The Flight of the Phoenix

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

Recently, a string of films had come out trying to update old ideas with a new spin and one was a curious choice. Having not seen this one curious choice in its new updating, it brought this viewer to watch the original that tells the tale of isolation, danger, and the little bit of hope in the middle of the desert with a plane, many men, and all of the activity within this region. The film starts with a emergency landing in a sandstorm to lead up to The Flight of the Phoenix.

On a trip to Benghazi, the pilot (James Stewart) and the co-pilot (Richard Attenborough) encounter a heavy heap of sand that takes out one of the engines of the plane. With no place else to turn and a bigger storm ahead, both choose to land their plane full of passengers in an emergency landing within the middle of the Sahara desert. After shaking off the cobwebs and the tiresome climate of heat and exhaustion, many of the passengers start to get restless, delusional and in some cases close to death. It’s within one German passenger (Hardy Krueger) that an alternate plan to reconstruct the plane can bring some hope to getting out, but even that task has it’s heavy weight of burden on all of their shoulders. It also doesn’t hurt to include the moment of the Borgnine smile in between the struggle.

With the pace of a great pageturner, The Flight of the Phoenix takes every five minutes to tell the tale in the most simplest of ways without the advancement of special effects or cliches. There are some roadblocks and some bits of exposition but their handled in a very professional manner thanks to the able ensemble cast and the direction of Robert Aldrich, who’s also directed such fine ensemble pieces as The Dirty Dozen and the original Longest Yard.

It still amazed me that this director never did a wide film in the long career of his which this film would’ve benefited from greatly (the updating did correct this, but as of writing this I’ve still yet to see it). Nevertheless, the film is not about aspect ratio, but it gives it’s great premise some validity and gives the viewer a sense of putting them in one of the character’s place if they were put in the same position under the same circumstances.

The overall result is an easy view, an entertaining ride of character conflict proportions and a long running length that the audience doesn’t register thanks to the well told feel of the piece. The Flight of the Phoenix comes up from the lowest form and triumphs into the wild blue yonder.

Video: How does it look?

The Flight of the Phoenix shares it’s first 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment in any form. On this DVD, the result is a beautiful picture that suffers once or twice from some specks evident on the print in sandy moments and in a few camera shots showing characters in distant moments. For a film that’s a little more than forty years old, the transfer holds up very well despite the slight age in the print. The colors are pretty solid and not too drained throughout and made for a very good transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track doesn’t fare as well as the transfer due to the muted nature of the track and the fact that several scenes in the film have a muteness that goes further down audibly than in other scenes in the piece. The center channels benefit the most from this track, with dialogue, effects and the score by DeVol (best known for The Brady Bunch and playing Happy Kyne of Happy Kyne and the Mirth Makers on Fernwood/America 2 Night) with little coming from the outer channels and suffering in certain scenes due to the age of the track. It’s a good one but not a great one. This disc also has English, French and Spanish Mono tracks along with English and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The only extras on this release is the Theatrical, Spanish and Portuguese (both subtitled) trailers of the film all anamorphic and all illustrate the great title sequence of the film along with the sloppy sound as well.

The Flight of the Phoenix tells the survival tale between many men, the complications in between and the efforts to keep themselves alive despite the difficulties all around. It’s a fine film and a fine affordable DVD.

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