Saturday, April 18, 2015


Here is a summary of the first round:

Red Tails (9) 30 Dark Blue World (8) 29
Aces High (11) 34 Tuskegee Airmen (6) 28
Hunters (7) 30 Flyboys (10) 29
Blue Max (5) 32 Red Baron (12) 25
Hell's Angels (4) 29 Top Gun (13) 26
Von Richthofen and Brown (14) Dawn Patrol (3) 29
Angel's Wing (15) 32 Wings (2) 29
Battle of Britain (1) 36 Flying Leathernecks (16) 32

Four lower seeds triumphed which proves critics are not a good way to seed dogfighting films. Some of the upsets were shocking, but not if you watch the movies with a concentration on dogfighting.

The second round is about to begin. Here are the matchups:

Battle of Britain vs. Red Tails
Blue Max vs. Hell's Angels
Aces High vs. Von Richthofen and Brown
Hunters vs. Angel's Wing




                The dialogue in “Battle of Britain” is pretty good, if a bit tame. It is after all an Old School epic.  It uses some quotes from real historical persons.  A good example was when Goring asks Falke (channeling Adolf Galland) what he needs, Falke asks for some Spitfires.  The cockpit chatter is good and includes the memorable “tacka-tacka-tacka” used by Skipper (Robert Shaw) to simulate machine gun fire.  B

                “Red Tails” has some of the most laughable dialogue and chatter of any air combat movie.  The ground scenes are full of platitudes.  Almost everything the core group says is corny.  It gets worse when they are in the air.  “Die you Nazi dogs!”  “How you like that, Mr. Hitler”  The topper is when Pretty Boy actually says “Die, you African fool”.  F

Battle of Britain                   8
Red Tails                                5


                BoB has lots of exploding planes and it becomes a bit redundant.  There are some good interiors of German bombers.  Although the movie is famous for its battle scenes, some of the special effects are dated and it is obvious that sometimes models were used and the bombers were faked.  B

                No two movies could be more dissimilar in effects than these two.  RT is totally reliant on CGI and although it is pristine, it does separate my generation of war movie fans from the audience it was aimed at.  The dogfighting looks video gamish and defies reality.  Planes do things they were physically incapable of then (and now).  The sound effects are below average.  D

Battle of Britain                   16
Red Tails                                11


                BoB used a total of 100 aircraft.  This included three air worthy Hurricanes and twelve Spitfires.  For the Germans, the producers used Spanish versions of the He-111 and Bf-109s.  A+

                RT faithfully reproduces P-40s, P-51s, Bf-109s, Me-262s, and B-17s.  It is a shame it has them do things that are unrealistic.  Why no FW-190s?  No CGI available?  Credit to getting the 99th Pursuit Squadron’s planes accurate. One strange thing is the B-`17s alternate between being camouflaged and silver.  B

Battle of Britain                   26
Red Tails                                19

FOURTH QUARTER:  Dogfighting Quality

                BoB set the gold standard for WWII dogfighting reenactments.  The planes were filmed using a modified B-25 as the camera platform.  The action tends to be chaotic at times and it is not easy to follow the characters.  The crashes look real.  The movie gets the swirling nature of a big dogfight spot on.  B

                The biggest problem with the air combat in RT is it defies reality.  Of course, this would be news to anyone who plays air combat video games.  The planes do maneuvers that are impossible.  You do get a lot of action, however.  C

Battle of Britain           34
Red Tails                      26 


                This was  not even close.  BoB is highly regarded in the war movie community and RT is usually sneered at.  It was an interesting match-up between the Old School real planes versus the New School CGI effects.  Someday CGI will do it better, but that day has not arrived yet.




                The dialogue in “The Hunters” is surprisingly good.  There are some nice lines that have a crisp cynicism to them.  Some of the best lines are given to the alcoholic, low self-esteem Abbott.  But the real key to the movie’s uniqueness is the beatnik slang delivered by Pell.  It was meant to draw a young audience, but instead comes off as hilariously out of place.  The chatter is terse.  A

                The dialogue in “Angel’s Wing” is fine, but the subtitles are sloppy.  The discussions between Henri and Ernest are thought-provoking.  There is no cockpit chatter.  B

The Hunters          9
Angel’s Wing         8


                “The Hunters” is your standard filming fighters chasing each other while being filmed from another aircraft type of production.  There is some reliance of actors in front of screens which is also standard for that era.  The sound effects are excellent when they are not being drowned out by pompous music.  The main effect is seeing the beautiful F-86s zooming around.  This manages to overcome the terrible crash effects.  In one of the lowest moments in disregard for the intelligence of a war movie audience, the movie uses footage of a F-100 standing in for a F-86!  C

                “Angel’s Wing” is not a big budget film and it shows.  However, it does not use CGI.  Instead it uses the same methods as “The Hunters” sans footage, of course.  For a WWI movie, there is a welcome lack of facial views and no screen frontages.  You will not be awed by the effects, but you won’t cringe either.  B

Angel’s Wing         16
The Hunters          16


                The best actor in “The Hunters” is the Super Sabre and it is dynamite.  What a sweet plane!  Unfortunately, the movie is forced to use F-84s as stand-ins for MiGs.  This is unavoidable and acceptable.  In this case the F-84 is equivalent to the T-6 Texans playing Zeros in WWII films.  B

                “Angel’s Wing” has an amazing collection of WWI planes.  You get a rare look at Moranes, Farmans, and a Spad replica.  The Germans include a Rumpler and a Fokker DR1.  A

Angel’s Wing         25
The Hunters          24

FOURTH QUARTER:  Dogfight Quality

                The dogfights in “The Hunters” are choreographed so they look too pristine.  The climactic duel with Casey Jones is blah.  The dogfights seem like an afterthought as the plot is more soap opera / adventure story than air combat.  C

                The air combat in “L’Instinct de L’Ange” is simple, but reflects the actual dogfighting in the early stages of the war.  There are no swirling melees ala “Hell’s Angels”.  Mostly, Henri is a lone wolf.  The acrobatics are outstanding and unlike CGI (which I did not see any of) seem authentic.  The stunt pilots must have been very good.  B

Angel’s Wing   33
The Hunters    31


                I was expecting “The Hunters” to come out on top in this match-up.  It just seemed that “Angel’s Wing” should have just been happy to get this far.  But it moves on.  This is a movie I had never heard of before this tournament.   And a movie that I did not like at first.  It has a certain simple charm to it and the use of period aircraft, simple but effective dogfights, and a different story line has it moving on. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thanks for the "recommendation". That has to be the worst "you should see this" I have ever gotten. By the way, have you seen "Iron Eagle IV" - check it out!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I did not mean to offend you. I meant that you recommended a movie you apparently did not think much of.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I first saw Battle of Britain on a big screen, which really helped with this film. I recall a review in a magazine which said the film "shows air combat as a hellish and terrifying thing."

    It's also a good history lesson.

    1. I'd have to disagree with that quote as it is a bit overblown. The movie is nowhere near the equivalent of the opening scene in "saving Private Ryan", for instance.

      I agree that if you don't want to read up on the Battle of Britain, the movie does an acceptable job as a tutorial.

    2. The quote was in Flying Magazine as I recall.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.