Tuesday, March 27, 2007

DIVE BOMBER (Warner Bros. 1941) Warner Home Video

Michael Curtiz’s Dive Bomber (1941) attempts to serve double duty; on one front as a sort of ‘how-to’ documentary made with the full cooperation of the Naval Air Corps, and on another, as a sloppily executed melodrama in which Errol Flynn is miscast as Lt. Douglas Lee – a surgeon who spends the bulk of the story selflessly devoted to aviation medicine

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Blake (Fred MacMurray) is, at first, a skeptic of Lee’s methodologies. He knows the real reason for Lee’s passion – that once, he botched an operation on a pilot who died on his table. However, Blake sets aside personal difference to understand Lee’s investigation of the phenomenon of pilot blackouts induced by G-force during dive bombing. In a cross between Dr. Kildare and Mrs. Miniver, Flynn becomes the Florence Nightingale of the airforce, a gifted physician whose commitment to flyers is unrequited – since Flynn never does make it into a plane himself.

The screenplay by Frank Wead and Robert Buckner periodically tosses aside this aerial scenario for maneuvers a little closer to home, with Lee falling hard for Mrs. Linda Fisher (the wooden Alexis Smith again). Theirs’ is a troubled and stultified affair that thankfully - takes a backseat to the spectacular aerial acrobatics. Dive Bomber is inconsistent entertainment at best. It’s passable Flynn, but not terribly engaging war time propaganda. Occasionally, there’s a brief sequence of daring excitement – but, on the whole, the film is a crash and burn long before anyone’s wings have been clipped.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is, in a word – atrocious! The Technicolor is grossly unbalanced throughout and severely misregistered during many sequences, resulting in a soft blurry image with very distracting halos. Flesh tones are garishly pink and pasty. Contrast levels appear weak, with blacks registering as more of a soft gray and whites as a dully gray. Worse – there is a litany of imbedded dirt, scratches and other age related anomalies that, at times, are quite distracting. The audio is mono but adequately rendered. The only extra is a brief featurette on the making of the film. Not recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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