The Blue Max

  • Directed by John Guillermin
  • June 30, 1966 (London) / June 21, 1966 (USA)
  • Based on the 1964 novel The Blue Max

A German soldier leaves trench warfare to become a pilot and get his nation’s highest honor-The Blue Max.

The Blue Max is a World War I drama focusing on German pilots in general and specifically one named Lt. Bruno Stachel (George Peppard). Stachel is an ambitious young man with little regard for others. He is cold and indifferent. And he thinks he deserves what he is after.

Peppard was not a bad actor. He was good in How the West Was Won and absolutely perfect in his best-known role of John “Hannibal” Smith in the classic action-adventure series The A-Team. But he doesn’t bring that same magic to his part here. His delivery is a bit flat making Stachel a tough to care about. All too often he has no passion or anger in his delivery.

Stachel begins an affair with his commanding officer’s wife Käti (Ursula Andress). Andress’ character comes off as needing attention rather than being a seductress even though that is how they try to frame her. ‘Seeking attention’ should’ve been made a little stronger. Not to the point of being pathetically needy, but perhaps more seeking the attention of others and Stachel in particular than simply having an affair. It would’ve added an interesting dynamic.

James Mason is Stachel’s commanding officer Generaloberst Graf von Klugermann. His name sounds like something from the Swedish Chef. Klugermann is stoic and a bit old school in his ways. He clearly knows what’s going on between Stachel and his younger wife but appears to be unwilling to act in order to save face. His focus is his image. If he does anything to Stachel as he is becoming viewed as a hero to the German people it will be clearly for personal reasons which will expose the affair. He is trapped.

What I went over here is the beginning of the story and the set up for what ultimately plays into the end of the film. The middle expands upon the relationships and has some of the best aerial combat this side of the first Top Gun. It is some great stuff that is beautiful to see and just impressive.

Interweaved with all this is the development of a prototype plane which the powers that be feel could turn the air war in favor of Germany. Klugermann brings Stachel into its development because of his skill as a pilot. It is a bit of a no-lose scenario as Klugermann will shine if it works and can foist failure on Stachel even if Stachel is doing the horizontal mambo with Käti.

The events of the story are not insulated from real history. Much intersects with what really happened as the scenario and the characters force that. WWI is not the backdrop but rather the stage. This pushes things as it begins to make Stachel an important figure in a story that includes Manfred von Richthofen (Carl Schell) aka The Red Baron.

And this is probably what really sells the film as they come up with a resolution that solves the narrative issue as well as provide a rather great ending. The ending of the film is a demonstration of the prototype plane. Klugermann learns that Stachel lied about two of his kills. Unfortunately prior to this discovery Stachel won The Blue Max with Klugermann having supported him along the way. Now an investigation and court martial is forthcoming which will not only expose Stachel but disgrace Klugermann.

So how does Klugermann fix things? In a rather cold moment Klugermann sends up Stachel after von Richthofen informs him that the struts will not survive any real stress and it is a death trap. Nice and neat and rather cold. No court martial. No investigation. The affair is over. It is all swept under the figurative rug the moment Stachel crashes.

This is an interesting film with a unique point of view for the narrative. It progresses logically and naturally. The costuming is great, and the script is good. And the pacing is great. It just lacks a little something. It is a good drama that has elements of a classic but never is able to make that leap. And that is a shame.

The Blue Max is a great technological achievement and a good dramatic achievement that just needed something a little more to push it over the top. It is a good war film and will certainly satisfy fans of such type of movies.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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