By 1942, America was fully entrenched in World War II. Largely known for his Westerns at the time, John Wayne lent his name and persona to the war effort in Flying Tigers. A fictionalized account of the real American pilots who battled the Japanese in China before the United States joined World War II, was hit and helped set the template for the slew of war films that came after it.
Captain Jim “Pappy” Gordon (Wayne) is a P-40 pilot who leads a small volunteer squadron against Japanese bombers and their fighter escorts over mainland China. The strong, sturdy type, Jim is in love with pretty nurse Brooke Elliott (Anna Lee). Things get a bit complicated when Jim’s old buddy Woody (John Carroll) shows up, eager to join up. A bit of a wisecracker, Woody has a somewhat shady past, causing Jim some concern. However, after some initial issues, Woody ends up achieving a heroic redemption. Like the rest of the men, he forsakes his individuality for the sake of the group.
Flying Tigers doesn’t break any new ground; the combat scenes are taken from stock combat footage spliced together with cockpit shots taken in the studio. Nonetheless, the film was able to capitalize on the nation’s patriotic mood. John Wayne was the perfect patriotic hero, and Flying Tigers helped launch Wayne into superstardom. Those around Wayne do a pretty good job with the material given. John Carroll is slick, but likable, and offers up a little more personality than the rather stoic Wayne. The pretty and talented Anna Lee is sadly underused here, but she makes the most of what’s she’s given. A couple of supporting players may be familiar to some. Jimmie Dodd (billed as James here), the head Mousketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s, plays the small role of pilot “Mac” McIntosh. Mae Clarke, best remembered both as Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s bride Elizabeth and as the woman who took a grapefruit in the face from James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931) turns up as Verna Bales, wife of one of the pilots.
Framed in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, Olive Films 1080p transfer starts off with some odd flicker patterns in the initial frames, but things quickly calm down. There’s still a bit of age related wear, but the image is stable and features solid contrast. As I mentioned in the review, stock footage is used in the aerial sequences, and that material is noticeably scratchy and sports a blurry image. Aside from that, this is a fine transfer of an older film. There doesn’t appear to be any DNR in use.
Flying Tigers‘ lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is decidedly limited by its source. There’s some slight distortion, but the track sounds fine for what it is. The low end offers a little more thump than the rest. Dialogue and Victor Young’s Oscar nominated music sound fine throughout.
No subtitles are available.
There are no extras included.
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