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HTF REVIEW: Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator (1 Viewer)

Michael Elliott

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Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator


:star::star:/:star::star::star::star:




Studio: Shout Factory!
Year: 2004
Rated: NR
Film Length: 56 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Retail Price: $12.95





Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator tells the story of the famous aviator, movie producer and ladies man from his childhood to his mysterious death. The film chronicles seventy years in the life of Hughes who at one time was considered the most famous man on the planet. With Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated film The Aviator to open soon, Shout Factory! presents this documentary on DVD November 16th for the low retail price of $12.95.

The documentary opens up with interview segments from those who knew Hughes very closely. Terry Moore, his former wife. Robert Maheu, his Senior Executive. George Francom, his personal aide. Jack Real, his personal friend. Al four tell a brief story of the man they knew and then the documentary takes a fast look at the amazing life of an extraordinary man. We start off learning about Hughes childhood, which was marked by tragedy with the death of his parents at a very young age. This here leads to Hughes fascination in airplanes, which we learn he got at a young age and at fifteen the young Hughes turns his bicycle into a motorcycle.

The second act of the documentary pays more attention to his early years in Hollywood and features some very interesting newsreel footage from the premiere of Hell’s Angels, which at the time was the most expensive movie ever made. Jean Harlow, a lover of Hughes, is the main focus of this segment but the narration also covers more bases, mostly other women who were lucky enough to get Hughes in bed. The story then focuses on the start of WW2, which allowed Hughes to fulfill his dreams of building his own airplanes. This here gets the most running time and is very interesting, especially some actual footage of the real Hughes at work.

Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator was written and produced by Bill Schwartz whose previous documentaries included Aliens Exposed and Terror on the Titanic. Like those two, this documentary is very disappointing in the fact that the direction is a bit silly with some very stupid narration. In Katharine Hepburn: All About Me we got a documentary, which was narrated by Hepburn herself and that was a wonderful gimmick because how often do you get to hear the person in question talk about what we’re seeing?

In this documentary the director decided to have Howard Hughes tell us his own story and explain what we’re seeing in the documentary. Of course, Hughes has been dead for many years so we’ve got an impersonator trying to act like Hughes and while this might have been a good idea, the direction of this narration is quite horrible. For starters, I’m not too familiar with Hughes as a man but the narration is constantly using the word damn. I’m certainly not against cussing but it appears this word is overused and it also appears that it’s being used to try and show Hughes as a cool guy.

Another strange thing about the narration occurs during the talk of Hell’s Angels. The narration has Hughes bragging about having to make the film twice, it costing the most money, he did some stunts but then it has him bragging about three people being killed while doing the stunts. I’m sure the director didn’t mean these deaths to be funny but the narration makes it seem as if Hughes was proud of the fact that these people died while making the movie. This was a rather strange segment as was other comments towards various actresses and people.

In the end, I had a rather hard time keeping my mind focus due in large part to this narration, which comes off as a rather poor gimmick than anything else. There’s some wonderful footage here but the documentary runs under an hour so a newbie like me might learn something new about Hughes but I’m sure those who know his career won’t be learning anything new.


VIDEO---The documentary is shown Standard (4:3), which I believe is the correct aspect ratio. Again, I’m not too familiar with Hughes or his life so I’m not sure if the clips used in the documentary appear in better shape somewhere else but I was quite happy with everything here. There are a lot of older clips and for the most part they all look quite good without too much print damage. The newsreel footage is in remarkable shape, especially the premiere of Hell’s Angels. The new interviews also look very good considering how they were filmed. I didn’t notice any digital problems or edge enhancement.

AUDIO---The documentary is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo, which is good but nothing great. The narration is clear throughout and easy to understand and most of the clips used are easy to hear as well. A few of the clips are a bit low sounding but this is due to their age more than the track here.

EXTRAS---Like their Easy Riders, Raging Bulls disc, Shout Factory! has added a whole selection of extras on the second disc. Most of this appears to be outtakes, which take up nearly two hours of time. Considering the documentary was rather short I’m curious to know why some of this stuff just wasn’t added to the doc.

Hughes Conquers Hollywood runs just over 7 minute and features the original theatrical trailers for: The Outlaw, The Conqueror and Jet Fighter. Only The Conqueror is shown widescreen and all three look pretty rough. It appears all of them were taken from a VHS. Takes on the U.S. Government is the complete Universal newsreel, which was briefly seen in the documentary. This here runs just over 11-minutes and is a lot more interesting than the actual documentary since it doesn’t feature the bad narration. The Flying Boat runs over 15-minutes and again is the complete newsreel, which is quite interesting. A lot more detail is given on this massive project so most should find this interesting. The Constellation runs just over 8-minutes and again is a newsreel that takes a deeper looking into the creation that changed passenger aviation. Hughes in Flight: The Real Aviator is a real jewel as we get actual footage of Hughes flying his planes. This here runs just over 9-minutes. Hughes Aircraft Facilities runs 4-minutes and takes us on a tour of the place. It gives us exact dimensions of how big this thing actually is as well as a close look inside. We also get extended interviews with Robert Mahea, Terry Moore, Jack Real and George Francom, which run a total of just under an hour. As in the documentary, these four tell their personal stories about Hughes but sadly I didn’t find any of them too interesting. Perhaps it was good this stuff here was cut down. Finally we get a photo gallery, which contains 67 different photographs ranging from Hughes as a child up until his final years. There’s some nice shots of Hughes working on planes as well as a few from an Oscar party, which are very nice to have.

OVERALL---Martin Scorsese is my favorite director so there’s no doubt I’m looking forward to his version of The Aviator and I was looking forward to this DVD so that I could get to know Hughes a little better. While the documentary is a major disappointment I marginally recommend this DVD since the retail price is very low and the extras are nice. If you’ve already got this stuff in your collection then you might as well skip this but if you want to know a bit about Hughes before the Scorsese film then you might want to pick this up.


Release Date: November 16th, 2004
 

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