The Blue Max


2h 36m 1966

Brief Synopsis

The tactics of a German fighter pilot offend his aristocratic comrades but win him his country's most honored medal, the Blue Max. The General finds him useful as a hero even though his wife also finds him useful as a love object. In the end the General arranges for him to test-fly an untried fighter.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 21 Jun 1966
Production Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Productions
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Country
United Kingdom
Location
Ireland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter (New York, 1964).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 36m
Sound
Mono, 3 Channel Stereo
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Toward the end of World War I, a newly-trained German fighter pilot, Bruno Stachel, becomes unpopular with his fellow pilots because of his determination to win the Blue Max, an award given to German pilots who shoot down 20 enemy planes. When he captures a British observation plane and coldbloodedly shoots it down in order to score a "kill," his action wins the approval of high-ranking Count von Klugermann, who openly applauds the will to win at any cost. Competing with Bruno for top flying honors is the count's nephew, Willi, who is having an affair with his uncle's wife, Kaeti. The calculating Bruno not only takes Kaeti for himself but also maneuvers his rival into a fatal crash and then claims two of Willi's kills as his own. Now eligible for the Blue Max, Bruno refuses to leave the country with Kaeti though he is certain of Germany's eventual defeat. In revenge, Kaeti exposes his false claims at the same moment a court-martial is ordered to investigate Willi's death and other instances of Bruno's disregard for human life. The count, unwilling to permit the hero to be disgraced, deliberately permits Bruno to test a new plane he knows to be faulty. Consequently, Bruno takes flight before a huge crowd and does a spectacular series of air maneuvers before the plane breaks apart in mid-air.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 21 Jun 1966
Production Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Productions
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Country
United Kingdom
Location
Ireland
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter (New York, 1964).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 36m
Sound
Mono, 3 Channel Stereo
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Blue Max on Blu-ray!


Modern genre movies can spend millions on unlimited special effects yet wind up as unimpressive exercises in digital manipulation. Although great work is being done as well, fans are beginning to look back at the critically ignored but lovingly filmed action and war films of the 1950s and '60s with a greater appreciation. Today we never know if our dashing heroes are only being filmed on a green screen stage, and then inserted into images created on a digital level. Watching a film from the '60s, what we see is what we get -- if the producer wants a squadron of aircraft flying in formation on a dawn raid over France, he has to find or build the planes, secure and train the pilots, figure out how to film them plane-to-plane, and then hope that the weather cooperates with his shooting schedule. It's a different experience when we know that real people were there, gambling that their effort will pay off in an impressive shot.

The Blue Max is a rousing WW1 aviation epic filmed on a lavish scale in Ireland with an English and American crew. Its tale of the first air aces has been updated from the old Errol Flynn and Howard Hawks "Dawn Patrol" formula with a cynical attitude toward the 'chivalrous' image of the glorious flying aces, in this case Germans hoping to survive long enough to earn the highest military honor the Kaiser can bestow, a blue and white medal. Blacklistee Ben Barzman contributed to the screenplay, while the main producer Elmo Williams would move on to Fox's even bigger historical war reconstruction Tora! Tora! Tora!

The film finds ways to make a rather grim story exciting, suspenseful and even sexy. Low born Bruno Stachel (George Peppard) transfers from the German infantry to the air corps and finds that he is the only commoner in his squadron. Experienced pilot Willi von Klugermann (Jeremy Kemp) takes a liking to him, despite Stachel's disdain for the chivalric rules of combat. Their competition sharpens when both vie for the attentions of Willi's aunt - Countess Kaeti (Ursula Andress), the notorious wife of General Count von Klugermann (James Mason). The General encourages Kaeti's philandering, and sees in Stachel a propaganda poster boy for the average German, to help steer the country away from Bolshevism. Although Stachel's ruthlessness disgusts his superior Otto Heidemann (Karl Michael Vogler), nothing can keep the pilot's career from soaring.

