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The Flight of the Phoenix: Criterion Collection (1965)

The Flight of the Phoenix: Criterion Collection

There’s no aliens invading or giant tsunami waves or even an earth-killing meteor on its way. No, this classic keeps it simple. With Robert Aldrich in the director’s chair and Hollywood legend, James Stewart, leading the charge, The Flight of the Phoenix is a well-written, old-school disaster movie that does exceedingly well in highlighting the tension and stress between its characters rather trying to impress its audience with stunts and special effects that we are all-too familiar with nowadays. This is DISASTER done right!

"one of Stewart’s best performances"


For veteran pilot Frank Towns (Stewart), the feeling of immense pride in “just getting there” is something that never gets old. He knows how to fly and does it well. On a routine job, Frank and his trusted navigator, Lew Moran (Richard Attenborough), are on their way to Benghazi with a plane full of oil barrels and eclectic group of passengers - Ernest Borgnine, Ian Bannen, Dan Duryea, Peter Finch, George Kennedy, and Hardy Krüger. However, the job is anything but routine when Town’s old cargo plane is unequipped to muscle through a sudden sandstorm in the middle of the harsh desert, and Towns is forced to make a crash-landing, miles off-course. Their only hope now is that someone will come rescue them before they fry in the desert sun…unless one of them can come up with a better plan.

What is great about this film is that each character gets their time to shine. Every man in the film experiences the disaster differently, whether it is having a complete mental breakdown, almost dying from walking the endless desert in search of salvation, or perhaps drawing up a plan to build a new airplane. Their common desperation in this extraordinary event serves as a point of contention, but also a point of unification in the film. The relationships between the men are what drives the film and keeps it interesting. Perhaps you may not agree with many of the characters all of the time, but you certainly understand why they are the way that they are. The Flight of the Phoenix: Criterion Collection

Something that is very interesting about The Flight of the Phoenix is how different it is for Aldrich and Stewart, both. Aldrich, perhaps more known for his noirs and thrillers, and Stewart…well, it is quite refreshing to see Jimmy out of a suit and slicked back hair. And there certainly is none of the glamorous Hollywood women to surround him in this picture. For the Hollywood director, it certainly is an outlier in terms of style, but it is no less powerful. For the acting legend, The Flight of the Phoenix really shows off Stewart’s range. Under the inescapable heat of the desert sun, the guilt and rage of Towns absolutely devours the audience’s attention. It is one of Stewart’s best performances.

Though the film did not really “take-off” (I’m sorry, but I had to) upon its original release in the 1965, today, there is no doubt it is a REEL CLASSIC. And now, courtesy of The Criterion Collection, comes a brand new 2K restoration.

4/5 stars

 

The Flight of the Phoenix: Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- March 22, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

A downed airplane is a motley group of men’s only protection from the relentless desert sun, in this psychologically charged disaster epic, one of the all-time great survival movies. James Stewart is the veteran pilot whose Benghazi-bound plane—carrying passengers played by an unshaven ensemble of screen icons including Richard Attenborough, Ernest Borgnine, Ian Bannen, Dan Duryea, Peter Finch, and George Kennedy—crash-lands in the remote Sahara. As tensions simmer among the survivors, they find themselves forced to trust a coldly logical engineer (Hardy Krüger) whose plan to get them out may just be crazy enough to work—or could kill them all. Directed with characteristic punch by Hollywood iconoclast Robert Aldrich, The Flight of the Phoenix balances adventure with human drama as it conducts a surprising and complex examination of authority, honor, and camaraderie among desperate men.

Video

Presented in its 1.85:1 2K digital restoration, it was created from the 35mm original camera negative. In terms of definition, the film looks fantastic. It is spotless and a virtually perfect transfer. It seems that no film grain was sacrificed during the process either. The color grading is very well done, but it seems a bit too cool for a film taking place in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Audio

The monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm original magnetic tracks. This new uncompressed track sounds clean and healthy. All dialogue, sound effects, and music comes in absolutely clear.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

The little number of special features that are included are great, especially for film nerds. Fun fact: included in the packaging is a model airplane you can build yourself. Criterion’s creativeness never ceases to amaze in their wonderful releases.

  • New conversation between filmmaker Walter Hill and film scholar Alain Silver
  • New interview with biographer Donald Dewey on actor James Stewart and his service as a bomber pilot
  • An essay by filmmaker and critic Gina Telaroli

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


Film Details

flight of phoenix bluray.jpg

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
142 mins
Director
: Robert Aldrich
Writer:
Lukas Heller
Cast:
James Stewart; Richard Attenborough; Peter Finch
Genre
: Adventure | Drama
Tagline:
Sometimes the sun sets men on fire...
Memorable Movie Quote: "Insurance companies move in mysterious ways. Much like God... only far less generous."
Theatrical Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox
Official Site:
Release Date:
December 15, 1965
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 22, 2022.
Synopsis: A downed airplane is a motley group of men's only protection from the relentless desert sun, in this psychologically charged disaster epic, one of the all-time great survival movies. James Stewart is the veteran pilot whose Benghazi-bound plane—carrying passengers played by an unshaven ensemble of screen icons including Richard Attenborough, Ernest Borgnine, Ian Bannen, Dan Duryea, Peter Finch, and George Kennedy—crash-lands in the remote Sahara. As tensions simmer among the survivors, they find themselves forced to trust a coldly logical engineer (Hardy Krüger) whose plan to get them out may just be crazy enough to work—or could kill them all. Directed with characteristic punch by Hollywood iconoclast Robert Aldrich, The Flight of the Phoenix balances adventure with human drama as it conducts a surprising and complex examination of authority, honor, and camaraderie among desperate men.

Art

flight of phoenix bluray.jpg

 

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