Though it's certainly not the 'best' silent film ever made, WINGS, a World War I "war in the air" movie, is my personal favorite silent film. I have waited a VERY long time for the release of this wonderful new beautifully-tinted restoration - you can order it here: Wings [Blu-ray]. It is the best version ever released to the public and, most likely, the best version which will EVER be released to the public! (A DVD version, containing the same new restoration, is also being offered and it can be ordered here: Wings.) Until now, NO ONE (except someone old enough to have seen it in 1927-1929) has been able to view this film in essentially the manner intended by its creators.
I believe that anyone and everyone who has purchased any home video discs for their personal enjoyment should buy this one too - and as soon as possible. This film truly demonstrates Hollywood at its best and shows clearly why Hollywood films matter so much to us. I think WINGS would be the cornerstone of any home movie library.
The story is superb, the directing is superb, the acting is superb, and the aerial scenes - well, they are BY FAR the best and most exciting ever done in the entire history of the movies and they are the best that ever WILL be done. They have never been duplicated nor will they ever be. Why do I make such definitive statements about the flying sequences? Because the flying sequences in WINGS are all real - repeat: ALL REAL! And they sure look it! NO "trickery" can duplicate "real!" Please see below for further details.
I first saw the film in 1969 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY during the fifth Cinecon (Cinecon is still going strong). We were told that this was the first public showing of the complete film in almost forty years (clips have been used in other Paramount Films, most notably during the beginning of The War of the Worlds (Special Collector's Edition)).
Two years later, WINGS was shown at the Paramount Theater in New York City. I still have the original LIFE Magazine review of that showing. (The lines to get in went around the block!)
In 1985 Paramount released a LaserDisc edition as well as a VHS tape. Until now, these two versions were the only officially authorized home video releases of WINGS, at least in the U.S.A. These editions featured a beautiful organ score newly composed by that master of silent film accompaniment, the late, great Gaylord Carter. Though originally WINGS was shown in tinted prints, this LaserDisc edition was in black-and-white only and, like all prints I had seen until now, it was made from the print which survived in the Cinémathèque Française.
In 2002-3, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ("AMPAS") had a retrospective of all Best Picture winners up to that time. The program began with the second winner THE BROADWAY MELODY. AMPAS saved WINGS for last; it was shown two nights - May 15 and May 16, 2003. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater (cap. 1012) was sold out both nights. I know. My wife and I were there, having flown to Los Angeles especially for this showing - and we attended BOTH nights! (Note: WINGS did not actually win for Best Picture; that category was not instituted by the Academy until several years later. SUNRISE won for Best Artistic Achievement; WINGS won for Best Production.)
This showing was of what was called a 'partially-restored' print; some tinting was in evidence, but not as much as that for which I had hoped. However it was the first time I had ever seen the film with any of its tints present. (None of the Handschiegl color process effects - see below - had been restored at that time.) This print too was derived from that Cinémathèque Française print and was essentially a fifth-generation print. However, the music (and the recreated 1927 sound effects) played, with a live orchestra, was the original music which had been used at the first showings of the film. Gillian Anderson, a wonderful musicologist, had recreated the score (which had been arranged by J. S. Zamecnik, using some fairly well-known classical and popular music) and she conducted the orchestra. I had not thought that anything could match Gaylord Carter's score, but this one did, at least in my opinion. (Adrian Johnston had recreated the sound effects; they were so good that it was possible to distinguish the German airplane engines from the 'American' ones.)
Recently, on September 6, 2011, the AMPAS had a special program featuring the newly-restored COLOR print of Georges Méliès' A TRIP TO THE MOON (1902). What a fantastic restoration!! (I am anxiously awaiting the release of this movie on home video; it has been announced by Flicker Alley - I have already ordered a copy - for release sometime in March 2012 [Amazon is now offering it here: A Trip to the Moon Restored [Blu-ray]). You can see a couple of very short clips from this new restoration in the movie "Hugo" [see it in 3D if possible].) My wife and I attended that program and, afterwards, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Tom Burton, head of the preservation department at Technicolor Los Angeles, who had been in charge of that color restoration project. He told me about the forthcoming release of this new Blu-ray (and DVD) edition of WINGS, of which he was also in charge.
