When I was a kid, I loved the grand epic comedies of the 60's. You remember them. Blake Edwards's The
Great Race and Stanley Kramer's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad,
Mad World are the
most famous examples but at the time my favorite was Those
Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew From
London to Paris in 25 Hours, 11 Minutes directed by Ken Annakin. How could you not like that film when you
were 10? Even the name is funny. Over the years it's been largely forgotten,
along with the sequel Those Daring Young
Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies, as has the whole epic comedy race
genre. Not totally forgotten however, as
the great people at Twilight Time has obtained the rights and released
road-show picture on a wonderful looking (and sounding) Blu-ray
through Screen Archives Entertainment.
(It's a limited edition too, so be forewarned
that they may sell out.) But the big
question is: How has it aged?
Actually it stands the test of time better
than I thought it would. While it's not
uproariously hilarious the film is quite amusing through the entire 2
18 minute run time which is quite impressive.
Sarah Miles, Stuart Whitman, and James Fox lead an all-star
cast of mainly British actors in this epic race-farce film. Set in 1910, British Naval officer Richard
Mays (Fox) is one of the few airplane pilots in Britain and has become
enthralled with flight. He wants to
promote aviation and so he approaches his girl friend Patricia's
father, Lord Rawnsley (Robert Morley), about having his newspaper
flying race, London to Paris. Rawnsley
goes for the idea and puts up a huge prize for the winner.
That attracts entries from all over the world
including Scotland, Italy, France, Germany, the western US (Orville
played by Whitman), and even Japan. The
contestants bring a wide and eclectic assortment of flying machines to
tune them up, and set off for Paris!
That's pretty much the plot.
Sure there's a subplot involving Orville and Richard competing
Patricia's affections, and one about a dastardly Englishman who is
win by sabotaging the other planes, but that's about it.
The race is just an excuse to come up with a
lot of jokes about a) early planes and aviation, b) stereotypes of
nations and c) people falling into a pond of raw sewage.
There are also several running gags including
an amusing one where a rich Italian buys, and wrecks, a series of odd
planes. If you're coming to the film for
that, you'll be disappointed.
Surprisingly it still holds up fairly well, though it's
certainly not as funny as it was back in 1965.
Instead of presenting a laugh-a-minute, when seen today this
film is an
enjoyable and amusing two-plus-hour romp.
While I only laughed out loud a couple of times, there was a
smile on my
face through the entire movie and I never was bored or wanting a
distraction. Yes, some of the jokes are
corny, but that
doesn't mean that they're not funny, and slapstick is always enjoyable.
It's also fun to play "where have I seen that actor before"
with the large cast. Benny Hill plays
the local fire chief who is constantly sending his crew out to after a
crash, and Upstairs, Downstairs fans will want to keep an eye out for
Jackson (Mr. Hudson). Other notables
Eric Skyles, perennial nogoodnik Terry-Thomas (who was also in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), Zena
Marshall (the villainess Miss Taro from the Bond film Dr. No), and Red
his last theatrical role). Be sure to
watch both sets of credits for some great art by legendary cartoonist
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 (yep, no dedicated subwoofer
channel) sounds wonderful. The
incredibly catchy theme song (which is still going through my head a
screening the film) and other incidental music is clean, clear, and
strong. It's also mixed well with the
effects and dialog. Granted, it was
45 years ago so there isn't the punch and wallop that today's movie
boast, but the audio is surprisingly full (especially given that there
Like the audio, Twilight Time's 2.20:1 image is
fantastic. The movie was filmed in 70mm,
and the fine detail that the format boasts really shines through on
Blu-ray. The colors are magnificent
too. The last time I saw this was in a
faded copy on TV decades ago and my eyes grew wide when I saw the
picture. I can't really find any flaws
Like most of Twilight Time's offerings, this disc includes
an isolated music track. There's also a
commentary by director Ken Annakin which is a bit dry but still
well worth listening to. He talks about
the process shots that they did and how they decided to film certain
well as discussing the genesis of the project.
The extras also include trailers and TV spots for the film.
When all is said and done, this is a fun, amusing film that
while not hilarious, is a joy to watch.
The folks at Twilight Time have done a wonderful job mastering
Blu-ray disc too. The image if spot-on and the sound is very good too. If you know you like this movie, you should
run out and get a copy right now. If you
haven't seen it before it comes with a solid recommendation.