A fun film, despite Stuart Whitman...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 09/28/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Would you like to take a ride in my ornithopter? No? How about a quick jaunt in my aerial steam carriage? Maybe a lift in my oscillating monoplane? It's hard for many of us to imagine when airplanes were not the efficient, quick, safe, and somewhat affordable mode of transportation that they are today, but there was a time when the technology was still in the experimental stage, back in the early 20th century, and that's when the film Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes (1965)...whew! That's one heck of a title...
Directed by Ken Annakin, a British director who gained acclaim working on such Disney films like The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), The Sword and the Rose (1953), and Swiss Family Robinson (1960), Those Magnificent Men (shortened for sanity's sake) stars Stuart Whitman (Call Him Mr. Shatter) and Sarah Miles (The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing). Also appearing are Robert Morley (The African Queen), Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger), Eric Sykes, Benny Hill, Yûjirô Ishihara (Japan's most popular film, TV, and recording star at the time), along with England's most recognizable gap-toothed character actor Terry-Thomas (his most famous roles involve him playing an upper-class British twit, as he does here).
The story is pretty straightforward here...basically, a rich (in both money and snobbery) English newspaper owner named Lord Rawnsley (played by Morley) happens upon an idea, one which would increase his paper's circulation greatly, of having an aeronautical race from London to Paris, with the winner to receive not only a large sum of dough, but the prestige of being the first man to accomplish such a daring feat. Applicants from all over the world begin appearing, most for the money, but some for the honor of their respective country. Orvil Newton (Whitman), arrives from America, Colonel Manfred von Holstein (Fröbe) from Germany, and so on and so on...and lest we forget native Englander Sir Percy Ware-Armitage (Thomas), along with his less than able henchman Courtney (Sykes), a pair of bounders (Sir Percy being the bigger bounder of the two) who will stoop to almost any form of chicanery in order to win the race.
As far as grand, epic comedies go (the film runs roughly 138 minutes, but there is a lengthy intermission about halfway through, for those of you with the weak bladders), this isn't the best in my opinion, but it's certainly not the worst. My favorite has always been It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), with others being Around the World in 80 Days (1956), The Great Race (1965), Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, aka Monte Carlo or Bust (1969). As with any of these films, Those Magnificent Men... has a few separate storylines going on at the same time that tie themselves up by the end, the main one usually being a romantic plot, here being a tepid love triangle between Patricia Rawnsley (played by Miles), whose father is sponsoring the race, Orvil, and a local man named Richard Mays (played by James Fox, who, by the way was involved with Sarah Miles in real life, around the time of the making of this film). I had read somewhere that the makers of this film had originally hoped to get Dick Van Dyke for Whitman's role, but couldn't for whatever reason. Casting Whitman as the male lead was a serious boo boo, as Whitman is one of the most unfunny, uncharming, and unwatchable actors I've seen in a long time. Come to think of it, the entire movie isn't really all that funny, but it does give effort and it has a lot of charm. The working replicas of the old-timey planes are really wonderful, along with the various authentic vehicles displayed, i.e. motorcars, motorcycles, etc. The aeronautical shots were excellent as was the scenery, the Cliffs of Dover, the Eiffel Tower, etc. I was kind of disappointed Terry-Thomas didn't have a bigger part in the film, as his on screen time probably ran about 15 minutes total at most. He plays the pretentious, foppish English twit better than most any other actor I'm familiar with...Come to think of it, I thought there was an awful lot of comic talent appearing in this film, with so little of it actually used (I'm still stuck on the whole `casting of Whitman as the comedic male lead' thing). The rest of the fliers, from various countries (which country made extremely obvious by not only their clothing but manner of speech), fills out a good deal of time. The stereotypes presented (an uptight German lacking a sense of humor, an animated Italian who has like 15 children, an overly amorous Frenchman) are goofy caricatures of themselves, and, while probably not entirely funny, they probably wouldn't offend except for the most sensitive. The special effects in the film are pretty obvious, but the scenes to watch are the ones with planes actually flying. All in all, this is just good fun, and a really good-looking film that can be enjoyed by all.
The wide screen picture on this DVD looks really good, and the sound quality is superior. Special features include a full commentary by the director Ken Annakin (use the Force, ken, use the Force...a lame attempt at humor, to be sure), a theatrical Trailer, a TV spot, various still galleries featuring the actors, the planes, the visual effects, and storyboards. There is also a feature containing conversations with the director. I was surprised to see the amount of special features available here, and beware ye who enter the still galleries, the number of photos seems endless...
R. Monteith | Ft. Lauderdale, FL United States | 03/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally! The 20th Century-Fox 1965 roadshow extravaganza comes to DVD. The movie looks marvelous in what must be a transfer from a restored 70mm print. On my 16X9 HDTV in progressive scan the images are quite stunning for a film of this vintage. The Dolby Digital 5.0 remastering of the original 6-track magnetic soundtrack is also a joy to the ears. This is an old-fashioned entertainment for the entire family. Thanks to its presentation on this new DVD the movie is once again a grand experience. The extras are extensive for such a moderately priced DVD too. Director Ken Annakin provides an interesting commentary track and appears in a new featurette. Somebody at Fox definately loves this movie, one that is a childhood favorite of mine. I saw it in its original release, and also in a 1969 reissue as part of a double feature with Fox's "Planet of the Apes." "The Perfect Mates" the ads said, "Apes and Men." Studios just don't don't do things like that anymore. Anyway, this DVD is a joy!"
C. A. Luster | Burke, VA USA | 03/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a child my dad took our whole family to see any movie that had to do with airplanes. This is one that I enjoyed then and it has aged very well. I think this is one that families today will enjoy as much as we did when it first came out. Even though it is forty years old it was done as a period piece then and the production values were good and the cast and music is great. The message is pretty light stuff and easy to take. Anyone that likes some of the older comedies like "The Great Race" or "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" will enjoy it. The rivalries between the countries competing in the air race and the battle of the sex's are often funny. Airplane enthusiasts will definitely love seeing these pre-WWI airplanes in action. I bought the VHS years ago and I am looking forward to my DVD arriving."
Authenic replicant aircraft top this 16:9 grand comedy DVD!!
forrie | Nashua, NH United States | 05/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"1965 was the year of the big screen action race comedies with lots of stars, grand costumes, lavish sets and authentic classic vehicles. "The Great Race" a 1910 auto race from New York to Paris and the "Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines" a 1910 International Aircraft race from London to Paris.What makes this 1965 Action Comedy so Grand is the attention to detail by Director Ken Annakin who had 6 replica flying machines built by real aero - engineers from the original blue prints and specifications. The accuracy of these replicants even proved the critical pilot weight limitations. They had to even substitute a female stunt pilot to fly the French mono - wing because the original pilot was a very small man. Now available for the first time on a spectacular panoramic 2.20:1 Aspect ratio. (Anamorphic WideScreen DVD (automatically adjusts picture to viewing tv size) with Dolby Surround Sound.) NOTE: THIS IS A FANTASTIC MOVIE TO WATCH ON WIDESCREEN 16:9 HDTV!!!!!This film is 138 minutes and has many extras which include very detailed information and the history regarding all the 1910 vintage aircraft used in the film.With an All-star 1960's International cast; Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Robert Morley, Red Skelton, Gert Frobe, Jean-Pierre Cassal, Benny Hill, Alberto Sordi and Terry Thomas.This is a magnificent movie and the ingenuity and comedy of 1910 flight is a delight to watch on the BIG SCREEN. Enjoy."