Mr. Burton told me that he and his team, working with the original tinting requirements (which miraculously survive in the Paramount library), would reproduce ALL of the original tints, including the Handschiegl color process effects (a stencil process used for machine-gun fire and flames from shot-down airplanes), and that this edition will look better than anything seen since WINGS' first release. He also told me (and these are his exact words) that I will be "blown away by the sound track."
He was right! On both counts!
The new Blu-ray and DVD will not feature Ms. Anderson's music reconstruction, however. J. S. Zamecnik's original 1927 score has been re-orchestrated and arranged by Dominik Hauser, another musicologist, along with some piano filler played by Frederick Hodges. In 1927, sound effects (machine guns, airplane engines, etc.) were performed behind the screen. Ben Burtt, a noted (and superb) sound engineer has recreated and augmented these effects for the new restoration.
In addition, Gaylord Carter's score will be present on a second audio track (and this is very welcome). When one watches this track, note that the timings are different; this is due to the fact that this track begins immediately with the movie rather than, as on the first track, with the various Paramount logo montage (very beautiful, by the way) and does not include the intermission or the end restoration credits. As far as I can determine, you cannot switch between the audio tracks (at least on the Blu-ray); when you start Play, you must select one 'version' or the other.
This film is being released as the first title in Paramount's 100th Anniversary retrospective and it is one of the 'crown jewels' in Paramount's oeuvre. Paramount has tried its best to ensure top quality for this restoration (Paramount claims the film has been restored frame-by-frame!) and, in my opinion, they have succeeded.
I ordered my copy on November 15, 2011 immediately upon reading Paramount's press release (obviously sight unseen). This new edition, which I watched in its entirety last night [January 24, 2012] has been at least partially created from a duplicate negative, made from an original then-surviving nitrate print, back in the 1950s, an element not used previously (the original negative and all original nitrate prints are long-gone). In all versions I have seen prior to this one, certain scenes appear badly 'washed out' - this is due to fact that all of them have been derived from a print - and a print is NOT a negative (hence the best that can be derived from such a source is a fourth generation print, and that is if no additional work is done - not the case here). Most of these scenes have been at least somewhat corrected for this new restoration but in the scene near the end of the film where "Buddy" Rogers is reading a letter sent to Richard Arlen, there are open areas (where the building was evidently bombed out) in which you can see what's going on outside; this small portion of the scene is still badly 'washed out' and the out-of-the-building view only comes into sharp relief when the scene fades out. But that's the only truly noticeable 'washed out' scene and, as the 'washed-out' portion is only a small part of the background, it does not mar the actual scene in any way. (See below for two other unfortunate but "unfixable" flaws.)
There is at least one 'cut' in all versions I have seen previously: I have been told that Clara Bow's topless scene has had several seconds removed. These frames supposedly exist (in the print owned by the Library of Congress and possibly some other sources). From what I can see in this new edition, the scene looks to be complete but I'll have to check further with some knowledgeable people. [See March 15, 2012 Update below.] (Not that it matters, but Clara Bow is extremely easy on the eyes! Though her role is relatively small [and, in reality, unimportant], she was cast in this film as box-office insurance. And, as in ALL of her films, her acting is superlative - there is no other word for it. Watch her eyes: they're with what she acted and, in my opinion, she was one of the very finest actresses ever to have made movies.)
If you are unfamiliar with WINGS' plot, you could call it simple Hollywood Hokum - but, if it is, well, it's Hollywood Hokum at its very best, due to the superior and sincere acting of ALL of the cast, the magnificence of the cinematography, as well as the exemplary direction of William Wellman. [If you want to read a good book about this film and its director, I highly recommend The Man and His Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture written by William Wellman, Jr., his son (whom I had the great pleasure of meeting a couple of years ago).] Basically, the story is about two men in love with the same woman - but of course she loves only one of the men. Naturally there is another woman, the 'girl next door' in love with the man the first woman does not love - but he does not realize that he really loves her instead. When the United States enters WWI, both men join the Army Air Corps, the 'girl next door' joins the Women's Motor Corps, they're all sent 'over there' and --- well, I'll let you guess the rest.
Spectacular - and I mean SPECTACULAR - aerial 'dogfight' scenes and some absolutely splendid direction and cinematography (including the first, to my knowledge, big 'moving-boom' scene ever done in the movies) make this a film not only memorable but eminently re-watchable (I myself have seen the film over 100 times - and that's no exaggeration!).
