Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Air Cadet (1951)

AIR CADET isn't exactly a classic, but it's the kind of movie I love: a semi-documentary procedural about the training of Air Force pilots, packed with a most enjoyable cast including Richard Long, Gail Russell, Rock Hudson, and Peggie Castle.

Long, Alex Nicol, and Robert Arthur play cadets who begin training together in Texas, where they're harassed by upperclassman Rock Hudson on a regular basis. After making it through that phase of training, the men are stationed in Arizona for further training.

Charles Drake plays the supportive training captain in Arizona, while Stephen McNally plays the disturbed jerk who's Drake's superior. (I felt his character's accumulated behavior was let off far too easily at the conclusion.) Long having a crush on McNally's estranged wife, Russell, provides a little soap opera on the side. Nicol and Arthur, meanwhile, flirt with pretty flight nurse Castle.

I love aviation films, in general, and although this movie isn't the most polished ever made, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Indeed, I found something rather appealing about its rough, low-budget look, and the extensive location filming at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas and Williams Air Force Base in Arizona is a definite plus. The film utilizes actual Air Force personnel in supporting roles, which adds to the documentary style of many scenes. (Astronaut Gus Grissom is said to be one of the pilots.) Besides showing the nuts and bolts of the pilots' training, the film also has plenty of stirring renditions of "The Wild Blue Yonder" and a patriotic finale.

One reviewer classified the film as "routine" in a two-star review, but while it may certainly have been routine years ago, there's real value and interest in watching this little piece of Korean War era history from six decades ago. I think enjoyment of the film depends in part on how one approaches the movie. A reviewer at IMDb said "...it's a B movie, it's unashamed propaganda for the USAF - and I loved it. This movie is... a real piece of history." I agree.

I found this film to be the most interesting of a trio of '50s Air Force movies I've seen over the last couple years, the other titles being SABRE JET (1953) and BOMBERS B-52 (1957).

The performances are all adequate, with Long, Hudson, and Drake coming off best. Hudson has a relatively small role, but the man had screen presence and it's easy to see why he became a star. There's currently a montage of sharp-looking AIR CADET stills featuring Hudson on YouTube.

AIR CADET was directed by Joseph Pevney, who also directed the aviation film THE CROWDED SKY (1960). It runs 94 minutes. The cast also includes James Best and Parley Baer.

This Universal film is not available on DVD or video.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

"One reviewer classified the film as "routine" in a two-star review, but while it may certainly have been routine years ago, there's real value and interest in watching this little piece of Korean War era history from six decades ago. I think enjoyment of the film depends in part on how one approaches the movie."

Excellent point. I think that makes all the difference.

8:43 AM  

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