharpness and beautiful color with its crisp blues and deep reds all registering magnificently. Black levels are superb throughout, and there are no instances of age-related artifacts to ruin the visual presentation. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    While the film won’t rival any modern war or action films with its sound mix, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track boasts strong fidelity and excellent reproduction of the surround mixes of the era. There is a lot of use of the front soundstage with panning effects and all manner of ambient sounds while the rear channels are used for nice support of Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score that complements the spread of the music across the front soundstage. Dialogue is always discernible and has been placed in the center channel.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Audio Commentary: film historians Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo, and Jon Burlingame share their track with a few additional Jerry Goldsmith music cues, all welcome additions to the disc. The discussion allows Miss Kirgo to discuss the film’s pluses and minuses while Burlingame focuses on Goldsmith’s music, all overseen and expertly hosted by Redman.

    Isolated Music Track: Jerry Goldsmith’s highly praised score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

    Theatrical Trailer (3:09, SD)

    Six-Page Booklet: black and white and color stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enlightening background and overview of the movie are included in the booklet.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    The Blue Max may be a trifle overlong, but some of the scintillating characters and the exciting World War I battle action especially in the skies make it a movie well worth investing time in. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if any are still available. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    11 Comments

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Feb 19 2014 05:34 PM

    I was on the fence about this one, and I hate unnecessary romantic sub-plots in war movies, but from what you say about the picture and sound I'll have to pick it up. Nice review!

    Photo
    davidHartzog
    Feb 19 2014 06:42 PM
    Nice review. 4/5 is about right. The novel had a lot more content, and Stachel lived to return in a sequel.
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    Panavision70
    Feb 20 2014 08:51 AM

    I thought it was odd the Fox would produce a roadshow in Cinemascope and not Todd-AO in 1966. I guess it cost too much to do the aerial footage with 70mm equipment

    That seems as reasonable explanation as any.

    Is it just me or is there a cyan color sheen to the image that overlays, for example, the grays of the flyers' uniforms and the browns of Ms Andress' clothes?  It gets pretty thick at times with James Mason's grayish cyan uniform matching the cyan tones of his office.  Even the shot of the eponymous medal at the intermission makes it look like the Cyan Max.  I've  compared it to the HD transfer on VUDU and there seems to be no doubt as to this anomaly.  VUDU's version has the proper hues. So far, I haven't heard word one from anyone on the subject.

     

    Nice to hear those omitted Goldsmith musical sequences back in their proper place on track 2!

    I was on the fence about this one, and I hate unnecessary romantic sub-plots in war movies.

    Perhaps call it the "Midway Effect."

    Photo
    haineshisway
    Feb 22 2014 01:45 PM

    Is it just me or is there a cyan color sheen to the image that overlays, for example, the grays of the flyers' uniforms and the browns of Ms Andress' clothes?  It gets pretty thick at times with James Mason's grayish cyan uniform matching the cyan tones of his office.  Even the shot of the eponymous medal at the intermission makes it look like the Cyan Max.  I've  compared it to the HD transfer on VUDU and there seems to be no doubt as to this anomaly.  VUDU's version has the proper hues. So far, I haven't heard word one from anyone on the subject.

     

    Nice to hear those omitted Goldsmith musical sequences back in their proper place on track 2!

    You've heard plenty of words on this subject. :)  You seem to like faded Eastman color on your 60s movies, and that's fine.  It is not, however, what the Blue Max ever looked like.  MattH's video score and thoughts on the color are exactly right.  

    I was on the fence about this one, and I hate unnecessary romantic sub-plots in war movies, but from what you say about the picture and sound I'll have to pick it up. Nice review!


    I think the romantic subplot added a lot to the film. It involves several characters and has much to do with how the story is resolved. And who can complain about Ursula Andress looking stunning in a 60‘s film?
      • Robin9 likes this
    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Feb 22 2014 05:17 PM

    . And who can complain about Ursula Andress looking stunning in a 60‘s film?

     

    Well, there is that!

    The Blue Max Blu-ray Review

    John Guillermin’s The Blue Max is an epic length film without an epic length story . . . . but . . . which has been stretched out far longer than it should have been 

     

    I know what you mean and to some extent I agree but there are two ways of looking at this. The other way is to ask; what would you have cut out?  Ursula Andress and the romantic sub-plot? Certainly not! Some of the aerial footage? Never! The drinking and carousing scenes? What for? They add color and dimension. The "rivalry" scenes with Jeremy Kemp? He's the best thing in the movie!

     

    There is not a single scene I would want to lose.

      • davidHartzog, ahollis, JoHud and 1 other like this

    I thought it was odd the Fox would produce a roadshow in Cinemascope and not Todd-AO in 1966.

     

     

    The decision to release "The Blue Max" as a roadshow was made after the film had been shot.  

     

    And, on a similar subject... to coincide with the release of the new Blu-ray from Twilight Time (and CD soundtrack from La-La Land Records), for my film history column at The Digital Bits I've put together a retrospective piece for "The Blue Max."  Please take a peek if you're a fan of the film. I've included an overview of the film's roadshow release and an interview segment regarding Jerry Goldsmith's music in the film.

    http://www.thedigita...how-engagements

      • Neil S. Bulk and ahollis like this