When you see the two leading men, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen, up in the air, they REALLY are up in the air! There are no - repeat NO - rear projection or other cinema 'tricks' being used. Both men learned to fly those planes (made of wood and fabric!) and they not only flew them (during their close-up scenes only, of course), they also had to turn on the battery-powered electric camera mounted on the airplane in front of them - and then they had to act while flying the plane! (Read their lips and you'll see some 'interesting' language!) They each logged about 100 flying hours during the making of this film.
Most of the formation flying seen was done by U.S. Army pilots (the Army contributed vast amounts of men and matériel without which the film could not have been made).
But the other pilots you see up with them in close-ups were Hollywood stunt pilots and they too were actually flying their planes during the filming (obviously!). All of the spectacular flying maneuvers were done by these men (the Army pilots could not have done them, nor were the Army pilots crazy enough to try!). These stunt pilots were some of the very best pilots who have ever lived. What they do in this movie is nothing short of amazing - and they too had to film their own close-up scenes while performing maneuvers which will literally make your jaw drop! For example, one stunt pilot sends his plane into a spiral dive, something which is particularly dangerous. And not only do you see this spiral dive in distant shots, you see it as he, playing "dead," is actually filming himself! There is no doubt about it - he is in a spiral dive! No one in his or her right mind would try this today in one of these old, unstable, and fragile biplanes - but THIS pilot did it for the film and you can see it!
Do you think you'll see anything like this again in another movie? Put that thought right out of your head! This sort of thing has never been - and will never be - done again; insurance companies would NEVER allow it. But this is why the flying scenes in WINGS look absolutely real - they are!
Frankly, WINGS is a terrific audience pleaser. It's an action/adventure movie which also appeals to women and it's a love story which also appeals to men. In over forty years of watching this film and showing it to many, many friends and acquaintances, I have met only one couple who did not enjoy it (they claim that they do not like 'older' films).
This restoration is not 'perfect' - I think that there will never be a 'perfect' restoration of WINGS. Time and, I'm saddened to say, neglect have taken their toll. Essentially, what we are seeing here is a fifth generation print, like that which I saw in 2003. (It may even be further down the chain.) Thus there is an excessive amount of grain present which would have NEVER been seen in 1927, except possibly in the Magnascope sequence; Magnascope was a process in which the screen enlarged to four times its area - twice as wide and twice as high; it surely must have been something to see! Only a very few theaters could accommodate it (see below). This grain is very noticeable on the Blu-ray and I suspect that it will even be very noticeable on the DVD (I have not yet seen the DVD version). However, you will pay attention to it ONLY if you are critically looking for it. (Please note that, having seen this movie as many times as I have, I am quite familiar with it and, frankly, I WAS deliberately looking for flaws in the restoration so I could note them in this review. I can easily see the grain; now that you have been alerted, you may too if you choose to concentrate on it [it is very evident in some scenes, not so much in others, but it is always there] but I want to EMPHASIZE: it does NOT spoil the enjoyment. When you're watching the film for sheer pleasure, it will be easy to ignore.)
Also, while there are some scenes filmed deliberately out-of-focus (some may think that's a flaw but it is not), there is at least one scene which looks slightly 'soft' - that is the scene in which El Brendel becomes nauseated and runs to an ambulance truck. I have never spotted this 'softness' before and it may be noticeable on the Blu-ray only because the Blu-ray is so sharp.
As Tom Burton states in one of the supplements, we may never again see WINGS as it was on Day 1 in 1927.
But this version is VERY close, probably as close as we'll get in any of our lifetimes: if you want an example, you need watch only from timing 00:38:00 to 00:50:45. This 12 minute sequence alone will clearly demonstrate the greatness of the film and the greatness of the restoration. By the way, the Magnascope sequence would have occurred at 00:41:34 to 00:42:25, less than one minute in length. (These timings are for the first video track which contains the new music score and sound effects. The timings are different on the track which contains Gaylord Carter's score.) You will see two intertitles ("On the high sea of heaven" and "The enemy!") which are one-fourth the normal size. These titles would have appeared normal size when shown with Magnascope. Unfortunately, that process will probably never be seen again. Even in the late '20s, only a very few theaters had the capability of accommodating it.
