The Flight of the Phoenix Blu-ray

Sunday, 11 September 2016 23:00 Written by 

Flight of the Phoenix - out now on Blu-rayA plane carrying around a dozen men is forced to crash-land in the Sahara Desert after encountering a violent sandstorm. The survivors, a mixture of British army personnel, oilmen, an engineer and a physician, must pull together or die in this harsh environment. Their food and water supplies are limited and they have no way to communicate with civilisation, so it seems that rescue by a search party is their only hope.

Directed by Robert Aldrich (“The Dirty Dozen”, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”), this disaster movie has a very strong cast that includes James Stewart (“Read Window”) as pilot Frank Towns, Richard Attenborough (“The Great Escape”) as his co-pilot, Peter Finch (“Network”) as Captain Harris, Hardy Krüger (“A Bridge Too Far”) as an aeroplane engineer, Ernest Borgnine (“The Wild Bunch”) and Ronald Fraser (“The Wild Geese”).

The film works best as a study of men interacting in incredibly difficult and desperate circumstances. They must endure sweltering heat, freezing nights, a ration of half a cup of water a day and dates as the only food source. The water is projected to run out after 10 or so days, and the temptation to give up or turn on each other is strong.

The question of who will lead the group is a fascinating story component, not least because a number of the men have specialisms that come to the fore during their time in the desert. Towns was in charge as the pilot, but with the plane now in bits perhaps the military should take over to keep everyone in line and fend off any potential external threats? And what about the German engineer, Dorfmann? He thinks they can cannibalise the wreckage and construct a new aircraft to fly them to safety.

The film features very little action aside from the initial crash sequence, which is tense despite the effects having dated quite badly. The 2 hour 22 minute running time does feel slightly stretched but for the most part the drama of men on the edge is compelling.

The make-up is first rate in its depiction of the group’s slow physical deterioration, parched and peeling skin showing the toll being taken. The dramatic soundtrack seems to get more discordant as the movie progresses, marking the increasing psychological fraying and delusional states of the worst-affected survivors.

For me, Attenborough delivers the strongest performance, trying to be the fair-minded diplomat who binds the group together, and his reaction to a shock revelation near the end of the tale is both chilling and amusing.

To sum up, “The Flight of the Phoenix” is a commendable disaster/thriller movie which benefits from a tight focus on a small number of interesting characters. The situation may be bleak but the sense that one should never give up hope is potent.

Special features on the disc include:

  • New high-definition 1080p restoration
  • Uncompressed mono soundtrack
  • Isolated music and effects track
  • New video interview with film historian Sheldon Hall
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard, and archival imagery

The Blu-ray restoration is excellent, highlighting the stunning attention to detail in the makeup work. The actors’ faces tell the story and we get to see them in perfectly clarity.

“The Flight of the Phoenix” (1965) is out now, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment Ltd. The main feature has a running time of 142 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £17.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

 

 

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