Sunday, November 06, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Strategic Air Command (1955) - An Olive Films Blu-ray Review

I've seen all of the eight films James Stewart made with director Anthony Mann, and STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955) is a personal favorite.

I'm thus happy to report that it's now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

I suspect I may be in the minority when I name STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND as a Mann-Stewart favorite alongside WINCHESTER '73 (1950) and BEND OF THE RIVER (1952). It's not a film which seems to come up in discussion much alongside their Western classics, but it's a movie I enjoy tremendously.

This 112-minute Air Force "procedural," which I first reviewed in 2012, is a real "feel good" film for me; it's beautiful to look at and filled with countless favorite faces.

James Stewart plays Lt. Col. Robert "Dutch" Holland, a successful pro ball player who as the film begins is recalled to active duty to serve in SAC. (My dad has pointed out that the story may have been inspired, at least in part, by the experience of Ted Williams, who was called up from the reserves to serve in the Korean War.) Dutch is initially resentful of his career being interrupted, but comes to appreciate the vital role SAC plays in defending our country during peacetime -- to the extent he ultimately decides to re-enlist.

Of course, it would have been nice if he'd bothered to tell his wife Sally (June Allyson) about the re-enlistment first, and she is understandably upset to have been kept in the dark on such a major life decision. Otherwise she's a grand sport, dealing calmly with whatever Dutch's career changes throw at her.

This Vista Vision movie is a visually beautiful film which looks lovely on the Olive Films Blu-ray. It's quite a step up from the VHS tape I watched a few years ago! The aerial sequences, filmed by Thomas Tutwiler, are gorgeous, as is the rest of the film, shot by William H. Daniels. It's a great look at the '50s, including not only planes but cars and interior design.

STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND is a film where, in addition to fine leads in Stewart and Allyson, the supporting cast gives me great pleasure. One by one they appear on camera: James Millican, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan, Bruce Bennett, Alex Nicol, Harry Morgan, Jay C. Flippen, Rosemary DeCamp. There's something special about this movie-making era, when a single film could have all those faces in the cast!

STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND was a movie James Stewart very much wanted to make. Stewart, who had many years of Air Force service and retired as a Brigadier General in the reserves, felt the country should understand SAC's role defending our nation and secured Air Force cooperation.

The screenplay was by Valentine Davies (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET) and Beirne Lay Jr.; Lay specialized in military subjects and cowrote other excellent films such as TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH (1949), ABOVE AND BEYOND (1952), and THE GALLANT HOURS (1960).

Recommended viewing.

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger john k said...

Oddly enough I watched this last night,I've just received my lovely Olive Films
Blu Ray. It's one of those films I've never seen.and have always wanted to.
It certainly did not let me down-VistaVision films look sensational in high
definition-itself a high-def process.
What I really enjoyed was seeing the interplay between Stewart and his trusty navigator Ike,played by Alex Nicol.What a contrast from Nicol's repulsive Dave
Waggorman character in THE MAN FROM LARAMIE-surely the nastiest bad guy Jimmy ever
There are still a few VistaVision films thus far unreleased-my most wanted titles are
as follows:
HELL'S ISLAND John Payne-Phil Karlson.
SHORT CUT TO HELL-Cagney's only stint as director a most impressive little Noir
MARACAIBO-Oil Well fire film starring and directed by Cornel Wilde
THE DEVIL'S HAIRPIN-very good racing drama again starring and directed by Wilde
THE BUSTER KEATON STORY-This one has a VERY bad reputation,but,hey,I really like
the cast.

There are other VV films on the missing list but these are my "most wanted"

Paging Olive Films.........

6:34 AM  
Blogger john k said...

More High Def talk.....
I've just read Glenn's (DVD Savant) review of the forthcoming Warner Archive Blu Ray of
IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER and here is another "must buy" Musicals as you know are a bit out
of my comfort zone but the extras and the 2.55 ratio make this hard to resist.
Most widescreen films are released to disc in the standard 2.35 ratio but I love the
2.55 ratio although the black bars at the top and base are larger it does give the
viewer far more of a widescreen effect...and I love it.
Twilight Time's THE MAN FROM LARAMIE and JUBAL were in 2.55 as was Warners recent
and sensational looking LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME.
IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER has some great sounding extras which I understand were also on
the DVD. Apart from outtakes and a trailer there are a couple of vintage cartoons,first
a classic Tex Avery Droopy,and most intriguing an anti nuke cartoon in widescreen.
Just to see these wonderful vintage cartoons in high definition has sealed the deal
for me.
Now,and sorry to high-jack this thread,something that really concerns me;I note that
Fox Archives have announced a Blu Ray MOD series and I understand unlike Warners these
will be BD/R discs..not pressed.Even more concerning is that Classicflix have noted
WOMAN'S WORLD as full screen not widescreen. If Fox have the audacity to release Blu Ray
CinemaScope films as 4x3 pan & scan then this is the final insult for movie fans..let's all
hope that it's not so. Furthermore there are so many great Fox CinemaScope films that
have not even made it to DVD as yet.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John!

What a great coincidence you just saw this too!

It really is fun watching Stewart interact with Nicol in this -- what a contrast from THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, as you point out.

Great list of the VistaVision we still need to be released.

IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER is on the lower end of MGM musicals for me -- well done with some great numbers but on the downer side. Still, might be taking a look at the Warner Archive Blu-ray!

If Fox puts out the same awful pans & scans on Blu-ray that they've released on Hard to believe.

Always love to talk over new and wished-for releases!

Best wishes,

7:02 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,

I am happy to report that Oldies have announced that WOMAN'S WORLD will in fact be
released in 2.55 widescreen-let's hope that this is correct.
So many great Fox CinemaScope films that have never even had a DVD release to name a few:
NONE BUT THE BRAVE. Furthermore it would be wonderful to see some of Fox's pan & scan horrors
corrected especially SON OF ROBIN HOOD and SIERRA BARON.

7:43 AM  
Blogger john k said...

As an "add on" to the above there were several pictures titled NONE BUT THE BRAVE.
The USA title was FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE starring Richard Basehart and directed by
George Sherman-shot by the great Alex Phillips.

8:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you so much for the added info, John! Let's hope we see Fox clean up their act going forward!!

Always appreciate you keeping me and my readers up to speed on DVD news and wish lists.

Best wishes,

12:13 PM  

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