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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Flying Fleet
The Flying Fleet
Warner Bros. // Unrated // January 12, 2010
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Wbshop]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 5, 2010 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
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The Movie:
 
Warner Archives have dug into their vaults and released a fun, enjoyable film about the pilots in the US Navy, The Flying Fleet (1929).  Staring the always attractive Ramon Novarro and the equally ravishing Anita Page, this George Hill directed film is a light but entertaining flick with some great flying scenes.  The aerial scenes alone make this a must-buy for early aviation fans.
 


Six buddies who have made it through the Naval Academy together make a vow to all become pilots and fly for the Navy.  It doesn't quite work out that way, with one after another washing out of the program for one reason or another.  Soon there's only two left, Tommy Winslow (Ramon Novarro) and Steve Randall (Ralph Graves).  They may be best friends, but they're both very competitive, each trying to be the best pilot the Navy has and vying for the affections of an attractive girl, Anita (Anita Page).  Their friendly competition turns ugly however when the chance to fly a new plane all the way to Hawaii comes up, and only one of them can go.
 
The real stars of this movie, made with the full cooperation of the Navy, are the planes and the flying.  The plot is pretty thin but the aviation sequences more than make up for that.  At the time this film was made bi-planes were state of the art and it's amazing to see the ground crew hand-cranking the engines to get them started.  Even the advanced plane that is to be flown to Hawaii is a four-person twin engine craft with open cockpits.  The crew has to communicate by passing hand written messages, the navigator takes sightings with a sextant, and the communications officer sends updates in Morris Code.  It seems so primitive from this point in time.
 


Aviation fans with enjoy the frequent flying scenes too.  The sight of a dozen planes taking off across a weed-covered field and taking off together is fun to see, and the scenes of the fleet flying in formation on maneuvers is pretty impressive.  This isn't a war film, so there aren't any combat sequences but planes do perform loops and rolls and there is a mock dog fight that's entertaining.
 
There are some good scenes on the ground too.  Most of these involve the love triangle and seeing Steve constantly tricking Tommy out of spending time with Anita is almost a running gag.  Of course there's never really any doubt as to who will end up with whom (I wonder who is going to get the girl, the star or the unknown?), but that plot was played out nicely and never seemed to drag.
 


The actors were all good, though there really wasn't much enough plot for them to really show off their acting chops. Navarro and Page were both very magnetic and had a lot of screen presence so watching them was always a pleasure. 
 
Director George Hill, who would make his best known movie, The Big House, right after this one, did a very good job, balancing the time in the air and on the ground nicely so that neither one dominated the other.
 


The DVD:


This DVD-R is made on demand by Warner Archives and includes a color cover as well at generic disc art.
 
Audio:
 
The back of the case touts that the movie includes a "new original music score" but I wonder about that.  I believe that this is an old synchronized sound score that was used for a reissue of the movie in the early sound years.  There are a couple of reasons for this:  no one is credited with the score, it more elaborate than most contemporary silent film scores (more on that later), and there's a slight hum in the background.  I can't imagine a newly created score being recorded with background noise.  I could be wrong, but I'd be very surprised.
 
The full orchestra score was very good.  It was scene specific naturally, with Taps being played when a trumpet was sounding on screen for example, but it went above and beyond just nice music.  There were vocal segments when people were singing at the graduation and many sound effects.  Not only knocking on doors, but the roar of plane engines were included, starting out low, gaining in volume as a plane zipped past, and then fading into the distance.  Overall it was an impressive and fun score, only marred by the slight background hum.
 
Video:
 
This disc was mastered from a good, but not perfect, unrestored print.  The level of detail was usually fine, as was the contrast, but there were a lot of spots and scratches throughout the film.  Details tended to disappear in black or white areas, but the blacks were solid and the film could have looked much worse.  Overall it's a fine looking disc, taking the film's age into account, but not spectacular.
 
Extras:
 
Unfortunately there are no extras included.
 
Final Thoughts:
 
I found myself really enjoying this film.  The aviation scenes were great and there was just enough plot to keep the movie interesting and moving.  Novarro is always a joy to watch on screen, and he does an adequate job in this film, as does his costar Anita Page.  While the video is filled with scratches and spots it is definitely a solid transfer.  This film gets a very strong recommendation, especially for aviation buffs.
 
 
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