Theatrical trailer(s), TV spot(s)
Conversations with Ken Annakin
Visual effects gallery
In 1910, a wealthy English newspaper publisher decides to hold an airplane race from London to Paris. When he offers 10,000 pounds to the winner, he ends up getting entries from America, England, France, Germany, Italy, and even Japan. Joining the race is also American cowboy Orvil Newton. He needs to win the money to keep out of debt, but he is quickly sidetracked by Patricia Rawnsley, the daughter of the publisher. Independent and adventurous, Patricia is attracted to Orvil as well. Unfortunately, her father doesn’t approve and threatens to drop Orvil from the race. There’s also the tiny detail that she’s engaged to aviator Richard Mays. Throw in sabotage from another aviator and it certainly looks like Orvil is out of luck. Or is he?
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines is rated G.
About the only thing this film has going for it are the cool old airplanes. Replicas of real early aircraft were constructed for this movie and they are beautiful. Seeing them in flight was particularly noteworthy and the filmmakers do some cool stunts with them. If you’re an aviation enthusiast, you may want to check it out.
None of the actors are particularly memorable. I had never heard of any of them before and after seeing this movie I understood why. Comedian Red Skelton has a brief cameo at the beginning and end, but he’s not in it enough to make this movie noteworthy. Benny Hill even has a bit part, but he doesn’t do any comedy.
All of the roles in the film are caricatures of people from various countries from that time period. The American is very brash, the Italian very loud, the French very irreverent, and the German’s very militaristic. Unfortunately, none of them are particularly funny. (Yet, somehow this movie was nominated for Academy Awards and Golden Globes.) Because they are stereotypes, all of the actors overact, thus making their performances even more annoying.
If you’re slightly interested in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, I would recommend fast forwarding to the actual race itself (past the intermission included in the DVD presentation) and watching the airplane stunts. It’s not worth subjecting yourself to the rest of the film.
Conversations with Ken Annakin In this feature the director (who is surprisingly still alive and directing) discusses how he got the film made, what it was like getting it ready, and how he dealt with the challenges of filming. It’s about 15 minutes long. It is also surprisingly candid. He discusses how the two lead actors hated each other (and how it made filming romantic scenes difficult). If you’re interested in a brief look at how the movie was made, this is probably the best feature on the DVD.
Commentary by director Ken Annakin Annakin continues his commentary here and pretty much says everything he does in the “Conversations” piece. As long as the movie is, the commentary is a bit much to listen to. I preferred the shorter version mentioned above. That tells most of the highlights of what he has to say.
Behind-the-scenes gallery These are production shots from the film. Text stills inbetween the shots give more trivia and are pretty interesting. They tell how some of the actors later died, who were in the photos, and what careers the crew had. (Star Wars makeup artist Stuart Freeborn is even shown doing some stuff.)
Visual effects gallery These are mainly pictures of Red Skelton getting made up for his cameos at the beginning of the movie.
Historical aircraft These still shots show how the aircraft were made and what inspired them. Good stuff for aviation enthusiasts.
Storyboards This shows a scene cut from the film because studio executive Zanuck thought there was too much comedy in the film, to which I must add “Huh?!?”
The Bottom Line: