Monday, July 23, 2018

The WWII movie; not the one with the puppets

FXM Retro is running Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air (often shortened to just Thunder Birds) tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM.

Steve Britt (Preston Foster) is a man who served as a pilot in World War II but is much too old to fly now that it's World War II. So he's made his way to Thunderbird Field out in Arizona, where the Americans are helping to train Chinese and British men to become pilots. His intention is to do his part in the war effort by becoming a flight instructor. Well, that's one of his intentions; the other one is to be closer to his girlfriend Kay (Gene Tierney).

One of the British trainees is Peter Stackhouse (John Sutton). Peter is a doctor from the upper crust of British society, and frankly was doing a good part in the war effort in the medical corps. But all the men in his family had played a much more "obvious" part in the war efforts in this and the previous world war, so Peter feels the need to do so as well. In a flashback, we learn all of this with his grandmother (Dame May Whitty) finding out that another of her grandsons was killed in action.

As you can probably guess from the two paragraphs above, there are going to be two main plot themes throughout the rest of the movie. One is Stackhouse's attempt to become a pilot, which isn't going to go smoothly; in fact he's consistently in danger of washing out and getting sent back to medical work. Not that there should be anything wrong with this, and frankly, you'd think the military would never have let him go to flight school in the first place.

The other plot strain involves Gene Tierney's Kay character, who has to be in the movie for a reason. Kay thinks that Steve has been rather slow in romancing her, so when Stackhouse comes along, she's certainly willing to spend some time with him and suggest that there's going to be some romantic tension. But is her heart really with him?

Thunder Birds is another of those movies that treads over familiar ground, and does so competently. One of the big reasons for the movie was morale-boosting, what with it having been released in late 1942. There's nothing particularly wrong with Thunder Birds, but when it comes to wartime flight training, I preferred The Eagle and the Hawk which I reviewed here not too long ago. One thing that Thunder Birds has going for it, however, is the lovely Technicolor cinematography.

Thunder Birds is, as far as I know, not in print on DVD, so you're going to have to catch the FXM showing.

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