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May 20, 2014

Movie Review: The Blue Max (Blu-ray)

Reviewed By: Mike Heenan

Years before entertaining us all on the small screen as Hannibal Smith on the A-Team, George Peppard enjoyed a great career on the big screen with additions to his resume such as the Carpetbaggers, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and How the West was Won.   In the Blue Max, his role took his career on a different turn from the perennial pretty boy to the tough guy we’ve all come to associate him with.

Peppard plays German pilot Bruno Stachel, born into the middle class and destined for the trenches until he is inspired to greatness in the air in World War 1.  Most pilots were of a higher class and Peppard’s uncomfortableness with his upbringing is evident when questioned about his father’s background.  He emphasizes that his father ran a hotel with five rooms, but the rest of the pilots joke how he must have simply been a lowly janitor.  Stachel is on a quest to receive the Blue Max, an award given to pilots with 20 confirmed enemy downings of their aircrafts.  Several of Stachel’s early downings are questioned due to lack of witnesses and he arrogantly argues for the victory, even going so far as to go back to the scene of the crime for evidence.  Surely enough his tally of downings begins to rise as does his ego and his fellow pilots begin to become wary of him and his attitude.

General Count von Klugermann, played by James Mason, realizes the publicity value of Stachel’s upbringing and carefully crafts the pictures and stories of Stachel’s victories, knowing that the public will eat it up.  Stachel becomes enamored of the General’s wife, played by Ursula Andress, and pursues her, like any man would.  I would.  So would you…. don’t deny it.  Who cares about being thrown in military jail, it’s Ursula Andress!

Stachel ends up with respect when he rescues the Red Baron.  He then flies with the General’s nephew, who downs two pilots and both Stachel and the nephew challenge each other to a flying feat under bridges.  The nephew ends up crashing and killing himself after trying to topple Stachel’s feat, and Stachel is quick to claim the nephew’s two kills.  This finally puts Stachel over the top for the Blue Max.  A subsequent investigation shows Stachel’s guns jammed early on, but the General orders Stachel to be given the Blue Max, which causes Stachel’s commander to resign his role.  The film ends on a somewhat sad note but it makes sense in the grand scope of it all.

Limited to 3000 copies, this disc is another solid issue from Twilight Time.  Picture is a sharp encode with a high bit rate, and looked fantastic on my 10 foot screen.  No issues of edge enhancement were noted.  There is some softness and graininess to the rear screen process shots (it’s not like the studio would actually risk George Peppard flying a real plane) but otherwise it’s top notch.  The soundtrack is a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track, and dialogue is crisp as well as hearing some sub action on the gunfire and bombs.  Also included is a commentary track with Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman who offer interesting tidbits about the production of the film and some great discussion about composer Jerry Goldsmith.  Lastly, the disc contains a 2.0 music track of Goldsmith’s wonderful score. A definite must buy!

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