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  Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes Take To The Skies
Year: 1965
Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Alberto Sordi, Robert Morley, Gert Fröbe, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Irina Demick, Eric Sykes, Red Skelton, Terry-Thomas, Benny Hill, Yûjirô Ishihara, Flora Robson, Karl Michael Vogler, Tony Hancock, William Rushton
Genre: Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Ever since the days of the cavemen, mankind has yearned to fly like the birds do, but it was not until the twentieth century that this became a regular occurence, not simply in balloons but in mechanical vehicles. One of those early pioneers is Englishman Richard Mays (James Fox), who may be in the British Army but spends his spare time in the skies, much to the entrancement of his girlfriend Patricia (Sarah Miles). However much she wants to fly with him, though, her father Lord Rawnsley (Robert Morley) forbids it, but he doesn't even know she rides a motorbike. Nevertheless, Richard convinces him that manned flight is the future, and something must be done to keep Britain at the forefront...

After It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World did so well at the box office, the rest of the sixties were peppered with extravagant all-star comedies that went on for quite a while at the risk of exhausting their audience, especially if, as with Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and too many others, the jokes were far too mild to sustain the plot. Some say that brevity is the soul of wit, and the snappier you can make your comic efforts the better, so you could judge these bloated would-be laughathons as the opposite of that rule as well as proof that it held true.

Not that they were especially dreadful, indeed many passed the time - quite a substantial amount of it - pleasantly enough and like this film did ensure there was plenty going on. Really when it came to these action-packed comedies it was tempting to say that the stuntmen were the true stars, and the replica aircraft built for the story here couldn't fly themselves. Therefore for aviation fanatics, particularly those of a vintage bent, they could probably have done with this being even longer so as to immerse themselves in this Edwardian world of rickety but somehow attractive modes of transport, which included a fair few vintage cars and even a steam train: they have their followers too, let's not forget.

The narrative is taken up with this great race, as was so often the case with these things (including The Great Race, which was released the same year), with a variety of nations taking part, or rather sending their intrepid adventurers of the skies to compete, all of whom live up to some kind of gentle stereotype or other. This means the Italian entrant, Count Ponticelli (Alberto Sordi, a popular comedian in his home country though Brits will notice his remarkable resemblence to Max Miller), has about ten children, the Frenchman, Dubois (Jean-Pierre Cassel), keeps getting distracted with women he wants to seduce (all played by Irina Demick for some reason), and the Japanese flier (Yûjirô Ishihara) has the technological side all taken care of.

Our main characters in this ensemble are the love triangle between Richard, Patricia and American entrant Orvil Newton (Stuart Whitman), who unlike his rival for the girl actually takes her up in his plane. Oddly, this is never really resolved, so we don't find out who Patricia chooses to be with, which makes the previous two hours plus look a bit of a waste of time, and that's without mentioning how the race itself is finished. Still, if the plotline is something of a letdown, with all these talented performers the humour must be something special, right? Well, not really, as although the spectacle makes this worth your while seasoned actors in the field such as Terry-Thomas (in the bad guy role), Eric Sykes, Benny Hill and Tony Hancock are given little to get their teeth into. In fact, the only part that raises a laugh is Gert Fröbe's German military man and his habit of providing his own oompah band accompaniment; you'll have to hear it to understand what I mean. As a whole, amusing enough, but needed some far better gags. Music by Ron Goodwin, including that famous theme song.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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