The tinting, unlike that on some other prints I have seen on home video, is near perfect; the colors are not overblown and do not reduce sharpness in the image. They only enhance the viewing experience (as they did in 1927).
And none - I repeat, NONE - of any visual flaws present (and they are all minor) spoils the enjoyment of the film, not even in the smallest way. Most people will not even notice them. Let me emphasize: any flaws present are ALL minor.
As for the sound, it's spectacular. Is it authentic? Definitely not. Being that the sound effects in 1927 were performed "live" behind the screen, they would, of necessity, have been much more spare (as they were when I saw the film in 2003). And they certainly would not have been DTS stereo surround! However, we are not watching this film in 1927 - we are watching it today and Ben Burtt wanted to accommodate the sensibilities of today's audiences; I think he has succeeded admirably. Wait until you hear it (hopefully with the volume cranked up!). I also think that if they had had the capability back in 1927, those early sound engineers would have designed the sound similarly to the way Mr. Burtt has done. (As I mentioned, Tom Burton told be that I would be "blown away" by the soundtrack: I was!)
The sound effects are used only on the first track; the second track, with Gaylord Carter's score, has just the organ music (and it sounds beautiful). So if for some reason the sound effects are not to your liking, you can always view the film with the organ score alone.
The three supplements included on the Blu-ray (only one is included on the DVD and it turns out that that's a shame) are all very worthwhile and interesting (unlike most supplements on discs), though I wish someone had discussed the Magnascope process in some detail. Seeing A. C. Lyles in the supplements is always a particular joy for my wife and me. I wish the producers had allowed him to speak at greater length. He knows more about this film (and Paramount Pictures) than any other living person.
Do I have any "druthers?" Yes. I wish Paramount had given this disc a deluxe packaging treatment (if you want to see great packaging for a Blu-ray/DVD edition, you need only look at certain of the Warner Home Video presentations). They should have made the DVD a 2-disc set so that they could have included all three of the supplements. Paramount does not even include a leaflet, much less a booklet, about the film and I think that such packaging (and printed information) should be standard for significant motion pictures such as this one released to home video. As this is the first disc in their 100th Anniversary Retrospective, I wish Paramount had designed a uniform type of packaging so that purchasers could buy a complete matched set. Wouldn't THAT have been something?
I understand that Paramount, Amazon, and even Netflix seriously underestimated the demand for this film and they are now scrambling to replenish their stock. I'm not surprised; whenever WINGS has played anywhere, it's almost always a sell-out (as it was last week at the Academy, and as it was in 2003 - both nights - when my wife and I attended, and as it was in New York when we saw it a couple of years later).
So, to sum up, I strongly recommend that ANYONE and EVERYONE who has even the slightest interest in movies (and who has the financial resources to do so) buy this disc - and buy it soon (either the Blu-ray or the DVD). You'll thank me for my recommendation. And at Amazon's price, I feel that it is truly a bargain.
Thank you for reading my very lengthy comments. I apologize for the length but I hope that you found them to be somewhat interesting and I truly hope that everything I have written is accurate (if you find any errors of fact, please let me know in a comment).
(As a personal aside, I wish that Sam Rubin had lived to see this restoration.)
And if you do buy this new edition of Wings [Blu-ray] (or the DVD edition: Wings), I hope you enjoy the film as much as I do.
Update: March 15, 2012
The following is just an FYI:
As of this writing, my wife and I are attending the CINEFEST 32 in Liverpool, NY and I have spoken with some VERY knowledgeable people (including two people who were involved with preserving and restoring WINGS). These people have informed me that, as I suspected, this edition is NOT 'frame-complete.' Several seconds of Clara Bow's topless scene are not in this print nor are a couple of seconds of the male nudity. I understand that a Chinese "bootleg" DVD DOES have Clara Bow's entire nude scene but, of course, that DVD will not be of a restored print (and is B&W only, not the way this film should be seen).
It's a pity that Paramount did not choose to make this restoration 'frame-complete' (I have been told several different reasons for the decision but I do not know which reason, if any, is correct).
However, and it's a VERY BIG however, the fact is that these few seconds, which do not contribute to the story in any way, are missing do NOT - repeat DO NOT! - detract from the enjoyment of this film by adults and the fact that they are missing may make the film more appropriate for today's children.
While I personally would have wished that EVERY FRAME shown in 1927 had been included, I continue to HIGHLY (as highly as possible) value this restoration and release and I STRONGLY recommend this Blu-ray or DVD to anyone and everyone.
