The Blue Max

Movie Information

In Brief: Lumbering, overlong WWI picture that boasts some truly stunning flying scenes and solid production values (only somewhat marred by process work). German fighter pilot George Peppard (the only person in the film with an American accent) tries to play social climber by winning the coveted military decoration of the film's title. The story thinks it's a lot more important than it is, and the two-and-a-half-hour running time doesn't help. But for WWI airplane enthusiasts, it's the berries.
Genre: WWI Action Drama
Director: John Guillerman (Shaft in Africa)
Starring: George Peppard, Ursula Andress, James Mason, Jeremy Kemp, Karl Michael Vogler, Anton Diffring
Rated: NR

I realized when watching this that I’d actually seen The Blue Max (1966) twice on its original run. It wasn’t that I liked it that much — its basic appeal for 12-year-old boys was probably almost seeing Ursula Andress topless — but I had a father and a best friend who were both gaga over this sort of war movie. I was sort of along for the ride, but I don’t recall complaining very much. I wonder what they would make of The Blue Max today? (Not sure if I ever really knew how they liked it 47 years ago.) I can’t say I’d thought about the movie in years myself, but I was surprised to see that it’s as much — or more — a pretty hackneyed story about social climbing as it is a war movie. It’s all about poor boy George Peppard (as blandly blonde and boring as ever) trying to make his way into the German aristocracy by becoming a decorated (the coveted medal of the title) ace fighter pilot. (Perhaps Peppard’s plebian status is why he’s the only person in the film who doesn’t have or affect a German accent. Had he made it into the upper classes, could he, too, have an accent?) It’s not terribly compelling stuff — and since this is a big “important” movie, you know it can’t end well. What it mostly has going for it (aside from impressive production values) is the aerial footage of all those vintage airplanes in all its widescreen glory. And — if you can overlook the process work used in the close-ups of the flyers — it’s pretty darned impressive. Now, whether that’s enough to sell the film, only you know.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Blue Max Sunday, Oct. 13, at 2 p.m., in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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