Sunday, March 28, 2010

1955 - STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND, the shame of James Stewart and Anthony Mann

The actor James Stewart was a patriotic guy, so the chance to pay tribute to the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command must have been irresistible. The director of Strategic Air Command, Anthony Mann should have known better.

This is a 1950's feature length recruiting film for the Air Force. What you get here are over 2 hours of watching bombers with hydrogen bombs in them flying around the world. The idea of the Air Force in the 1950's was to keep a permanent fleet of flying bombers loaded with atomic weapons in the air at all times in case we went to war with someone, i.e. Russia or "the other guy" as they are referred to in this film.

This movie is so loaded to appeal to the Republican conservative base, you could probably dust it off and run it at a Tea Party rally.   James Stewart plays a star baseball player called back to duty to serve in the Strategic Air Command thus giving up a lucrative career as a baseball star.   Along with Stewart is his whiny virginal wife June Allyson who is such a pain in the ass it's a puzzlement how they ever got together in the first place.

June Allyson is such a sexless actor that when she announces she's pregnant, it's kind of a wonder how that exactly would have happened. Later in the movie when she is 9 months pregnant she still looks like a virgin. Anyway June's role in the film is to complain about Stewart being back in the Air Force or squeeze oranges for his fresh orange juice.  She just doesn't get that he is flying around saving the United States from godless communism.  After a while you start hoping someone will drop an A bomb on her to end her constant bitching.

In fact the entire film is pitched around the premise that people who don't willingly give up their nice civilian careers and join the United States Air Force to fly around in planes with atomic weapons in them are unpatriotic ingrates.

This was the final film collaboration between Anthony Mann and James Stewart. It's amazing that the liberal Mann and the conservative Stewart stayed together as long as they did. I would certainly rate their film collaborations higher than that of Hitchcock and Stewart. It's regrettable their last film ended with this piece of right wing propaganda.

Stewart and Mann were scheduled to film one more western together called Night Passage. Stewart was to play a railroad agent/detective. Stewart decided that he wanted the character to be an accordion playing railroad agent/detective. Anthony Mann finally had enough and ended their working relationship.

So what do you get out of watching Strategic Air Command?  Well they filmed it in Vista Vision so the aerial shots of the big bombers still look pretty cool even on my TV screen. The only reason to even watch this is to see the B-36 which is one big mother of a bomber, it must have looked pretty cool on the big screen. Anthony Mann's professionalism as a filmmaker pretty much keeps this movie from hitting rock bottom. It's hard to believe Mann even cared about this film while watching it.

It's a little unfair to rip on Stewart too much for this movie. Compared to me he was an actual military hero. He took part in the United States Air Force's worst raid into Germany during World War II which resulted in the deaths of 650 Air Force personnel,  a major screw up. The guy certainly put his money where his mouth was unlike a lot of Hollywood stars during World War II.  It's just unfortunate Stewart associated himself with this piece of junk.

He does look good in a uniform since he actually knew how to wear one.

112 patriotic minutes.


Anonymous said...

Your assessment is crap.

malcolm evans said...

this is an excellent movie I think
with very appropriate actors and actresses in it also it has a great story behind it I enjoyed it that much I went out and purchased the movie on DVD
fantastic stuff