Thank you again for reading all of this and for considering my opinions.
Lawrence H. Bulk
on January 7, 2012
For you buyers mulling over which version (Blu-ray vs. DVD) to purchase, note the difference in the "Special Features" content offered on each release.
The Blu-ray version includes three (3) special features: the making-of documentary "Wings: Grandeur in the Sky," as well as "Dogfight," a featurette covering early aeronautics, and "Restoring the Power and Beauty of Wings," which details the film's restoration process.
The DVD version includes only one (1) special feature, the aforementioned "Wings: Grandeur in the Sky" (the "making of" documentary).
on December 11, 2011
...goes to WINGS! That was back in 1927. It remains one of the great anti-war films even though the war is World War I. It also marks the apex of the careers of its three stars: Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and Richard Arlen. Buddy Rogers would later marry Mary Pickford and concentrate on Big Band music while Clara Bow made only a few sound films before retiring in 1933 at the age of 28. Richard Arlen stayed in movies a bit longer but is best remembered today as the hero of 1932's THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS with Charles Laughton. The director William Wellman would go on to quite a distinguished career making such films as THE PUBLIC ENEMY with James Cagney, the 1937 A STAR IS BORN and 1943's THE OX-BOW INCIDENT. He made his last film, LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE, in 1958.
Wellman had actually flown planes during the Great War and so he wanted to make sure that this film captured what it was like to fly and to engage in combat up in the skies. One of the film's great strengths is the outstanding aerial photography which Howard Hughes would copy for HELL'S ANGELS three years later. Another strength is the story itself. While basically one of the first buddy films, WINGS manages not only to capture the horrors of war but the innocence of pre-WWI America as personified by the three main characters. Clara Bow gives a remarkable performance showing that she was more than just a 1920's sex symbol when given a good script and placed in the hands of a capable director like Wellman. By the time the film is over you long for its beginning. The final scenes are among the most moving in all of silent film with an ending that you have waited the whole movie for.
After years of bootleg copies from Asia simply transferring the old VHS edition to DVD, Paramount is finally giving WINGS the quality restoration it deserves. Available on both Blu-Ray and DVD, the release will include the film's original orchestral score in a new recording, the old Gaylord Carter organ score from the VHS copy, color tints like those used in 1927, and period sound effects. This is scheduled to be the first of several restorations by Paramount of a number of the studio's legendary films to coincide with the company's 100th anniversary in 2012.
POST SCRIPT: With THE ARTIST winning Best Picture this year, that marks 84 years since a silent film has had that honor.
on January 30, 2010
For most cinema buffs whose interest extends to exploring the riches of BW/Silent movies, the 1927 "Wings" is a treasure trove worth plundering and replundering. It features the "It" girl, Clara Bow, whose fame had gone viral with her other 1927 starring role in "It," the delightful comedy about a social climbing flapper shop girl out to marry her boss. As it happens, the best commercially available restoration I could find of "Wings" is this Chinese version, which is pretty good, and of course the movie is a gem. My only reason for four stars instead of five is that the Chinese subtitles, though no worse than a minor distraction once you are used to them, nonetheless can't be turned off and are uneditable.
"Wings" was a groundbreaker in many ways. The first film, and only silent film, to win an Oscar for "best production" (later "best movie,") it marked the official screen debut, in a walk-on, of Gary Cooper, depending on whether his brief unbilled appearance in "It" may have been shot first. "Wings" is an epic length WWI era romantic tragicomedy in which Clara, as girl next door Mary Preston, surreptitiously follows boy next door Charles "Buddy" Rogers (who thinks he is in love with someone else) overseas as a volunteer civilian ambulance driver, as Rogers goes on to become an air ace of the Lafayette Escadrille. For aficianados of aerial acrobatics featuring swarms of dogfighting motorized box kites, this is as good as it gets until the far more pretentious Howard Hughes "Hell's Angels" extravaganza of 1930. For sufficiently quick-eyed fans of celebrity nudity, Clara's costume change in a Paris hotel room even features a nanosecond nipple-slip wardobe malfunction.
