Customer Reviews: The War Lover
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on June 1, 2001
"The War Lover" is another war film with a love triangle at its center. This time Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner and Shirley Ann Field are the lovers caught in the web. However, McQueen's unique style and the excellent aerial photography of the B 17s on their bombing runs are this film's greatest assets and make it a must for lovers of this genre. This is a British film and it looks and feels like it, which only adds to the authenticity. Highly underrated and forgotten these days.
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on May 3, 2006
For those war film buffs who can't get enough of "12 O'Clock High," this is the next best B-17 film, WWII, in the books. In fact, you would think it was just a sequel, another chapter,from that other film. The cast is nearly as impressive: Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner, even the gawky, future Phantom Of The Opera and Shirley Anne Field. Adapted from the John Hersey novel, this is authentic to the details. On-location footage in England, stock air-to-air combat realism, interior footage make this real in every way. Every war had its off-beat hero, probably every platoon, a guy who takes every death-defying mission, even to spare some greenhorn, yet does his glorious best. The camaraderie, class elitism on base is accurate to the letter. Custer had it coming, and he went anyway. This is the way it was, catch a ride.
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on February 18, 2000
The War Lover is a movie that anyone who fan of B17's or Action movies will enjoy.The Bomb runs scenes are the very realistic and with movie being shot in glorious Black & White it allows for some real war footage to be nicely added in. McQueen does and excellent job as Pilot Buzz Rickson and the cast that is built around him and co-star Robert Wagner work well together. Worth the price of admission. If you liked The Memphis Belle you will love this movie.
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on April 16, 2008
I first saw this film when I was about 8 years old (1962), when it was first released to the theater. I have remembered details from it ever since.

The acting is fine and McQueen is excellent as the sociopath after whom the movie is titled. I had never considered that he was playing the role of a sociopath. The narcissism, lack of empathy, lack of a conscience, hyper-competitiveness, the "the rules aren't made for me" attitude, the conviction of superiority--all well done by McQueen. The only part which I didn't believe was his final comments to Robert Wagner at the end. I guess they wanted to rehabilitate his character for us. With all the weirdness going on daily in our country and the world now (it didn't seem like that in 1962) the sociopathic personality is much better known and more quickly recognized now. I'm trying to say McQueen's portrayal was excellent.

The B-17's shown and the flying sequences are the best I've seen. A note of trivia--the bombers shown are actually B-17G's, which did not appear until well-after 1943, but who's complaining? Even the interior shots on the plane demonstrated a realism and attention to detail that would put Hollywood to shame. To this day I recall the belly gunner--"Junior"--in that ball turret and getting wounded the first time I saw the film.

The DVD I purchased had no "extra's". It came with widescreen and standard. The transfer was excellent.

I strongly recommend this film, though I suspect it will not appeal much to the teen audience looking for the usual movie fare these days.
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on November 17, 2009
I read John Hersey's novel the War Lover and later saw the movie when I was in my teens. It was the first adult novel I read. The novel and the movie were among the most profound influences on me at the time. In the novel, the story is seen through the eyes of Lt. Boman (who is Lt. Boland in the movie) and is the co pilot on the B-17 bomber they call "The Body." The pilot is Captain Buzz Marrow (whose name in the movie is Buzz Rickson) and he is the war lover. I'll use the movie names for the review. The movie does not employ Boland as the narrator; the story is told in the third person.

On one level, it is an excellent account of the 8th Army Air Force and their strategic bombing missions over occupied Europe and Nazi Germany. It features the B-17 bomber and the Norden bomb sight. The movie had the authentic look and feel of 1940's England in my father's photographs. It also shows starkly the dangers of those missions. As destructive as the bombing was on the ground, the toll on men and airplanes was staggering. The 1,000 plane mission over Leipzig cost 300 planes shot down and another 150 came back too damaged to fly again. The toll on the surviving crews were terrible as well. This story puts names and faces on those numbers.

