Aces High 1976

director: Jack Gold  



Great Britain, France

Alternative Titles

  • Le tigre du ciel



Even in prehistoric times man sought to give an impression of movement to the pictures he painted on his cave walls, and a scarcely less ancient dream was that of flight. When both these ambitions were realized at the turn of the 20th century, it was only natural that the Cinema should from the beginning prove preoccupied with those magnificent men who entrusted their lives to the primitive contraptions of wood, canvas and piano-wire which first made heavier-than-air flight possible. None of the heroes of aviation so appealed to film-makers as the fighter-pilots of the First World War. In the Golden Age of the Cinema, films like Wings, Hell's Angels and The Dawn Patrol were legion and legendary. And the achievements of the Spitfire and Hurricane pilots of World War II in no way changed things, as such films as The Blue Max, The Red Baron and Aces High testify. The makers of Aces High (1976) - award-winning director Jack Gold and Benjamin Fisz, producer of The Battle of Britain - took Journey's End, the famous play about life in the trenches in the First World War, and incorporated additional material from Sagitarius Rising, the reminiscences of First World War flyer Cecil Lewis. Thus the film retains the claustrophopic intensity of R.C.Sheriff's original, while adding the visual excitement of some magnificently staged aerial battles. It tells the story of the young, newlycommissioned pilot Stephen Croft (Peter Firth) who arrives as a replacement at the squadron in France commanded by Major John Gresham (Malcolm McDowell), who had been the popular House Captain at Croft's old public school. Gresham is clearly cracking under the strain of command, but the new arrival is taken under the wing of his avancular second-in-command, Sinclair (Christopher Plummer), until the latter's death in action a few days later. We witness Croft's rapid awakening to the true nature of war and its rituals, his first experience of sex, and finally, only a week after his arrival, his embarkment on a dangerous mission from which few of the squadron will return. As the film ends a desperate, haggard Gresham is seen welcoming the latest batch of young shiny-faced replacements. JACK IBBERSON

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Distributor EMI
Catalogue Number EVH 20220
Release Series
Release Date 1981
Printed Classification
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