In 1966 most Americans' knowledge of WW1 flying aces was restricted to the adventures of Snoopy the Dog's efforts to shoot down the Red Baron in the comic strips. The Blue Max takes a decidedly less romantic view of warfare than the old movies with gallant fliers wearing long scarves and goggles. George Peppard was still on a career upswing in 1965 and this show is surely one of his best. Peppard is perfect as a former trench fighter with a chip on his shoulder pitted against his decadent comrades, devil-may-care playboys and titled adventurers. Peppard's Stachel refuses to play the gentleman's game, and ruthlessly assures that his kills are confirmed and tabulated on his campaign for his Blue Max. The sly Willi (maybe Jeremy Kemp's best role) is fascinated by Stachel's crude ways, and engages him in boyish games of competition. Willi only loses his sense of humor when Stachel moves in on his ravishingly desirable & promiscuous "Aunt" Kaeti. In several scenes we see Andress and director John Guillermin playing fast and loose with the Production Code, flashing bits of near-nudity. In one particular scene most male viewers pay such close attention to the position of a towel, they probably miss 50% of the dialogue.

Only James Mason is underused, as the Count whose wife is bedded by the two fliers. He's clearly the most powerful actor present and tends to unbalance the movie. But Mason scores when it comes time for his character to finally rein-in the impulsive and irresponsible Kaeti. One seething look from Mason and Ursula Andress is all but wiped off the screen.

The Blue Max creates an absorbing moral dilemma. Squadron commander Heiderman is a decent fellow untrusting of Stachel's blind ambitions. Believing in an old definition of chivalry, he expects Stachel to honor fallen warriors, particularly those of the enemy. After two years in the trenches Stachel has no interest in such hypocrisy - he sees his duty as killing as many of the enemy as he can, and that's that. Stachel would likely be reprimanded or punished if it weren't for the intervention of James Mason's General Klugerman (Mason). Propaganda and morale is Klugerman's business, and he wants Stachel to personify the workingman hero. He doesn't even care if Stachel may have been invented a couple of his kills, to get the Blue Max all that more quickly. But Stachel will find that the new ruthlessness of war means that even a hero can be expendable, if the high command determines that he's worth more dead than alive.

Director Guillermin and cameraman Douglas Slocombe obtain beautiful images from the Irish countryside. The production appears to have resurrected or constructed a couple of dozen vintage biplanes, tri-planes and at least one experimental monoplane for the film, and the footage of them flying is impressive. The traveling mattes used to show the actors in flight aren't always perfect but the shots are well designed and executed. If you want to see sheer madness in the air, go check out Howard Hughes' old Hells' Angels. The aerial dogfights in The Blue Max are exciting and realistic, and more than sufficiently thrilling.

Guillerman blocks out a "chicken run" daredevil episode for maximum effect, with Stachel and Willi flying under the narrow supports of a stone bridge. The use of space and the wide screen for the final air show / Blue Max ceremony is extremely suspenseful. Several of the main characters are present, but remain hundreds of yards apart while the new hero Bruno Stachel is given the privilege of showing off Germany's impressive new monoplane. With James Mason waxing ironic and Ursula Andress in tears, the dramatics are very nicely worked out.

The Twilight Time Blu-ray of The Blue Max is a big improvement on Fox's old DVD from 2003. The whole look of the film is dark and rich, adding to the freshness of the pre-dawn French fields. The audio is of special interest, as it features a very highly regarded score by Jerry Goldsmith, breaking from his then predominant electronic sound for a lush orchestral feel. It's in 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The disc also has two Isolated Score tracks. The first is the complete music score and the second contains some alternate unused cues, along with a commentary from film music historian John Burlingame, Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo.

An original trailer is also included. Julie Kirgo's perceptive liner notes neatly delineate the perverse relationships between the new breed of German warriors.

By Glenn Erickson
The Blue Max On Blu-Ray!

The Blue Max on Blu-ray!

