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Visually exciting WWII drama about two naval officers who are trying to understand and prevent altitude sickness. The two men must get past their personal differences in order to conduct the experiments necessary to save lives.
It's not the most he-manly endorsement imaginable, but Dive Bomber must be the prettiest aviation movie ever made. Errol Flynn, Fred MacMurray, and Ralph Bellamy top the cast, but the real star is Technicolor--in particular, a special Monopack developed to take the color process airborne without the cumbrous three-strip cameras used in the studios. Bert Glennon and Winton C. Hoch (once and future cameramen to John Ford) were Oscar-nominated for best color cinematography of 1941, but the flying footage was shot by Howard Hawks's aerial go-to guy Elmer Dyer (The Dawn Patrol, Only Angels Have Wings, Air Force) and Charles Marshall. For his part, director Michael Curtiz set up as many dialogue scenes as possible to include low-level flyovers by U.S. Navy Air Force squadrons. The onscreen results are often breathtaking (and beautifully served by the DVD mastering).
The drama is something else again. Dive Bomber is a bridge between the carefree service comedy-dramas of the '30s and the combat-themed movies that would kick in following December 7, 1941. Warner Bros. knew war was coming (their 1940 Flynn swashbuckler The Sea Hawk had allegorically engaged Hitler!); the heroes here are the flight surgeons and test pilots racing to lick high-altitude sickness so that U.S. flyers would be able to get the drop on their Axis foes once "the main event" started. The best scenes are the lab tests, including an oxygen-deprivation experiment that makes striking use of Technicolor. But the script by aviation-ace-turned-screenwriter Frank "Spig" Wead alternates between two tiresome strategies: nonstop dissing of medicos Flynn and Bellamy by macho flyboys MacMurray and pal Regis Toomey, and low-comedy interludes deploring how exasperating women can be (Alexis Smith is a sacrificial victim in her stellar debut). In this last connection, John Ford's Wead biopic The Wings of Eagles would make an illuminating companion piece for Dive Bomber. --Richard T. Jameson
I was stationed at North Island where the movie was filmed. I was there in 1952, about 10 years after the film was made. I was a Navy pilot so greatly enjoyed the old planes. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Glen Winterscheidt
This movie is worth watching if only to see the doctors smoking cigarettes!
A classic pre-war movie that can't be missed by WWII movie fans.
Film might have been better titled "Flight Surgeon" since it follows Flynn's character. A Navy doctor in Honolulu is on hand as the air group from Enterprise flies in with... Read morePublished 3 months ago by C. Andrews
Great movie in color. All good actors and the scenery is stunning.Published 5 months ago by D'Maria
it's a great movie. The DVD is great quality. I watched it numerous times on AMC & Turner Classic but they don't show it much anymore.Published 5 months ago by Stephen N. Milby
Classic aviation film! Superb color photography that reminds all of us of a simpler era! Five stars!Published 6 months ago by Timothy Weinschenker
Great movie; nice aerial shots of old San Diego Bay and coastline and NAS North Island. Aerial sequences of landing and taking off of the old USS Enterprise were novel at that... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Frederick de la Vega
Wow, Technicolor filmed in the skies of San Diego. And all of those Vindicators and Devastators and Helldivers! This is the best video account of this pre-war period on film. Read morePublished 7 months ago by MattyMatt