Clara Bow was, notoriously, no prude, and nowhere near as popular among her peers in the Hollywood cinematic community, who thought she was "common" and loved to diss on her partying Bohemian lifestyle and Brooklyn accent, as she was with the moviegoing public, who couldn't get enough of her natural spontaneous "flapper" persona. She was a natural actress and the camera loved her too, though Clara's popularity with fans depended on nothing more strenuous than reliably playing herself. Her life and career were turbulent with ups and downs, she retired from film-making in 1933 to become a wife and mother, and died of a heart attack in 1965 at age 60, ironically while watching a Gary Cooper film. Clara's personality cult lives on today, particularly as reincarnated in the cartoon character she inspired, Betty Boop. Today, Clara Bow's films, such as "Wings," are charmingly dated pop-cultural curiosities; by contrast, her appearances in them are anything but, being as electrically alive today as the day they were shot. Back in the day, Clara Bow had the indefinable "it." She still does.
on January 24, 2012
We see Clara through a glass darkly but someday... Well, that day is here. The clarity of this edition is miraculous, a breathtaking restoration. The dogfight footage is unequaled. I was moved to tears by the power of the story, by Clara's beauty and by the loving care taken by those who did the restoration. Thank you.
on January 27, 2012
I have always wanted to see this film, and now I can say I have! The restoration looks great, and the movie itself is amazing. Watch this baby with the sound cranked up......this is no museum piece....this a vibrant entertainment. When the first dawn patrol gets in the air and the Mendlelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream comes through the speakers the chills ran up my spine.............and then the German Flying Circus engages our heroes and the Mendelssohn is augmented by loud percussion that had me wondering if I was not listening to the best soundtrack to a movie I had ever heard. Just wow.
Wellman is one of Hollywood's great directors in every genre. Thanks to this blu-ray I have seen another masterpiece my this singular artist.
Five stars and a whole lot more!
on January 24, 2012
I first saw "Wings" in 2001 on VHS and was absolutely blown away by it. It has since become one of my all time favorite films, and it's funny that the only reason I saw it to begin with was because I just decided one day that I was going to either see or collect every film that won a Best Picture Oscar. I have since collected ALL OF THEM, and I'm happy to say I own "Wings" on Blu-Ray, VHS, and Laserdisc.
When you see the film, you will be swept away by the aerial scenes, mainly because all the flying is REAL. This was the beginning, there were really no special effects that could be substituted that would replicate what was eventually filmed for the picture. This is all for the good. On top of the splendid visual effects...if you can really call them that...you've got terrific performances from a solid cast. Buddy Rogers and Dick Arlen may remind you of people you work with or went to high school with, just a couple of regular dudes looking to get through the day, or in this case a war! What really makes the picture work, ultimately, is Clara Bow. She is a lot of fun to watch and very easy to latch on to. I'm not one to compare talent, and I'm not about to, but when I think of Clara Bow, I also think of Jennifer Aniston. They're two completely different people (from two completely different eras), but they can carry a wide range of emotions and qualities that make you think you're watching a real life person in their everyday life, rather than just another run-of-the-mill movie actress. Gary Cooper is in this movie, too. Yay! Gary Cooper.
The presentation of the film here on Blu-Ray is outstanding. Paramount and Technicolor did an amazing restoration, Ben Burtt did a fabulous job creating sound for the new recording of the original film score. Dominik Hauser did an excellent job arranging the original score, and I, being a fan of the older home video release, am very impressed that they also included the Gaylord Carter theater organ score on the disc.
This was the first silent picture I ever saw, and if you've never seen a silent film ever in your life, and are willing to give them a try, this is where you should start.
on February 1, 2012
It is hard to believe the restoration work Paramount put into this classic. This is sure to make any person who loves movies to appreciate this silent classic! The clarity and detail for this print is outstanding! And the new 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack is great, too. They did wonders with the added sound effects during the battle sequences. This blu ray really blew me away! The documentary on the restoration process of this classic is really informative, too. I watched that before I did the movie and I appreciated the paintstaking time that people took into restoring this beauty. Some will love the 'detail' of the video, but I was put back on the clarity. I still like these old films to look like movies and not video. Just like Warner's KING KONG with all its grain, it still has the atmosphere and feel of classic movies. So the question is: When is the image 'too' clean? Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining, but too much cleaning does distract me from these silent films. Eureka's import blu ray of SUNRISE is a great example with the right amount of grain being left intact. I am not sure if Paramount used any DNR, but would be curious to find out (I don't recall if it is mentioned in the restoration doc or not).
