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Although Fox has released THE BLUE MAX ($15) on DVD as part of their latest War Classics promotion, I donít know if the film truly fits into that particular category. THE BLUE MAX is indeed set during the First World War; however, the war itself seems almost inconsequential to the storytelling. In fact, THE BLUE MAX is more of a cinematic love letter to early aviation and the wondrous planes that were flown during World War One, than an actual movie about the war. Now, as movies about flying go, THE BLUE MAX is nothing short of a dazzling spectacle of beautiful aerial photography and brilliant camera work that capture the flights and dogfights of these historic aircraft from the ground.

The plot of THE BLUE MAX focuses on an ambitious, and seemingly ruthless German aviator named Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), who entered the flyer corps after having spent two years at the front lines as a foot soldier. Because of his humble origins, Bruno is eager to prove his skills as an aviator, especially to his fellow officers, who are all of noble blood. Brunoís determination to attain The Blue Max, the medal awarded for twenty kills in the air, borders on obsession and is responsible for several of the more questionable choices he makes. The solid cast of THE BLUE MAX also features James Mason, Ursula Andress, Jeremy Kemp, Karl Michael Vogler and Anton Diffring.

20th Century Home Entertainment has made THE BLUE MAX available on DVD in an excellent 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is a very good effort by Fox, although it isnít perfect. The film element used for the transfer is free from any serious signs of age or damage, however there are a number of minor blemishes that crop up during the course of the presentation. Film grain is noticeable in various places, especially during optical effects and occasionally in the aerial photography. The image itself is generally sharp and very well defined, with sequences shot under controlled studio lighting looking the best. Color reproduction is rather variable; sometimes hues appear quite vibrant and at other times they look a bit faded- again, the optical processing appears to be the culprit. Blacks appear accurate, whites seem clean and shadow detail is good for a mid-1960s production. The dual layer DVD doesnít betray any noticeable signs of digital compression artifacts.

THE BLUE MAX comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack, which decodes to standard surround. Other than the flying and combat sequences, THE BLUE MAX is very much dialogue driven, so it is only Jerry Goldsmithís score that offers any kind of stereo imaging during these "quite" passages. Speaking of the score, it sounds reasonably good, although there are times when the music comes across as being just a little bit brittle. As one might expect from a vintage soundtrack remixed into Dolby Surround, the forward soundstage tend to dominate the mix. The rear channels add ambient sound and very mild effects to the dogfights and bombing raids, but wonít impress anyone used to modern sound mixes. French and Spanish monaural tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as American, Spanish and Portuguese theatrical trailers for THE BLUE MAX, plus trailers for 13 RUE MADELEINE, THE DESERT FOX, THE ENEMY BELOW, SINK THE BISMARCK! and HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON.

THE BLUE MAX is a film that I happen to like very much because of its flying sequences and love affair with the vintage aircraft of the WWI era. Fox has done a very nice job with the DVD, offering a presentation the will keep fans happy. Additionally, the bargain price makes the DVD more than worth acquiring.



The Blue Max (1966)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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