Air Force

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Overview

Howard Hawks' Air Force (1943) has arrived on DVD in a good full-screen (1.33-to-1) transfer and with a full accompanying program, though no commentary track. The movie is a combination drama/propaganda film that has lost little of its impact across 60 years, most because of the strong performances, several powerful scenes, and Hawks' overall pacing, which makes it feel a lot shorter than its 124 minute running time. The black-and-white movie has been well preserved and looks great, although the quality of the ...
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Overview

Howard Hawks' Air Force (1943) has arrived on DVD in a good full-screen (1.33-to-1) transfer and with a full accompanying program, though no commentary track. The movie is a combination drama/propaganda film that has lost little of its impact across 60 years, most because of the strong performances, several powerful scenes, and Hawks' overall pacing, which makes it feel a lot shorter than its 124 minute running time. The black-and-white movie has been well preserved and looks great, although the quality of the transfer reveals some moments of under-cranking of the camera that this viewer never remembers noticing before, and which seem to be wholly unnecessary to preserving the film's pacing and suspense. The disc also includes a Technicolor short, Women At War, directed by Jean Negulesco and starring Faye Emerson (who has a small role in Air Force) and Robert Warwick, the wartime cartoons Fifth Column Mouse and Scrap Happy Daffy (the latter a Frank Tashlin-directed delight that includes his parody of the Max Fliescher Superman cartoons), plus a radio adaptation of Air Force with George Raft and Harry Carey Sr.; and the movie's theatrical trailer. The movie and related programs look great, but the audio on the main feature is a bit weak. The volume has been set at an extremely low level, which required this reviewer to double the volume level on his monitor. Additionally, the two-hour-and-four-minute movie has been given a mere 12 chapters, which is hardly adequate, given its extended episodic structure. On the positive side, the dual-layer menu is easy to access and maneuver around.
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Special Features