Modern genre movies can spend millions on unlimited special effects yet wind up as unimpressive exercises in digital manipulation. Although great work is being done as well, fans are beginning to look back at the critically ignored but lovingly filmed action and war films of the 1950s and '60s with a greater appreciation. Today we never know if our dashing heroes are only being filmed on a green screen stage, and then inserted into images created on a digital level. Watching a film from the '60s, what we see is what we get -- if the producer wants a squadron of aircraft flying in formation on a dawn raid over France, he has to find or build the planes, secure and train the pilots, figure out how to film them plane-to-plane, and then hope that the weather cooperates with his shooting schedule. It's a different experience when we know that real people were there, gambling that their effort will pay off in an impressive shot. The Blue Max is a rousing WW1 aviation epic filmed on a lavish scale in Ireland with an English and American crew. Its tale of the first air aces has been updated from the old Errol Flynn and Howard Hawks "Dawn Patrol" formula with a cynical attitude toward the 'chivalrous' image of the glorious flying aces, in this case Germans hoping to survive long enough to earn the highest military honor the Kaiser can bestow, a blue and white medal. Blacklistee Ben Barzman contributed to the screenplay, while the main producer Elmo Williams would move on to Fox's even bigger historical war reconstruction Tora! Tora! Tora! The film finds ways to make a rather grim story exciting, suspenseful and even sexy. Low born Bruno Stachel (George Peppard) transfers from the German infantry to the air corps and finds that he is the only commoner in his squadron. Experienced pilot Willi von Klugermann (Jeremy Kemp) takes a liking to him, despite Stachel's disdain for the chivalric rules of combat. Their competition sharpens when both vie for the attentions of Willi's aunt - Countess Kaeti (Ursula Andress), the notorious wife of General Count von Klugermann (James Mason). The General encourages Kaeti's philandering, and sees in Stachel a propaganda poster boy for the average German, to help steer the country away from Bolshevism. Although Stachel's ruthlessness disgusts his superior Otto Heidemann (Karl Michael Vogler), nothing can keep the pilot's career from soaring. In 1966 most Americans' knowledge of WW1 flying aces was restricted to the adventures of Snoopy the Dog's efforts to shoot down the Red Baron in the comic strips. The Blue Max takes a decidedly less romantic view of warfare than the old movies with gallant fliers wearing long scarves and goggles. George Peppard was still on a career upswing in 1965 and this show is surely one of his best. Peppard is perfect as a former trench fighter with a chip on his shoulder pitted against his decadent comrades, devil-may-care playboys and titled adventurers. Peppard's Stachel refuses to play the gentleman's game, and ruthlessly assures that his kills are confirmed and tabulated on his campaign for his Blue Max. The sly Willi (maybe Jeremy Kemp's best role) is fascinated by Stachel's crude ways, and engages him in boyish games of competition. Willi only loses his sense of humor when Stachel moves in on his ravishingly desirable & promiscuous "Aunt" Kaeti. In several scenes we see Andress and director John Guillermin playing fast and loose with the Production Code, flashing bits of near-nudity. In one particular scene most male viewers pay such close attention to the position of a towel, they probably miss 50% of the dialogue. Only James Mason is underused, as the Count whose wife is bedded by the two fliers. He's clearly the most powerful actor present and tends to unbalance the movie. But Mason scores when it comes time for his character to finally rein-in the impulsive and irresponsible Kaeti. One seething look from Mason and Ursula Andress is all but wiped off the screen. The Blue Max creates an absorbing moral dilemma. Squadron commander Heiderman is a decent fellow untrusting of Stachel's blind ambitions. Believing in an old definition of chivalry, he expects Stachel to honor fallen warriors, particularly those of the enemy. After two years in the trenches Stachel has no interest in such hypocrisy - he sees his duty as killing as many of the enemy as he can, and that's that. Stachel would likely be reprimanded or punished if it weren't for the intervention of James Mason's General Klugerman (Mason). Propaganda and morale is Klugerman's business, and he wants Stachel to personify the workingman hero. He doesn't even care if Stachel may have been invented a couple of his kills, to get the Blue Max all that more quickly. But