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American Experience - Spy in the Sky
American Experience - Spy in the Sky
Actor: Roy Scheider
Director: Linda Garmon
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 0min

The extraordinary spy plane that defused a Cold War arms race and ignited the "U-2 affair." Cold War. New weapons. The threat of World War III. In this high stakes game, how would the U.S. president play his hand? Despi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Roy Scheider
Director: Linda Garmon
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, History, Military History
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/02/2003
Original Release Date: 04/18/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 04/18/2005
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Effective Blend of Cold War History and Aviation Technology
Sure Thing | San Diego County, CA United States | 10/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Next to NOVA - "Supersonic Spies," this is one of the best aviation documentaries ever produced by PBS. It does a marvelous job of describing the tenseness of the Cold War in the 1950s and President Eisenhower's attempts to gain accurate intelligence on the Soviet Union in order to avoid a costly and dangerous arms race, the impetus for building the U-2 in the first place.

The development of the U-2 is chronicled in just the right amount of detail using interviews with men from Lockheed's famous "Skunk Works" team, including some very amusing remarks from legendary test pilot Tony LeVier as well as pilots who flew the U-2 operationally. It is also partly a profile of Lockheed's equally legendary aircraft designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson.

The editing is very well done so that film footage and still photos intertwine nicely with the narration and interviews. The only technical flaw I could speak of is when an incident during U-2 testing forced a pilot to bail out (the U-2 had no ejection seats in those days) and was killed when struck by the aircraft is described. Footage of a pilot obviously strapped into a large ejection seat with very long rails is used.

The story ends with an in-depth recounting of the May 1960 incident in which pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down and captured, effectively ending U-2 overflights of the Soviet Union, though the U-2 would fly on from the Cuban Missile Crisis to Desert Storm.

As far as special features, there really aren't a whole lot; it provides "accessibility" to the PBS American Experience website, but unfortunately there are no pages for this episode there. Some may find the as-broadcast underwriters' spots annoying. Still, since the program content is (as far as I can tell) intact, I highly recommend this DVD to all my fellow aviation enthusiasts and history buffs."