Oscar-Nominated Technicolor Drama Short at War; Classic Cartoons The Fifth-Column Mouse and Scrap Happy Daffy; Audio-Only Bonus: Radio Adaptation With George Raft and Harry Carey; Theatrical Trailer; Subtitles: English, Français & Protuguês (Feature Film Only).
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Howard Hawks primarily made two kinds of movies: breezy, fast-moving, breathlessly paced features of conventional length, and long, serious, very involved, epic-length works that also entailed adventure and excitement, but took their time telling their stories. Air Force is one of the latter, made at the height of World War II, and covering as many bases as possible in its patriotic content, and perhaps a few too many for its own good. Screenwriter Dudley Nichols accomplishes a difficult feat with his script, building tremendous suspense during the first 25 minutes of the picture as the plot leads right into an event -- the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- the outcome of which everyone in the audience (then and now) already knew; he did this by focusing on the personalities of the men involved, and providing just enough detail to their characters so that, coupled with some fine performances, the roles were more than simple stock stereotypes. There are some marvelous sequences scattered throughout this movie, including the preparation for the initial flight, where Hawks introduces the key dramatic characters smoothly and quickly; the banter between the men on that flight, and the increasingly ominous and suspenseful mood as they approach Pearl Harbor; the death of a pilot, with his crew acting out their roles in a take-off that is going on in his imagination as life ebbs from his body; the "bucket brigade" loading gasoline onto the stricken bomber as its crew works frantically to make it air-worthy ahead of the advancing Japanese; and the take-off from Clark Field, which is the emotional payoff of the picture, with the crew finally able to cut loose with their weapons on the enemy swarming around them. Air Force manages to weave its spell through these stunning sequences, even as it defies logic -- if one stopped and thought about it, too much happens to this single air crew within the space of a couple of weeks to be believable, but between them, Hawks, Nichols, and the cast never give you the chance to break that willing suspension of disbelief. There's also a lot more on the tray here than excellent scenes -- Hawks and Nichols did a very good job of providing a multiple climax on Air Force. Had it ended with the take-off from Clark Field, that would have been exciting enough, but they give another 15 minutes of combat, heroics, and action, with ever-larger explosions in an ever-larger canvas of events. In doing so, you finally get to see the B-17 do what it was designed to do -- bomb the hell out of an enemy -- and they even address one of the design flaws in the original plane (no effective tail-gun). In a sense, Air Force is the airborne equivalent of that other great Warner Bros. wartime action release of 1943, Action in the North Atlantic, and almost as rousing and entertaining as well as more stylish. It's a shame to have to cite a major flaw in a movie as enjoyable as this, but modern viewers should beware of the way that Air Force presents the circumstances of the attack on Pearl Harbor: The script claims that Japanese saboteurs at work in the Hawaiian population played an active role in the attack, and that there were Japanese snipers infiltrating ground facilities; there were no Japanese fifth columnists in Hawaii involved in the attack, and the script's slur on the Japanese-American population of Hawaii is something that the movie must live down, and audiences have to get past to enjoy the movie.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/5/2007
  • UPC: 012569599826
  • Original Release: 1943
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 2:04:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Ridgely Capt. Michael A. Quincannon
Gig Young Lt. Xavier Bill Williams
Arthur Kennedy Lt. Tommy McMartin
Harry Carey Sgt. R. L. White
Charles Drake Lt. M. W. Hauser
John Garfield Sgt. John B. Winocki
George Tobias Cpl. B. B. Weinberg
Ward Wood Cpl. Gus Peterson
Ray Montgomery Private H. W. Chester
James Brown Lt. T. A. Rader
Willard Robertson Col.
Moroni Olsen Col. Blake
Edward S. Brophy Sgt. J.J. Callahan
Richard Lane Maj. W.G. Roberts
Bill Crago Lt. Moran
Faye Emerson Susan McMartin
Addison Richards Maj. Daniels
James Flavin Maj. A.M. Bagley
Ann Doran Mary Quincannon
Dorothy Peterson Mrs. Chester
Murray Alper Corporal of Demolition Squad
Lynne Baggett Nurse
Leah Baird 2nd nurse
Henry Blair Quincannon's son
Rand Brooks Co-pilot
James Bush 2nd control officer
Warren Douglas Control officer
Theodore Von Eltz 1st lieutenant
Ross Ford 2nd lieutenant
Ruth Ford Nurse
William Forrest Jack Harper
Sol (Saul) Gorss Sergeant
William Hopper Sergeant
Marjorie Hoshelle Nurse
James Millican Marine with dog
Tom Neal Marine
George Neise Hickam Field Officer
Ted Offenbecker
George Offerman Ground crewman
Stanley Ridges Maj. Mallory
Walter Sande Joe
Technical Credits
Howard Hawks Director
George J. Amy Editor
Roy Davidson Special Effects
Elmer Dyer Cinematographer
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
James Wong Howe Cinematographer
John Hughes Art Director
H.F. Koenekamp Special Effects
Charles Marshall Cinematographer
Dudley Nichols Screenwriter
Jack Sullivan Asst. Director
Elmer Syer Cinematographer
Walter F. Tilford Set Decoration/Design
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Franz Waxman Score Composer
Rex Wimpy Special Effects
William Faulkner Source Author
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Air Force
   Play Movie
   Special Features
      Women at War
      The Fifth-Column Mouse
      Scrap Happy Daffy
      7/12/1943 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast
      Theatrical Trailer
   Languages
      Spoken Languages: English
      Subtitles: English
      Subtitles: Français
      Subtitles: Português
      Subtitles: Off
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A fine film from the early war years

    As a war film buff, I find this a unique drama detailing the early days of the Second World War following the life of a B-17 and its crew. From departing America for Hawaii prior to Dec 7th to the Phillipines, we follow the crew as they fight the enemy and try to rebuild the damaged B-17 to escape to fight another day.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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