Flying Tigers Blu-ray Review

In 1942, the legendary John Wayne had no fewer than 7 films released.  Not as impressive when you think the man has over 150 acting credits, not including a handful of uncredited roles. Known mostly for his western films, Wayne did branch out a bit but always stood as an authoritative figure.   FLYING TIGERS is no different as Wayne plays Captain Jim ‘Pappy’ Gordon, leader of the American mercenary fighter pilots.

John Wayne in Flying Tigers

FLYING TIGERS was released roughly a year after the bombing at Pear Harbor.  The film serves as a bit of an American flag in our heroic involvement in WWII with a reference to the horrific event on December 7, 1941 coming just before the climatic scene.   A group of American fighter pilots are stationed in China to help defend the country against the Japanese military.  Captain Jim ‘Pappy’ Gordon (Wayne) continues to see pilots come and go.  After sending a sympathy letter to the family of one young pilot killed in action, he recruits an old friend, Woody Jason (John Carroll).  Woody is a cocky hot-shot who thinks he is an indestructible pilot.  It will take some patience and hard lessons learned before Gordon is able to get through to the talented Woody to become a team player.

John Wayne in Flying Tigers

Clearly, at the time of its release, FLYING TIGERS was quite impactful to the American public.  The action is all done in the air but rather than seeing the plane shot down from the outside, the filmmakers seem to relish in shooting up the Japanese pilots inside the cockpit with a fair amount of fake blood on hand. For a war film there isn’t a whole lot of action.  In fact, it spends a lot of time on nurse Brooke Elliott (Anna Lee).  Brooke takes care of the orphaned Chinese children and is madly in love with Pappy.  Woody tries wooing Brooke but she stays true to Pappy and he stays true to her.  It’s a pretty stagnant love triangle that never picks up any steam.

John Wayne in Flying Tigers

There is no denying the presence of John Wayne, but FLYING TIGERS story line never lifts off the ground.  My guess is the film’s success is a product of our involvement in WWII.  The other actors do their best as well and some of the air battle sequence are surely important for the time.  But most of the film takes place on the ground and that is exactly where it gets buried.

John Wayne in Flying Tigers

When watching a film that was made more than 70 years ago, it’s important to put a few things in perspective.  The visuals of the planes fighting in the air was a very difficult task.  Without the help of CGI, the filmmakers used models on strings for many of the action sequences.  That sounds laughable but FLYING TIGERS is actually pretty impressive with its effects.  The film earned Academy Award nominations for Best Sound, Best Score and Best Special Effects.  Unfortunately, the story and the action simply don’t hold up at all to today’s standard.  For an older crowd who feels the comfort of simpler times with their beloved John Wayne, I’m sure the film is a nice trip through memory lane, but I can’t in good conscience recommend FLYING TIGERS to anyone who enjoys staying awake during their movies.


Video: (MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p 1.37:1)  The print must have been damaged terribly as the transfer is very messy.  Lots of scratches and grain with a few moment looking completely out of focus making this black and white picture hard to register.

Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio Mono)  Limited with what they have to work with, I would say the sound is actually pretty decent.  A good score highlighted with the Oscar nominated sound mixing during the battle scenes.


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