The Blue Max (Bilingual)
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The "Blue Max", a coveted medal for achievement in flying, is ruthlessly sought by Peppard, a poor-boy german soldier who climbs out of the trenches and into the aristorcratic air force. He is met with prejudice by the other contestants, wealthy snobs who look down upon his low ecomomic stature. When he claims the title, he earns the respect of the General and the General's wife, who wants to repay him in ways that the General might not appreciate.
The Blue Max is highly unusual among Hollywood films, not just for being a large-scale drama set during the generally overlooked World War I, but in concentrating on air combat as seen entirely from the German point of view. The story focuses on a lower-class officer, Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), and his obsessive quest to win a Blue Max, a medal awarded for shooting down 20 enemy aircraft. Around this are subplots concerning a propaganda campaign by James Mason's pragmatic general, rivalry with a fellow officer (Jeremy Kemp), and a love affair with a decadent countess (Ursula Andress).
As directed by John Guillermin (who later made The Battle of Britain in 1969), the film's main assets are epic production values, great flying scenes, and stunning dogfights. The weak point is the sometimes ponderous character drama, not helped by Peppard, who is too lightweight an actor to convince as the driven antihero. Clearly influenced by Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1958), The Blue Max is a cold, cynical drama offering a visually breathtaking portrait of a stultified society tearing itself apart during the final months of the Great War. --Gary S. Dalkin
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George Peppard, James Mason, Ursula Andress and Jeremy Kemp are all outstanding in this film. Peppard plays the role of Bruno Stachel; in 1916 Stachel is an infantryman in the German Army lost in the mud and the senseless, anonymous death of trench warfare. He aspires to fly and two years later we find him assigned to a squadron and determined to get his kills and earn the Blue Max, the highest medal Imperial Germany could award. The only problem is that his fellow pilots are all aristocratic blue bloods and Stachel comes from a humble peasant background. His real battle is to win acceptance by the aristocracy and he sees the Blue Max as the way to win this acceptance.
The blue bloods in the German Officer Corps take a more cavalier approach to the war and to winning medals. They believe in class distinctions and chivalry. They represent the old order of aristocratic privilege while Stachel represents the new age just dawning, the age of mass politics and mass culture.
In the end, Stachel gets his medal but not the respect he craved; the aristocrats have used him in a vain attempt to save their world as it vanishes around them.
The film is a delight to watch with outstanding aerial photography and excellent acting by all concerned. Watch for Anton Diffring who also appeared in "Fahrenheit 451" which came out in 1966 as well. Diffring's role is not a key one in "The Blue Max" but I enjoy his acting style and he should get mentioned.
This DVD is the widescreen edition, it comes with French and Spanish available. There is no voiceover from any of the stars or people involved in the production. While there is little in the way of special features on this DVD, the film really doesn't need them, it stands on its own, as a classic.
The recurrent theme is hubris/arrogance and how it affects the human condition. All of the characters are driven by ambition and are amoral to a certain degree. Bruno Stachel has the most humble of origins (a peasant who first served in the trenches) and so is the most arrogant of the characters. He knows he's an ace pilot but is unable to earn the respect of his fellow officers because of his low social status. In his mind, he can earn the social respect he covets by earning the medal: then, he feels, people will have no choice but to respect him. Ironically, the respect he obtains is nothing more than the arrogance of others. Arrogance from his superior (James Mason) who needs to create a hero to look good himself as a commanding officer. Mason is quite the pragmatist in creating a hero to the point of letting Stachel sleep with his wife (Ursula Andress)to boost his confidence. The countess needs the fire of a young hot-head like Stachel to fulfill her desires: she only needs her husband to preserve her lofty title of Countess. Unfortunately for Stachel, there's a price for being the hero, and the greatest heroes are often those who die prematurely. Quite aware of this and tired of being cheated on, Mason's character realizes all too well the value of having the glory of a dead war hero illuminate his stale command.
Alltogether a great film with good cinematography.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A quite realistic look from the German side of the WWI air war with some awesome flight sequences before the age of CGI.Published 1 day ago by GREG DAVIDSON
I have a soft spot for this movie as it was the first of its kind, which shocked audiences with a ruthless hero and a mistress. Read morePublished 13 months ago by OAT
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