Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines on DVD
There were quite a few zany race-type movies during the sixties, from The
Great Race to Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This
ones a British entry about a newspaper-sponsored London to Paris air race
in the early days of aviation.
Its big and sprawling and looks terrific. It has its moments, too, though
its definitely not a knee slapper. Its a more staid, traditionally
stiff upper lip-type of pre-Python British humor, and thats okay.
Its also nicely innocent, from a day when men were gentlemen (most of
them, anyway) and women were ladies (most of them, anyway), a more polite and
genteel age than the coarser society in which we live today.
The idea here is to invite the worlds greatest aviators to race between
two of the greatest capitals of the day (back when France apparently counted
for something), and use the publicity to boost sales of the sponsoring newspaper.
Thats all well and good, but whats a race movie without conflict?
Well, the press baron behind the race (Robert Morley) is dead set on having
a Brit win, for obvious reasons, and he charges his daughters (Sarah Miles)
main squeeze (likeably played by James Fox) to cross the finish line first for
the greater good of the British Empire.
Even more conflict, albeit in a slapstick way, comes from the inevitable villain,
played by Terry-Thomas. Hell stop at nothing to ensure his eventual victory,
though hes also highly incompetent and more than a bit of a klutz.
And of course we must have an American involved, and in this case its
a flying cowboy (Stuart Whitman) who also has a hankerin for Miles. And
since Miles just wants to ride in an airplane and Fox wont take
her up because hes afraid of her father Whitman becomes a handy
guy to have around.
Most of the teams are stereotypes, whether Italian, German (the big cheese
German is played as a stereotypical German by Goldfinger himself, Gert Frobe),
or whatever. This is for its comedic value in an era before political correctness
made movie makers afraid to offend anyone who isnt a heterosexual Christian
Its a terrific-looking period piece, with some neat aviation technology
represented in various forms, and it never takes itself particularly seriously.
The DVDs very good. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible,
the picture quality is very good. The image is sharp, the colors are nice and
theres good contrast.
Audio is Dolby Digital 5.0 surround, which means you can forget about any deep
bass. There isnt a lot of surround, either, which isnt surprising
for a 1960s vintage flick. The audio up front, however, is very good.
The music spreads across the front very well, while the dialogue is mostly, though
not exclusively, in the center channel.
Theyve even included the musical Entracte here, though its
a bit long.
Extras include a running commentary by director Ken Annakin, a making
of featurette, photo gallery, and more.
Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, from 20th Century Fox Home
137 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.20:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.0
Starring Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Alberto Sordi, Robert Morley,
Produced by Stan Margulies
Written by Jack Davies & Ken Annakin, directed by Ken Annakin
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