Movie Review: Strategic Air Command (1955)

“Soar to New Heights of Adventure!”

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Strategic Air Command (1955)

Strategic Air Command (1955)

 

Director: Anthony Mann

Cast: James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy

Synopsis: A baseball payer is recalled to the US Air Force in response to a perceived increased threat from the Soviet Union.

 

WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!

Jimmy Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo) is a former WWII pilot now playing baseball who is called up into the Strategic Air Command because his country’s getting nervous about nameless enemies who might be lurking in the skies (you can tell this was written during the height of that curious ‘reds under the beds’ hysteria in the States). His wife (June Allyson) is at first supportive, but that support begins to diminish following the birth of their daughter and her husband’s growing commitment to the cause.

Apart from some impressive aerial cinematography, Strategic Air Command doesn’t really have a lot going for it, and seems to be little more than a protracted advertisement for the work of the SAC.   It’s the kind of film Hollywood was churning out on a weekly basis in the 1950s – although usually with a smaller budget and less impressive cast.   In fact it’s difficult to see what an actor of Stewart’s stature saw in such a formulaic script.   It certainly can’t have been the character of Dutch Holland, the pilot he plays, because he comes across as something of an inconsiderate egotist: not only does he endanger the life of his crew by ignoring a nagging injury in his shoulder that his CO has ordered him to have treated, but he also decides to indefinitely extend his length of service (which was initially only 21 months) into a lifelong commitment without bothering to consult the wife.   It’s no wonder she does one – and a small miracle that he doesn’t emerge from telling her with at least some tender body parts.

Stewart doesn’t really extend himself in the lead role – but then he was one of those stars who didn’t have to. He could just play himself – long and gawky, with that distinctive voice – and his audience would be happy.   June Allyson looks a little long in the tooth for the role of dutiful wife (and barely reaches Stewart’s elbow), and so looks uncomfortable in a role that is so insipid it’s fair to say nobody could have gotten much out of it.

Because there isn’t a lot happening in the air – an early forced landing which forces Dutch and his radio man to camp out for the night, and then Dutch getting that achy shoulder – the film devotes much of its time to the Hollands’ marital life – which is as about as dull to any onlooker as yours or mine.

(Reviewed 20th September 2011)

 

Strategic Air Command – Trailer

 

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