Strategic Air Command - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Strategic Air Command Reviews

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December 31, 2016
Recently, a particular distributor of DVD and Blu-ray discs, Olive Films, as releasing movies that I loved in my youth. Mostly they had been remastering for high definition films released previously only on DVD. These new Blu-ray additions typically lack the extraordinary extras of The Criterion Collection, but the technical specifications are excellent. In most cases, I'm able to watch a favorite film with better audio and video the night experience in the theater. One of the latest additions to this growing list of movies is 'Strategic Air Command.' This movie was one of a long line of jingoistic films Hollywood began releasing during World War II. There are a couple of aspects of this movie that distinguish it. First of all, it was one of the first Cold War films produced by a major studio with the assistance of the American military. Secondly, the star of the movie did not have to research his role or pretend to assume the identity of his character. James Stewart plays a Lt. Col. in the United States Army Air Forces. At the time he was a full bird colonel in that branch of the military. In real life Mr. Stewart was drafted into the military as a private and worked his way up through the ranks as a combat pilot, eventually achieving the rank of Brigadier General. Mr. Stewart channeled his passion for aviation into a film he appeared in only a couple of years after this one. Mr. Stewart portrayed the first pilot ever crossed the Atlantic Ocean and a solo flight, Charles Lindbergh in 'The Spirit of St. Louis'. Admittedly, this is not one of the best examples of his almost 100 screen credits, but it is an entertaining movie that succeeds in achieving its purpose, to reinforce the trust of the American public the ability of the military to protect them from an enemy intent on destroying our way of life. The film that covers the Cold War era resonated with those of us who lived through that anxious time in American history. For the generations that came after us. The Strategic Air Command Is a footnote in their history textbook.

Jimmy Stewart portrays the protagonist of the movie, Robert "Dutch" Holland, following his life and career. Initially, Dutch plays baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals into World War II broke out. He joined the United States Army Air Corps and assigned as a pilot for a B-29 bomber. After the war starts remains a reserve officer in the United States Air Force Reserve, officially remaining on inactive status. Like many of the men returning from war, Dutch goes back to his pre-war profession. Dutch is in St. Petersburg, Florida for preseason spring training when recalled to active duty; he reports to Carswell Air Force Base, located in Fort Worth, Texas to begin his new training as a pilot for the latest technological wonder America has put in the air, the Convair B-36. With the previously unheard of range and payload capacity that ended the nickname 'Peacemaker' since he had hoped that it would serve more as a deterrent than an actual weapon of war. Jimmy Stewart has always had an 'everyman' quality about him that immediately connected with the audience, making them a definite fan favorite. This aspect of his personality allowed him to pull off scenes that would stumble over actors realistically. One example in this film is that Dutch reports for duty in his civilian clothes because none of the new uniforms fit him. He is immediately chewed out by the command of the Teaching Their Command, Hawkes (Frank Lovejoy), modeled after the real-life general who was in charge of Vietnam, Curtis Lemay. This man played a dominant role in the political scene as most of us were growing up. He would eventually run on the same ticket as George Wallace for the position of vice president. References to actual people such as this are a significant reason why those of us of the baby boomer generation can relate to the movie so well.

That starts out with a position on staff within a bombardment wing at the Air Force Base which provides them with a lot of time in the air. Soon, Dutch is given command of his crew and can select someone he worked with in World War II to serve as his engineer. Playing Dutch his wife, Sally, was an actress frequently paired with Stuart, June Allyson. Together they one of America's favorite on-screen couples. Although the discrepancy in height, he was 6 foot three and she was barely 5 feet tall, be quiet some imaginative blocking of the director. A primary focus of this film was the personal lives of the SAC personnel and their families. Sally is a loving and devoted wife but is constantly under stress by the extended absences of a husband and the potential danger he faced. Because of the impressive range of the B-36, Dutch would often be assigned to prolonged missions far off from the United States. These planes were considered the front line of defense during the arm's race that defined the Cold War. The planes highlighted here were the aerial segment of the Nuclear Triad which was created to counter the nuclear capabilities of the Soviet Union.

