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The Great Waldo Pepper

4.6 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews

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(Jul 14, 1998)
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Editorial Reviews

A biplane pilot who had missed flying in WWI takes up barnstorming and later a movie career in his quest for the glory he had missed, eventually getting a chance to prove himself in a film depicting the dogfights in the Great War.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Robert Redford, Bo Svenson, Bo Brundin, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Lewis
  • Directors: George Roy Hill
  • Writers: George Roy Hill, William Goldman
  • Producers: George Roy Hill, Robert Crawford Jr.
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Goodtimes Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 14, 1998
  • Run Time: 107 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 630513717X
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,239 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Great Waldo Pepper" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 12, 2001
Format: DVD
I made my dad take me to see this as a 7th grader back in 1975, and I snapped it up on impulse when I ran across it in a store. The aviation sequences are superb. Redford must be a pilot himself as some sequences clearly show him in a plane that is actually flying. The character of Ernst Kessler is loosely based on the real life Ernst Udet (whose picture appears in the opening sequence), a German WWI ace who had the words "Not you again!" painted on the tail of his airplane. A real treat for any early aviation enthusiast as the various reproduction aircraft look amazingly accurate. One thing I liked about the flying sequences was the lack of any soundtrack, just the sound of the vintage engines. Also featured is a young Susan Sarandon. DVD doesn't have any extra features to speak of (not even a trailer) but is priced right. Too bad they didn't do it in widescreen. A few things to look out for: When Olssons wheels fall off his plane at the beginning of the movie, look for tiny castors mounted on the bottom of the planes axle, that's how the stunt pilot was later able to land. The crash into the pond was filmed later. During the wingwalking scene where Pepper attempts to rescue Olssons girlfriend, the two planes nearly collide. Watch the cameraman's reaction to the near-collision.
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Format: DVD
This movie has special significance for me because I first saw it as a teenager. Yet it holds up as a great movie for me 28 years after it was made (unlike some others I could name).
I like Robert Redford in almost anything, and he's at his best here as a barnstorming pilot in the 1920s who pretends to have seen more action in World War One than he did. He made me feel for the character when he said, "It should have been me" after rival flyer Axel Olsen exposed him as a "four-flusher" for claiming he was a key figure in a famous battle.
Pepper finally gets his chance to go up against the German World War One ace Ernst Kessler (perhaps loosely based on the real German ace Ernst Udet) as a stunt pilot in a movie crew.
The dialogue scenes between Pepper and Kessler leading up to the climactic dogfight are the best part of the movie, even though Kessler's lines seemed to be written more in the interest of serving the plot than in serving the character.
The idea that Kessler was a man who only felt at home in the air, for whom nothing worked out well on the ground, resonated with me, as it did with Pepper, who felt the same way.
In closing, I'd like to mention the beginning of the movie when Waldo Pepper lands at a small town in Iowa to offer airplane rides. He promises a free ride at the end of the day to a boy named Scooter if he will tote a 5-gallon gas can back and forth from the filling station to keep Pepper's plane fueled.
The song that plays over the opening credits during this sequence has stuck with me for 28 years. I heard it again in 1992 while attending a boot camp graduation ceremony at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Command and remembered it from the movie. I don't know the name of it, but I love that song.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
At long last, we have The Great Waldo Pepper in widescreen format as it was meant to be seen. Having suffered my full-screen version for way too many years, I was thoroughly thrilled to receive my widescreen version today, and I could not make it back from my mailbox (six miles away) fast enough. The transfer is immaculate and there is no film grain visible as there is in the full-screen format. Plus, all the two-shots are complete, so you can actually see all the people involved in the conversation. Needless to say, the aerial shots are stupendous, and you feel as if you're right up there with them with the ground spinning lazily below. I cannot vouch for the sound quality (mono), as my home theater unit is in storage in another state, but as far as I can tell, it's every bit as good as the Good Times version I've watched for years. There are a few negatives to the DVD, which caused me to subtract a star:

1. No special features. Even the lowly Good Times full-screen version at least gave you production notes to peruse, as well as scene selection and set-up options. I realize it may be way too late to do any "Making Of" videos, but something to give us insight into this miracle of filmmaking would be nice. As it is, this DVD goes straight into the opening titles.

2. They changed the intro and closing music. Gone is the melancholy piano waltz during the scrapbook viewing both at the beginning and at the end. I love that tune, and it's one of the things that set the tone for the movie. The music that replaced it is in keeping with the times -- and if I'd never seen the movie before, I probably would think it was a stroke of genius -- but I do so love the old tune.
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Format: DVD
I Don't often give movies a five star rating but this one really deserved it. Robert Redford did an excellent job as a World War I flying ace being forced to adapt to a civilian life style after the war and at the same time watch the world, as he knew it, slip away.
This happens to many of us as we grow older and the world around begins to change. Like Reford in The Great Waldo Pepper you try and grasp onto what your most familiar with. The world and it's changes leave you behind. What do you do? In this well made, well filmed and well acted movie you will find out about the life and dreams of one man placed where there is no return.
The Great Waldo Pepper Has some of the most beautiful flying scenes that you will see anywhere. It turns back the pages of time and gives you a little glimpse of what flying was all about in its infancy. My suggestion: Buy it.
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