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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Flying Tigers [Blu-ray]


(David Miller, 1942)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Republic Pictures

Video: Olive Films



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:41:51.063

Disc Size: 22,136,556,856 bytes

Feature Size: 22,027,069,440 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.59 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 13th, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 868 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 868 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)






• None





Description: The Flying Tigers were a group of American volunteer aviators, flying against the Japanese on behalf of General Claire Chennault and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek in the months just prior to World War II. John Wayne is the most responsible of the bunch, and John Carroll the least. It's bad enough that Carroll tries to beat Wayne's time with pretty Red Cross nurse Anna Lee; but when Carroll's negligence results in the death of veteran-flyer Paul Kelly, the man becomes a pariah to the rest of the pilots.



The Film:

If Flying Tigers (1942) strongly reminds you of Howard Hawks's great aviation drama Only Angels Have Wings (1939), it's not simply because John Carroll appears in both pictures. Elements of plot and character were virtually lifted wholesale from the earlier film (and without credit, leading some to suggest Hawks should sue). But here, this tale of a tight-knit team of flying aces - and an arrogant maverick who finally sees his duty and sacrifices himself for the common good - is turned to the war effort. Flying Tigers became a major boost for minor studio Republic and another big leap in John Wayne's growing stardom, and earned Oscar® nominations for Best Score, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.

Wayne, in his first of many war films, plays the leader of a squadron of flyers in the U.S. volunteer group known as the Flying Tigers, a real-life corps that defended Chiang Kai-Shek's China in the days before the U.S. entered World War II. Carroll plays disobedient wisecracker Woody Jason (closely approximating Richard Barthelmess's role as the dissension-causing pilot under Cary Grant's command in Hawks's film) and Paul Kelly is Wayne's second-in-command, a role that resembles Thomas Mitchell's part in the earlier film as a pilot whose eyesight is failing.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

This has elements of a '30s-style aviation picture (e.g. Only Angels Have Wings) and a WWII air force morale booster. Before Pearl Harbor, a bunch of American civilian pilots in China operate their own squadron, flying for Chiang Kai-shek. Cowards redeem themselves, cynics see the light; sidearms are worn as routinely as in a Dodge City saloon, about the only detail that strikes one as authentic. Did this sort of thing boost morale? Did the sight of the Duke in his fake cockpit, smiling grimly at some interpolated newsreel carnage, really offer aid and comfort, except to schoolkids? Remarkable, if so.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Flying Tigers has a standard Blu-ray transfer from Olive Films. It is, bare-bones, and only single-layered and shows its age which is more the condition of the source. It has quite a lot of marks and scratches and can be fairly inconsistent. This is beyond the stock air-footage used which is decidedly worse.  I don't know that dual-layering would benefit the visuals extensively. 1080P resolution can do wonders for contrast and this has some decent layered in the greyscale. Grain textures are present and add to the viewing experience. The Blu-ray seems to have done its job, in terms of an adept transfer, but the source requires work on a film-level and the weaknesses detract from the presentation.

















Audio :

The audio is transferred in a DTS-HD mono track at 868 kbps. There is some notable depth in the effects of the airplane engines and plane guns. Moments are surprisingly intense at times. Aside from the effects there is a score, composed by Victor Young (Three Faces West, The Sun Shines Bright, Johnny Guitar, China Gate etc.), and it plays alongside the film adding to the uplifting pride and noble patriotism. There are no subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

No supplements - not even a trailer which is the bare-bones route that Olive are going with almost all of their Blu-ray releases.



This film is certainly not disguising its intent but, if you can put that aside, it can be rewarding. I liked, but didn't love, Flying Tigers. I find the 'obviousness' endearing and I think, as a common aspect of vintage films during the war, it can still be appreciated today. I might even revisit the film in the future. Despite the bare-bones Blu-ray image requiring some restoration it still has some value. It does seem on the high-side for the offered price though. Only for die-hard Wayne fans, or those keen on the era, should consider, IMO. 

Gary Tooze

April 30th, 2014

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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