Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Pilot #5 (1943) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Franchot Tone, Marsha Hunt, and Gene Kelly star in PILOT #5 (1943), a patriotic WWII programmer from MGM.

It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Having seen DUNKIRK (2017) earlier in the weekend, I thought it would be interesting to also watch a film actually made during the war, and I happened to have this in my review stack.

The film opens on Java, where Allied soldiers from several countries are enduring intense bombing by the Japanese. Pilot George Collins (Tone) suggests equipping their one remaining plane with a large bomb and attempting to hit the Japanese carrier offshore. George is the flyer on what will likely be a suicide mission, but if successful it may save the lives of many men facing increasingly grim odds on the island.

During George's flight his life story is told in flashback by his friends, including his former law partner and fellow pilot Vito Alessandro (Kelly). Each man relates the part of George's story he knows, including the time George's life temporarily went off the rails when he worked for an unethical governor (Howard Freeman); George lost both his fiancee Freddie (Hunt) and his legal business, but he ultimately redeemed himself when he helped put the governor in jail.

Vito engineers a reunion between George and Freddie during a three-day leave, but then George is off to fight in the war...

This is an interesting little movie. It zips along quickly; as further noted below, it apparently was cut down from a longer film and changes course rather abruptly at times, but it's never dull. The final sequence must have had quite an impact when the film was released in the heart of the war, in June 1943.

Tone and Hunt are great favorites of mine, especially Hunt, and it's quite enjoyable watching both actors.

This was Kelly's third film, one of several straight dramatic films he made during his years under contract to MGM. The personable cast also includes Van Johnson and Peter Lawford in early roles.

Dorothy Morris appears in a role as a mentally disturbed young woman which isn't too dissimilar from the part she later played in OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945). The cast also includes Steven Geray, Frank Ferguson, Alan Baxter, Dick Simmons, and Frank Puglia.

There are a number of interesting actresses listed at IMDb who aren't actually in the film, including Marie Windsor, Marilyn Maxwell, Jacqueline White, and Frances Rafferty. There are no "party girls" in the film, nor a carhop or a "Mrs. Claven." Sara Haden doesn't appear as a landlady, either. James Millican is listed as a lieutenant, but I didn't spot him, nor did I see Hobart Cavanaugh as a boat owner. It seems several scenes must have been left on the cutting-room floor of this 71-minute film.

PILOT #5 was directed by George Sidney, who also directed Kelly in ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945), THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948), and PAL JOEY (1957). It was filmed in black and white by Paul Vogel.

The Warner Archive disc is a fine print. The DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Very nice review Laura. This reminds me that I really need to watch more Marsha Hunt movies. She's always a delight.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You can never watch too much Marsha. :) She really is so wonderful! I'm glad you enjoyed the review.

Enjoy catching up with some Marsha Hunt!

Best wishes,

7:44 PM  

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