On another level, it is a psychological story about Rickson. Rickson is the best pilot in the outfit and most of the crew is loyal to him. He is something of a rebel; he doesn't do things by the book. He also is highly competitive. Whether flying in the squadron or engaging in barroom contests, he has to come out on top. He wants things done his way and when his crew or his superiors let him down, he retaliates. Howard Koch in writing the script advances the story by peeling the skin off the onion layer by layer from Rickson's barroom jousts to his attempt to steal Daphne away from Boland. When Rickson buzzes the field over his disappointment with dropping leaflets rather than bombs, the colonel calls in Boland and the flight surgeon to evaluate Ricksons fitness to fly. Boland remains loyal but he discovers Ricksons disloyalty to other crew members. The flight surgeon tells Boland there is a fine line between being a hero and being a psychopath.Then, Rickson tries to steal Daphne away from Boland and fails. Boland comes to hate Rickson. I better stop here to avoid spoiling the ending.

Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner, and Shirley Ann Field played their roles perfectly. McQueen, the flawed hero who unravels gradually has the right amount of quirky charm alternating with enough menace to keep the other characters, except Daphne, off balance.

I read the novel at 12 and saw the movie when I was 14. During those years, I went to three different junior highs, and always felt like the new kid who had to prove himself. This story was important in my understanding of human nature. I strongly recommend the movie; it holds up really well in every way. I bought the DVD of this movie that comes in a box set with Baby the Rain Must Fall. I wish the novel were still in print.
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on August 6, 2007
Steve McQueen does his best to bristle up his character in this movie. The basic theme is solid and perhaps its defects are only apparent to military (or ex-) aviators.

The plot would have been better cast in a fighter squadron rather than with B-17's. The beauty of those big birds and the excellent images of them flying goes a long way toward carrying the movie. It is just plain difficult however to portray McQueen as a "hot shot" when the mission generally doesn't offer much opportunity for it. McQueen is restricted to disobeying orders in order to sneak below and overcast and drop his bombs anyway (something that would have given the AA gunners a field day) and buzzing the tower (admittedly a beautiful thing to see).

McQueen is thus relegated to emoting his role and that is not his forte. He does a good job though and except for a bit of brittleness toward the end he carries it off well. What he does very well is portray the essential loneliness of a man whose self-identity must continually be proven, both to the world and to himself. The "warrior" self can only be fulfilled in war - something that George Scott famously portrayed in that scene from "Patton" - when,upon surveying the hideous reality of a battle field, said "God help me, I love it." McQueen is no George Scott and "Buzz" is no Patton, never the less, this is a great flick for war movie addicts.
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on June 18, 2004
This has always been my favorite B-17 movie because of one scene, when McQueen buzzes the CO's office with his bomber because he's angry about being sent out on a leaflet drop mission. The rest of the movie is also great but the B-17 scenes are awesome, rivalling that other B-17 classic "12 O'Clock High". If you liked that one, you'll like this one.
There is romance in "The War Lover" but it isn't over done, the movie is still great despite it.
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on December 28, 2004
McQueen's portrayal of a hotshot B-17 pilot is brilliant. This is a guy who loves the war because in it, he's somebody. Without the war he is a nobody-- a misfit without a purpose. The character development of Rickson is superb; his cruel streak gradually becomes visible to his crew and his drive to "win" overrides his loyalty to his co-pilot.

The look and feel of this film reeks of authenticity-- how many other war movies show a planes machine guns being test-fired on the way to a bombing mission. At the end, the B-17 is almost impossible to control and you can almost feel the plane bucking and vibrating as it gradually disintegrates. This story could not have ended any other way.
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on May 25, 2016
"The War Lover" features some of Steve McQueen's best, early movie work as an actor. This movie also contains some of the best B-17 footage shot for a feature film since 1949's "12 O'Clock High" over a decade earlier. Three U. S. owned B-17s were purchased and restored to wartime condition then flown to England by the same route through Newfoundland and Greenland as did the actual Flying Fortresses during WW II. For added authenticity, once in England, the production company, actors, etc. and the trio of B-17s worked and flew at and around a former WW II, USAAF B-17 bomber base. Most on screen roles were performed adequately but except for McQueen the other leads were not as well cast. As is often the case, if you want to know what the author truly intended then please read John Hersey's original novel itself. Similar in story outline, the novel is naturally fuller, richer, deeper, occasionally funny though more often depressingly realistic of the people, places and times. This said, "The War Lover" as a 1962 feature film is a solid look at 8th Air Force history.
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on April 27, 2016
Well acted if not just a bit shallow war film... McQueen at his usual excellent self but a tick off for the role, Quality good. This is not "Judgement" but a fine war film and if you like McQueen and the old 8th it is for you.
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