British brothers become world war i pilots and fall for a platinum blonde. Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 12/07/2004 Starring: Ben Lyon James Hall Run time: 135 minutes Rating: Pg Director: Howard Hughes
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 06/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hell?s Angels is an amazing film. It is certainly the best WWI aviation film, although Wings runs it close, and it has flying sequences that are simply staggering, because they are so obviously real. There is a wonderful sequence depicting the attack on an enormous Zeppelin which shows how the giant airship actually operated and gives a sense of its size, slowness and vulnerability. Also worthy of note is a mass dogfight involving a captured German bomber, Baron Von Richthofen?s Flying Circus and what seems like most of the Royal Flying Corps. At times the sky is filled with bi-planes performing thrilling manoeuvres, but the film does not fail to show the individuals in this fight and to point out the horrific human cost of the fighting. Hell?s Angels is in fact surprisingly violent, showing men consumed in flames and screaming to their deaths. Actually it is remarkably frank in a number of ways. Jean Harlow gives a star-making performance which oozes sex. She never looked better especially when uttering her famous line ?Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?? Here is a woman who knows what she wants and doesn?t allow conventions to get in her way. What?s more the film doesn?t attempt to tone-down this characterization. She frankly admits she wants nothing to do with marriage and family values and it is this frankness which must have seemed so shocking to contemporary audiences. Hell?s Angels is also not afraid to show flyers full of fear and questioning the point of the war. It?s most sympathetic character is a coward who just wants to live. The story is thus rather unusual, especially for a war film, for it does not contain the heroics and the heroes so familiar from the genre, but rather shows the grim determination of scared men to get the job done. It is possible to find a few criticisms of this film. The two leading men are only adequate as actors and lack the charisma of more familiar thirties leading men. Furthermore they are not particularly convincing as Englishmen for they make little attempt to disguise their American accents. Also the German characters are a little too stereotypical and at times slightly ludicrous, especially in one scene where they show their Teutonic willingness to die for the Fatherland by jumping from a Zeppelin. The print used for this MCA Universal video is first class. It has been restored so that it includes some tinted night and early morning scenes and includes a wonderful early Technicolor party scene. The sound is better than is often the case with early talkies; there is very little background noise, although there are some snatches of dialogue which are a little indistinct. This is a high quality video and essential viewing for fans of WWI aviation films."
Still remarkably entertaining
Thomas Bumbera | Maplewood, NJ USA | 12/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Three reasons to watch this film: - still-teenaged Jean Harlow, radiant in her only Technicolor footage, and giving a much better performance under the direction of (I assume) James Whale than she would in "Public Enemy" a year later; - a riveting nighttime Zeppelin attack with an astounding payoff; - aerial battle scenes unmatched for realism that truly convey the terror of fights-to-the-death in the skies (apparently three pilots died doing the remarkable stunts).
Ben Lyon is the only lead performer whose acting seems fairly modern and somewhat natural while the other male leads are still stuck in that strange, stilted early-talkie mode (the film was begun as a silent and morphed into a talkie over a two-year shoot spanning 1928-1930). The biggest flaw is the ridiculous stereotypical portrayal of the German commanders as sadistic Huns straight out of a WWI propaganda film; this is the most dated element in what remains, given the period in which it was produced, an amazingly entertaining film, beautifully restored in its current DVD incarnation by UCLA film restoration experts."
A Landmark Aviation Film
Thomas Bumbera | 08/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I happened to catch this film for the first time on the big screen on August 6th, at the classic Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA. What an experience! Yes, the dialogue was corny and somewhat dated, although, I feel that many reviewers tend to somewhat over-exaggerate this just a bit in their assessment of the film. The eight-minute two-color sequence is worth viewing in itself (especially seeing that this is the only existing color footage of the beautiful Jean Harlow) as an early example of the evolution of technicolor. The battle sequences had the audience on the edge of their seats, and the sultry Harlow had the audience in an uproar. All in All, this film is worth owning because of it's historical significance alone, and the non-aerial scenes are quite enjoyable and breath-taking. We must remember that films, like everything else, are products of the era in which they're made, and we must keep in mind that the political correctness which saturates today's films may seem "corny" as well, some fifty-sixty years from now."
One of the great ones!!
Samuel B. King | Concord, NH | 12/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just purchased this video and watched it last night. By any standards it is a stunning work, and, considering when it was made, was a groundbreaking achievement for its time. As reported in other posts, the acting is only pedestrian. However, it was interesting to see Jean Harlow in her prime. One can see why she was viewed as the Marilyn Monroe of her era. This film is worth watching for a variety of reasons. First of all the ariel sequences are amazing, particularly the Zeppelin segment and the final dogfight (over California?). I doubt if any film has surpassed the conveyance of sheer terror in these sequences. Of interest was the pilot who was taking repeated swigs from a bottle hidden in his cockpit to maintain his courage during the dogfight. The sight of so many planes in the air at once rival (and surpass in many respects) similar scenes in the Blue Max. In fact, the films Blue Max and Zeppelin owe much to this film re: their ariel sequences. The other standout feature is the clever use of color. Some early morning sequences are in red tint, night in blue, and, an amazing ballroom scene in multicolor. Whether you are a fan of war films, vintage films or flying, this is a MUST SEE film. A review of it is easy. Watch it and share a bit of the thrill Howard Hughes had when he made his ultimate flying film!!"
An Uneven But Important Film
G M. Stathis | cedar city, utah USA | 02/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Hell's Angels" will no doubt return to public attention for a time because of the success of Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator," and that attention is well deserved. Howard Hughes' World War I epic is notable on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that it introduced Jean Harlow. The flying/action sequences were clearly ahead of their time and still hold up quite well, and this alone puts this film in rare company. There have only been a few notable films about the air war in World War I ("Wings," "Dawn Patrol," "The Blue Max," and maybe "Darling Lili")and this is about as good as it gets. The zeppelin sequence is just simply outstanding. The story and individual acting...well, Huges should have delgated to James Whale who was a part of the production. Harlow does stand out, but that was not difficult. Her peformance was allowed to sizzle (and she did that), and the rest of the cast was not at all memorable. The making of the film is the stuff of legend and that story is becoming known via the hype surrounding "The Aviator" (also a good film). The restored film on DVD is something of a treasure. Rarely do we see films from this era in such good shape. The production evolved in that awkward period between silent film and "talkies" and it shows in places. The dialogue is stilted, and the musical score is only barely serviceable, but the sound effects, like the visuals, are at times unbelievable for the time. A great value at a low price, and well produced and packaged by Universal, this is a must for serious film buffs."