In 1910, a British newspaper mogul, played by the inimitably Robert Morley (The African Queen and Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?), offers a small fortune to the winner of a flying race from London to Paris.
Reaction & Thoughts:
This elaborate production about the early days of aviation offers a nice balance of comedy, action and romance. The slapstick is not overly done. You get the right amount of gags alongside the action sequences. Although the emphasis is on silly antics and action, characters are surprisingly well-developed. We get to know all characters, their personalities and motivations.
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines looks gorgeous too. The film was shot in Todd-AO by Christopher Challis (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), a widescreen process that is effectively employed throughout the whole movie. Specifically designed to “wow” audiences in movie theaters, the film retains some of its grandeur on the small screen.
The recreation of Europe at the turn of the century is fantastic. The attention to detail is hard to praise enough. The planes were exact replicas of early flying machines and they were all operable. Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines also boasts some of the best stunts of its time. The kooky titles, designed by satirical cartoonist Ronald Searle, are fun and they are accompanied by the catchy title song.
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines enlists the services of a huge cast: Stuart Whitman (The Comancheros), Sarah Miles (Ryan’s Daughter), Alberto Sordi (I Vitelloni), Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger), Terry-Thomas (School for Scoundrels), Eric Pohlmann (Mogambo), and Sam Wanamaker (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold). Director Ken Annakin allows each and every one to shine. Flora Robson (The Sea Hawk) and Benny Hill have cameos. Comedian Red Skeleton (Watch the Birdie and Whistling in the Dark) stars in both the prologue and epilogue.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, written by Annakin and Jack Davies, is a lot of fun. It’s not without flaws — it’s rather long and episodic — but it’s a delightful farce, perfect for kids and kids at heart. Color, 138 minutes, Not Rated.
Followed by Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies (1969)