Friday, September 24, 2010

Dueling Movies - Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo vs. Memphis Belle

     When I did my review of #98 "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo", it reminded me of the recent "Memphis Belle".  They both cover a famous mission and concentrate on one bomber.  Which one is better?  Let's see.
     As you can read in my review, Tokyo is very accurate (maybe too accurate for a modern audience's tastes), but is marred by its silly romantic subplot.  It was a great movie in its time, but does not hold up as well today.  It is definitely old school.
     "Memphis Belle" is based on the famous documentary about the first B-17 crew to complete 25 missions, thus earning the right to go home.  The "remake" is a prime example of how Hollywood loves to bastardize a true story to fill seats.  They took the basic seed of the story and added your stereotypical cast of cute male actors representing different ethnic and social groups (at least they did not have the guts to put an African-American in the crew).  More brazenly, the screenwriter decided to add every air combat cliche he could think of into one movie.  (Making it the air combat equivalent of "U-571")  The most cringe-worthy being the imperiled ball turret gunner.  A single bomber could have gone through an entire 25 missions without having all the crises the "Memphis Belle" goes through in this one mission!  In reality, the 25th mission of the real "Memphis Belle" was a milk run.  I do not blame Hollywood for jazzing up a boring mission, but do you have to lard it on so thick?  And seriously, inventing the notion that a squadron leader had the power to turn the formation around and reattack a target because on the first pass the target was obscured?  Are you kidding?  All of those crews were trying to make it to the magical and depressingly difficult-to-attain 25 mark.  Do you expect us to believe they would have gone back into the maelstrom of German fighters and flak when they had a secondary target they could go to, no questions asked?!  I'm not saying the crews would have disobeyed an order, but that leader would have had some "splainin'" to do back at base.
     Still, I am glad they made the movie simply because we do not get very many air combat movies and it is well made.  The actors are likeable.  Hopefully it motivated some people to Google the real "Memphis Belle" - those guys deserve the recognition.  It certainly gets more positive reaction when I show it to my Military History class than I would get by showing "Tokyo".  And before you ask why I'm hating on a movie that I show in class - I can not show R-rated movies which means the pickings are so slim I sometimes show "Memphis Belle".


  1. That is exactly my point. There are not many air combat movies so we have to be grateful if we get a halfway decent one. Imagine all we had was Top Gun.

  2. What are your thoughts on Flight of the Intruder? It's been a long time since I saw it.

  3. I didn't think it was much better than Top Gun as the end is so super corny. As much as I like Willem Dafoe I couldn't warm to this movie.


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