Stachel will find that the new ruthlessness of war means that even a hero can be expendable, if the high command determines that he's worth more dead than alive. Director Guillermin and cameraman Douglas Slocombe obtain beautiful images from the Irish countryside. The production appears to have resurrected or constructed a couple of dozen vintage biplanes, tri-planes and at least one experimental monoplane for the film, and the footage of them flying is impressive. The traveling mattes used to show the actors in flight aren't always perfect but the shots are well designed and executed. If you want to see sheer madness in the air, go check out Howard Hughes' old Hells' Angels. The aerial dogfights in The Blue Max are exciting and realistic, and more than sufficiently thrilling. Guillerman blocks out a "chicken run" daredevil episode for maximum effect, with Stachel and Willi flying under the narrow supports of a stone bridge. The use of space and the wide screen for the final air show / Blue Max ceremony is extremely suspenseful. Several of the main characters are present, but remain hundreds of yards apart while the new hero Bruno Stachel is given the privilege of showing off Germany's impressive new monoplane. With James Mason waxing ironic and Ursula Andress in tears, the dramatics are very nicely worked out. The Twilight Time Blu-ray of The Blue Max is a big improvement on Fox's old DVD from 2003. The whole look of the film is dark and rich, adding to the freshness of the pre-dawn French fields. The audio is of special interest, as it features a very highly regarded score by Jerry Goldsmith, breaking from his then predominant electronic sound for a lush orchestral feel. It's in 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The disc also has two Isolated Score tracks. The first is the complete music score and the second contains some alternate unused cues, along with a commentary from film music historian John Burlingame, Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. An original trailer is also included. Julie Kirgo's perceptive liner notes neatly delineate the perverse relationships between the new breed of German warriors. By Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Well, aren't you coming? It's an order.
- Willi von Klugermann
Why?
- Bruno Stachel
Because our commanding officer has made it one. He believes in chivalry, Stachel.
- Willi von Klugermann
Chivalry?! To kill a man, then make a ritual out of saluting him -- that's hypocrisy. They kill me, I don't want anyone to salute.
- Bruno Stachel
They probably won't.
- Willi von Klugermann
By the way, Stachel... there's an impression around that... you care more about your unconfirmed kill than you do about Fabian's death.
- Willi von Klugermann
Perhaps it's force of habit. In the trenches, we couldn't even bury the dead; there were too many of them. I've never had the time... to discuss them over a glass of champagne.
- Bruno Stachel
I'm afraid it's rather a small medal, Willi, but it's the highest Germany can give.
- General Count von Klugermann
Stachel. I want him brought to Berlin immediately.
- General Count von Klugermann
Yes, Herr General.
- Aide
There is some difficulty?
- General Count von Klugermann
Well, I don't know what you have in mind, Herr General, but, uh, with the offensive at its height, well, there'd have to be some legitimate excuse to order him to come.
- Aide
He's wounded, isn't he?
- General Count von Klugermann
Take a look outside. See that? Revolution is just beneath the surface! If that happens, everything we stand for will be DESTROYED -- unless the German officer corps stands like a rock, intact! And what is more important, untarnished. I made this Stachel into a national hero for good military reasons. If I court-martial him now, it will reflect on the integrity of the whole officer corps.
- General Count von Klugermann
Herr General, I see now, I have notions of honor which are outdated.
- Otto Heidemann
Ahh, they're not outdated!
- General Count von Klugermann
Stored. With care, and love, for better times.
- General Count von Klugermann

Trivia

In some scenes George Peppard was actually flying his plane.

Technical advice for the film was provided by a group of WW1 plane buffs from Los Angeles.

On a blackboard in Kettering's office in the film you can see the squadron's name and number, Jasta 11. This was actually the name and number of Von Richtofen's Circus.

Notes

Filmed in Ireland. Opened in London in June 1966.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States June 1966

Released in United States Summer June 22, 1966

Released in USA on video.

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer June 22, 1966

Released in United States June 1966