Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Flying Leathernecks (1951)
This is a recent DVD release of an old RKO war picture starring John Wayne and Robert Ryan. The movie is about flyers in combat with Grumman Wildcats and later with Vought Corsairs, and the typical trials and tribulations of adapting to a new commander and rebellious subordinates such as has been done as long as movies have been made.
John Wayne is the incoming commander, Major Mike Kirby, taking over the fighter squadron on Guadalcanal. He is a tough leatherneck and puts his foot down immediately with his exec Robert Ryan, as Captain Carl Griffin, and a bunch of new pilots played by a bunch of unknowns who never distinguished themselves enough to get a lot of film work. Jay C Flippen was the only other familiar face, having played well in many, many movies. Here he was a Master Sergeant in charge of the aircraft maintenance.
Robert Ryan had been acting commander before the new skipper arrived but Wayne had enough insight that he knew Ryan wasn’t able to command the men because he wanted them to like him and he tried to be their pal rather than their leader.
This is an age old conflict of leadership and it’s been played out in dozens or even hundreds of stories that all ring true because the conflict is real and played out every day in real life by leaders in all situations, starting with parents at home.
The movie takes the by the numbers storyline that RKO apparently thought could be camouflaged under a glossy coat of fresh Technicolor, however, the flying sequences were a combination of actual colorized war aerial footage with studio inserts to show the pilots flying into the maelstrom.
Unfortunately, the difference between the perfect studio footage and the imperfect wartime footage is quite jarring and takes you out of the movie as you see the cockpit action vs. the cut to the effect of the gunfire. The DVD quality is so good it actually emphasizes the difference between the two types of filming so all the ability John Wayne and Robert Ryan brought to the film was less effective than it would have been. This movie is actually fairly poor but since the two principal actors are so good the movie comes out average.
The DVD is from Warner Bros and was shot in Technicolor way back in 1951. The DVD is well preserved with the differences between the two types of film noted. The film is in 4 x 3 format in color with a running time of 102 minutes.
This is a good movie for John Wayne completists, like me, but the average viewer would be disappointed. Also recommended viewing for aerial photography buffs. Three stars.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV