Produced and directed by the brother team of Gene and Roger Corman, this ambitious attempt at the telling of the famous "Red Baron" story is exciting when it is in the air but comes to a screeching halt whenever the actors stop shooting and start talking. Law is Richthofen, a 23-year-old
who joins the unit headed by fighter pilot Masterson. WW I is raging and good men are needed to battle the Allies. Law is a snob and a bit of a blowhard, but he has the flying skills to back his "attitude," and he immediately becomes the target of the ire of Primus (as Hermann Goering), a pilot
with big ideas, a big ego, and a big appetite. Meanwhile, on the other side of the battleline, Canadian Stroud (as Brown) arrives and resents the way his British compatriots seem to view the war as sort of a sporting event. He grows angry when the British fliers raise their glasses to Law because
he is the No.1 German ace and declares that he intends to bring Law down to earth. When German squadron leader Masterson is killed, Law, assuming command, orders that the German planes be painted bright colors, thereby earning the squadron the nickname "The Flying Circus." Law's own plane is
painted blood red, and in no time he is known far and wide as "the Red Baron." On the other hand, the British continue to employ traditional gentlemanly military practices and tactics, despite Stroud's demand that they go for the enemy's throat. Stroud leads the British on a surprise attack that
successfully ruins several parked German planes and destroys a hospital. Flushed with success, the Brits fly back toward their base. But in the meantime, Law and Primus have raced ahead in some powerful new Fokker triplanes that almost double the speed of their former aircraft, and have wreaked
terrible havoc on the British base. Time passes and the German high command, seeing that there is no way they can win the war, asks Law, who has become a national hero, to give up active service so that he can lend his support to the postwar government. However, Law refuses to accept that his
bravery will have been for nothing, so he returns to the action and keeps shooting down Allied planes. Law has about 80 "kills" to his credit when he finally meets his match in Stroud. They have a lengthy dogfight that ends when Law is killed in midair, though his red Fokker makes a miraculous
landing by itself.
The picture cost almost a million dollars to make, a great deal for a Corman film at the time. Real WW I vintage planes were used in the filmming and a couple of crashes occurred--one resulting in the death of stunt pilot Charles Bodington. A nude love scene between Law and Huston was so ludicrous
that preview audiences laughed hard enough that the producers had the scene deleted from the final print. A bad soundtrack and horrendous dubbing don't help matters, but the hardest thing to figure out here is who is shooting at whom in the air sequences. In a small role, note Hurd Hatfield, who
will always be remembered for his portrayal of Dorian Gray. VON RICHTOFEN AND BROWN was filmed in Ireland.
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- Rating: GP
- Review: Produced and directed by the brother team of Gene and Roger Corman, this ambitious attempt at the telling of the famous "Red Baron" story is exciting when it is in the air but comes to a screeching halt whenever the actors stop shooting and start talking.… (more)