"The Blue Max"
Twilight Time Blu-Ray Review
Starring George Peppard, James Mason
and Ursula Andress
Directed By John Guillermin
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition /Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
SUBTITLES: English SDH
1966 / Color/2 Hours 36 MInutes/Not Rated
There were many film spectacles released in the 1960's such as "Cleopatra", "Spartacus", "The Great Escape", and "Lawrence of Arabia" that came out and literally filled the big screen in more ways than one both visually and production wise. Fox's "The Blue Max" was one of those films released by the famed studio in Cinemascope and directed by John Guillermin, who would go on to directed two memorable spectacles of the 1970's in the brilliant "The Towering Inferno" and "King Kong". This film following "The Rapture" which he directed for Fox, stars future "The A-Team" star George Peppard as Lt. Bruno Stachel, a first class, but arrrogant German fighter pilot whose unconventional tactics offend his aristocratic comrades but win him his country's most honored medal, the Blue Max. General Count Von Klugermann (James Mason, The Verdict) finds him useful as a hero even though his wife Countess Kaiti (Ursula Andress, "Dr. No) also finds him even more useful as a love object. In the end the General arranges for him to test-fly an untried fighter that would lead to a rather (spoiler alert) fitting end to the wreckless pilot.
The film was based on a surprisingly best selling novel by Jack Hunter, the film features some of the most loathesome characters ever seen on screen. I mean Peppard is easily unlikeable and inaccessible as a person. James Mason is doing the best he can playing what seems to be a rather conventional role of a jealous and bitter villain and Ursula Andress is beautiful and sexy eye candy, but she herself is just as unlikeable as everyone else despite a few moments where there is some humanity to her. The films' real saving grace in my opinion is the film's beautiful cinematography by the late Douglas Slocombe, who would provide his brilliant work for the "Indiana Jones" films decades later and the work of late Jerry Goldsmith, who really had a tough assignment musically trying to find a solid tone for the film, but trying to make these characters likeable musically.
Twilight Time's Blu-Ray is a very good release and a good upgrade from the DVD where both Slocumbe's cinematography and Goldsmith's music really do get the full benefits of the format. The film's exceptional arieal sequences are lovingly enjoyable in high definition and the picture quality is very good for a film that is over 50 years old. For those expecting a full restoration digitally, you'll be disappointed on that front as the film as not aged that gracefully in that respect. The audio is definitely a great showcase here with excellent clear sound and no problems at all with Goldsmith's score really soaring majestically with every frame the music appears in. The special features are pretty much devoted to Goldsmith with an isolated score track lovingly cared for by Mike Mattesino (who has done every single one of the TT isolated score tracks) and the second features a great commentary by TT producer Nick Redman, writers Julie Kirgo and Jon Burlingame, that really informative and features some alternate music by Goldsmith that is discussed in detail along with the films' short comings and issues. The blu-ray comes with an excellent detailed booklet featuring an essay by Kirgo, which is always welcomed and features her excellent writing.
"The Blue Max" is one of the those films that is just simply overbloated for all the wrong reasons and too good to be good at all. It really is hard to get into a film when you have many unlikeable characters that really don't have any redeeming values to them. The main reasons to see this is just simply for Goldsmith and Slocumbe's superior efforts for a film that clearly didn't deserve it. A real shame this film didn't amount to much more than it could've. A disappointment.