Friday, April 24, 2015




                The dialogue in “Hell’s Angels” is terrible, even for a silent movie.  The words put in Monte’s mouth are enough to make one throw up.  This is not balanced by Helen’s classic: “Would you be shocked if you put on something more comfortable?”  Thank God there is no cockpit chatter!  F

                “The Blue Max” has some crackling dialogue.  Part of this is due to the soap operaish scenario.  The exchanges between Bruno and Willi are dripping with sarcasm and one-upmanship.  This is one WWI air combat movie that you might want to hear some cockpit chatter, especially during the bridge scene.  A

The Blue Max                        9
Hell’s Angels                         5


                “Hell’s Angels” set the template for swirling dogfights.  It must have wowed the 1930s audiences.  The stunt flying still tops the CGI of modern efforts like “Flyboys”, but comes off as from another era to a modern audience.  The facial contortions of the dying pilots are memorable if creepy.  There is an iconic bombing scene that features some cool collateral explosions that certainly would please a modern audience.  C

                   The effects in “The Blue Max” are quite good, especially the sound of the planes.  This is an underrated effect in air combat movies.  It does feature a “Hell’s Angels” style melee which shows the influence of the earlier film, but also makes the case that a big budget modern film can do it better.  A

The Blue Max                        18
Hell’s Angels                         12


                To make “Hell’s Angels”, Howard Hughes assembled almost 150 WWI era planes including Fokker DVIIs and S.E.5s.  It was an awesome assemblage.  Not to mention the plus seventy WWI pilots (including some aces) who participated in the dogfights.  A+

                “The Blue Max” was produced in 1966 so it did not have the luxury of having WWI planes available like “Hell’s Angels” did.  It had to rely on replicas and some purpose built fighters.  Tiger Moths and Stampe SV.4s stood in for German planes and trainers were mocked up to represent British S.E.5s.  The filmmakers had two Pfalz D.IIIs, three Fokker D.VIIs, and two Fokker Dr.I triplanes made.  The effort that went into verisimilitude was commendable.  A

The Blue Max                        27
Hell’s Angels                         22

FOURTH QUARTER:  Dogfighting

                “Hell’s Angels” has the most famous dogfighting in cinema history and justifiably so.  Howard Hughes was determined to get it right and risked his life.  When his stunt pilots refused to perform a dangerous dive, he did it himself and crashed.  Hughes coordinated the dogfights via radio control from a plane.  He had a large number of WWI pilots performing his choreography.  Three of the pilots were killed during the filming.  The principal stunt pilot was the legendary Paul Mantz.  With that said, the dogfighting is overrated.  The melee may be coordinated by Hughes, but it still comes off as a swirling free for all where you have a hard time telling who is who.  There is also not a lot of it.  C

“The Blue Max” also had a legendary stunt pilot in Derek Piggott.  He did numerous takes flying under the   bridge.  It is one of the great stunt flying exhibitions in cinema.  Most of the other pilots were from the Irish Air Corps.  The stunt flying is great.  A magnificent barrel roll makes it into the film.  The melees show the influence of “Hell’s Angels” and the modern cinematography enhances it.  Because it concentrates on one pilot, there is more dueling and it is easier to follow the opponents.  A

The Blue Max        35
Hell’s Angels          29


                If this tournament was to determine the most influential or significant dogfighting film, “Hell’s Angels” would be in the finals.  However, the tournament is simply to determine the best dogfighting movie.  Classic does not make any difference.  “The Blue Max” falls in a tough to beat category of air combat movie that was able to use actual planes with modern cinematography and did not have to rely on screen shots and more importantly, CGI.  One thing this tournament has proven is that CGI has not reached the stage where it can produce the first great dogfighting film.  “The Blue Max” is simply a better air combat film.  Its plot is shaky, but is not silly like “Hell’s Angels” and the dogfighting is marginally better.

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