The film took great care to present SAC personnel and equipment as accurately as feasible. The driving force behind this mandate was Stuart who devoted to the crucial function of protecting the country performed by the US Air Force. Was manifested in how the film lionized the role of SAC in the modern paradigm of the potential use of devastating nuclear weapons. The movie depicts how Dutch and his crew handle the routine aspects of their service woven together with long, tedious assignments punctuated with airborne alerts, unavoidable accidents and even a spectacularly filmed force landing. Most people, both fans, and critics, point out that the real star of the film is the amazing aerial photography. Following the precedent established during World War II the studio received the complete cooperation of the United States Air Force. This afforded the filmmaker access to real military bases for location shots and the ability to realistically portray the cockpits of these complicated machines. These factors combined to reinforce a positive image of the US military in general and specifically the relatively new defender of our nation, SAC. The fifties was an intensely anxious period in American history. The post-War boon in home ownership, employment, and educational advantages juxtaposed to the threats of Communist domination. The American people had to deal with dangers and anxiety more intense than the Axis threat of the previous decade. The arms race was responsible for the proliferation of nuclear weapons capable of annihilating all life on the planet many times over. The fifties also witnessed the infamous McCarthy hears that stirred up the all-pervading paranoia of a witch hunt. The nation was afraid, and films like this served to provide a measure of calm confidence. While technically movies like this fall under the umbrella of propaganda the intentions were well meant. For younger views, please try to keep these factors in mind considering it as insight for a troubled time that occurred before most of you were born.
October 7, 2016
Good film for the period. Col. Stweart, USAFR, actually flew the types portrayed.
½ November 15, 2015
Strategic Air Command is a decent film. It is about a third baseman who reluctantly returns to the air force during WWII. James Stewart and June Allyson give good performances. The screenplay is a little slow in places. Anthony Mann did an alright job directing this movie. I liked watching this motion picture because of the action and drama
September 19, 2015
Stewart is excellent in this movie which is a bit contrived. The aerial sequences are some of the best ever recorded in my opinion. If you are interested in seeing the B-36 and B-47 inside and out this is a great film to check out if you can find it. It is very difficult to track down.
May 20, 2015
gr8 aerial photography
½ June 15, 2014
IF you are an Air Force history buff, or into old planes, it is a good movie. The plot is very loosely modeled on Ted Williams, but even "modeled" might be too strong a statement.
Jimmy is his usual self, and it is made more interesting if you know he was a B-24 pilot who flew 19 combat missions over Germany during WWII. But, then if you know that, you probably like the movie already.
May 27, 2013
As a child, this was one of the favorite movies of my brothers and I. After all it had e3 of our favorite things in it: baseball, Air Force planes, and parachuting. Plus as a precocious youngster I had a crush on June Allyson. But I diverge. Judging this as a film basically misses the point. This is a sincere story made to engender empathy and support from a public still weary of war 10 years after the end of WWII for this hard to understand cold war. For essentially a piece of propaganda packaged into a mainstream movie, it is somewhat surprising to see the anti-war message that is repeated several times. The selling point from the military's point of view (how to defend massive expenditures in a time of peace) was that a massive deterrent would be the very best way to prevent WWIII. In 1955 that was a worthy point of view, that lasted until the US and Soviets reached the point of "Mutually Assured Destruction." But in the meantime, if the Soviets had any plans to start a war (more likely in Western Europe than in our country), one would have to say the strategy of the Strategic Air Command's mission worked. So what we really have here is a tiny melodrama between two great stars with onscreen chemistry, the points mentioned above, and numerous luscious scenes of grand planes (many will be too young to have ever seen the enormous and stately B-36, in many ways the most magnificent plane ever flown) floating through the skies amidst grand cloud formations lit with beautiful colors. Plus, the score is quite lovely (particularly "The World is Mine") and quite effective in its accompaniment of the film. If you view it in the context of the times and its purpose, I believe you will find it to be a very worthy film to see, and a good lesson for this new generation born after the cold war ended.
February 25, 2012
Hey, I've always liked this movie. It never was an anti - war movie as someone suggested, its more of a pro-air force propaganda piece. However, you've got to love the flying sequenses of the B-36's and B-47's and you'll be hard pressed to find them in any other movie.
½ June 11, 2011
Proof that Jimmy Stewart can star in mediocre movies. Essentially a piece of Cold War propaganda, the plot is so-so, the dialogue is overly gung-ho, and the acting is fairly wooden.

Even the great Jimmy Stewart seems like he is just going through the motions. I guess Hollywood wanted to continue to milk the fact that he was a WW2 bomber pilot. June Allyson is incredibly irritating as the long-suffering Airforce wife.