But if you are wondering to upgrade to this blu ray of WINGS, the answer is definately YES!!! This is one awesome release!
Don't forget to crank up the surround sound!
on January 26, 2012
In 1927 airplanes were big news. Charles Lindbergh made the first non-stop transatlantic flight and Paramount Studios released one of the last, great silent films, WINGS. The unprecedented production of this film epitomized the daredevil spirit of the '20's just as much as did Lindbergh's historic flight. It won the first Academy Award for Best Picture, and its thrilling aerial scenes remain among the finest ever filmed.
WINGS tells the story of two WW1 flying buddies (Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen) and the girls they love (Clara Bow, Jobyna Ralston). This premise serves as the backdrop for the breathtaking sequences that take place on the battlefield and in the sky. While the story is necessarily simple, it's acted out with touching sensitivity so that we're easily moved by all the characters. The radiant Clara Bow is particularly good as the long suffering ambulance driver. Soon to be star Gary Cooper has a brief but memorable scene as a cadet.
To those of us who watch a lot of silents, the greatness of WINGS comes as no surprise. Filmmaking in that era was pretty gutsy stuff. CGI was unheard of, and rear projection - or process photography - was still experimental. Often times the only way to get certain shots of a spectacular nature was to film the actual event - no faking it. WINGS was expertly directed by William "Wild Bill" Wellman who was himself a WW1 pilot, and whose crew consisted of professional stunt fliers who really took those planes to the heights we see in the film. Even leading stars Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen had to fly their own planes for many of their scenes.
Paramount's Blu-ray of WINGS is jaw dropping - the image clarity leaps from the screen. We must be very close to what audiences saw in 1927. There's two soundtracks: the original, re-recorded score by S. J. Zamecnik with sound effects, and an organ score by Gaylord Carter. I prefer the Zamecnik/sound effects track because it enhances the entire viewing experience. The special features are all excellent: A documentary that raises appreciation for the enormous effort that went into its making; also one on how it was painstakingly restored; and a segment on WW1 dogfighting tactics.
This is without question a five star release that fulfills any classic film lover's highest expectations.
This silent film has aged well and soars through the skies for over two hours of action and romantic drama. Ace William "Wild Bill" Wellman helmed this great silent about two young men who can't wait to fly through the skies and the Great War which gives them their chance to live their romantic dreams.
Wellman's filming of combat in the clouds is still as fresh and exciting as it was when it won the first Academy Award for Best Picture. Sometimes lost, however, when historians talk of this film, is the sweet and innocent romance which frames the film.
Clara Bow shines with great energy and charisma as the young sweet Mary Preston. Her "girl next door" portrayel of an American girl longing for the love of Jack Powell (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) is endearing. Another often forgotten element is the performance of Jobyna Ralston as the lovely rich girl, Sylvia, both Jack and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) are in love with.
Under Wellman's direction, her Sylvia has a tenderness and likability, rather than just the "rich girl standing in the way" she might have been in another film. Bow is lively, cute and sexy, but Ralston's Sylvia has some romantically framed scenes which helps her hold her own.
For the most part, however, Wellman's film is about males and the bonds often formed during wartime. These flyers are not jaded yet, as in Hawks' "Only Angels Have Wings" and it is that romantic innocence which makes this an engrossing and sentimental masterpiece of a bygone era.
Mary will join the Women's Motor Core and cross paths with her true love. David and Jack will become closer than brothers, one making the ultimate sacrifice and allowing his friend to go on with his life free of guilt. It is the story which is the star here, rather than the actors. Gary Cooper does, however, exude star power in his brief time as the veteren flyer welcoming the two new recruits with a sobering reminder of war.
Wellman's famous scenes of open-air planes soaring into battle like graceful wings carrying danger and death are unforgettable. The fact that the two actors actually flew their own planes as this breathtaking footage was shot is astounding. The battles are real and deadly, Wellman showing there was honor in the skies as well as danger.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of director Wellman here is despite the tragedy and danger clearly shown, he still manages to convey the more romantic aspects of war, or at the very least the romantic notions of it. One of the great films of the silent era, "Wings" does not disappoint. An entertaining film which stands on its own, it is also an historical bridge between an innocence which was soon to pass into those cloud filled skies and never return.