It's not all bad though. Any scenes involving the B-36 and B-47 bombers were great, and there's a lot of them.
½ May 27, 2011
Forget the plot. This movie is notable for its spectacular aerial photography of the B-36 Peacemaker and B-47 Stratojet aircraft in the SAC fleet. The refueling of a B-47 from a KC-97 is pure poetry.
April 24, 2011
Lol gotta love it -- shameless USAF propaganda in an era where air travel was new and amaaaazing! :) Short on plot, long on "look at the snazzy plane." And military family issues clearly haven't changed much!
½ March 29, 2011
Pretty good as propaganda. I didn't expect much, but the cast is pretty good and it's more interesting than I would have thought possible. Anthony Mann's direction keeps the pace perfectly throughout, and lets the actors carry the movie.
½ February 13, 2011
Typical propaganda movie during the early years of the Cold War. What makes this movie special is the fantastic acting of June Allyson and James Stewart.

Little known facts: James Stewart was a colonel in the US Air Force Reserve, the same rank as his character, when the film was made.

James Stewart flew one combat mission over Vietnam while serving as a reservist and eventually retired as a Brigadier General.
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ November 11, 2010
The stars of "The Glenn Miller Story" reunited for this middling entry about ball player Dutch Holland's career in the air force. Some of the aerial photography is impressive and both stars give professional performances but the movie moves at a poky pace with little of any great import happening. Not bad but not worth seeking out either.
May 16, 2010
Visually stunning, even for those not prone to aircraft enthusiasm.

The real stars of this thinly-veiled recruiting, tribute and Cold War propaganda vehicle are the B-36 & B-47 bombers and other assorted massive military aircraft; the film is stuffed with stunning Vistavision, Technicolor visuals of these aircraft both in flight and on the tarmac.

Dozens taxied in formation for takeoff, aerial refuelings by KC-97 Stratotankers, crafty landings in the muck, gaping noses of C-124 Globemaster II cargo planes swallowing up tanker trucks whole - all will visually fascinate even those viewers with little in the way of aircraft enthusiasm.

Aside from the planes themselves, there's little else on board this film. Stewart's delivery is uninteresting; not surprising given the nearly non-existent plot, that pilot Stewart's fighting off personal aches/pains ... as well as his personal desire - and his 1950s-aproned wife's nagging - to return to professional baseball, a loose reference to BoRedSox's Ted Williams.

Stewart's being tapped for this vehicle is no accident in casting. He flew WWII bombing runs and remained an active member of the Air Force Reserve into the 1960s, ultimately achieving the rank of Brigadier General. June Alyson's delivers well the lousy supporting role she's dealt - playing the spoiled, hissy-fitting & whiny wife who's tired of worrying away the days when Stewart is aloft on classified missions to destinations unknown.

Though there's plenty of inside information/access on display, reference to SAC's 'nuclear failsafe' mission are notably absent.

Given Stewart's involvement and the full access granted by SAC, it's obvious the military (and likely Curtis LeMay) instigated the film's development, but though it's original purpose is long gone (and SAC, as of 1992), the viewer can still be thankful for the visually stunning record of these aircraft that it immortalized.

Another title for your "too-bad it's not on DVD" list.
½ May 14, 2010
Some nice flying but too American for me
½ May 14, 2010
Some nice flying but too American for me
March 2, 2010
Not one of Jimmy Stewart's best films, but not fault of his. He is terrific. June Allyson, I don't know what exactly it is I don't like about her. I feel her performances are so rehearsed and phony. She is way too sappy and understanding in this film and I feel she hurts the films overall effect. Some excellent aerial photography, good score and the entire production is top notch. It waves the flag a little excessively and the mix of personal drama and action sequences is at times a little awkward. The supporting cast is a bit bland, Harry Morgan and Rosemary de Camp stand out as the best. Good special effects. The color in the film was exceptionally crisp.
March 2, 2010
68/100. Not one of Jimmy Stewart's best films, but not fault of his. He is terrific. June Allyson, I don't know what exactly it is I don't like about her. I feel her performances are so rehearsed and phony. She is way too sappy and understanding in this film and I feel she hurts the films overall effect. Some excellent aerial photography, good score and the entire production is top notch. It waves the flag a little excessively and the mix of personal drama and action sequences is at times a little awkward. The supporting cast is a bit bland, Harry Morgan and Rosemary de Camp stand out as the best. Good special effects. The color in the film was exceptionally crisp.
½ January 30, 2010
I was part of the Strategic Air Command 1950 thru 1954 and find the flying in this movie to be 95% real. I flew as electronic tech on a select crew 1714 hrs.Most of the scenes in this movie were almost realistic. The scenes from the upper deck of the B-36 were awesome at 45,000 feet. From Spokane,Wash to Alaska to North Africa. Then was transferred to a B-47 wing and flew as Bomb-Nav check out on several test hops. Most of the scenes in this movie were almost realistic.
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