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Old 02-15-2013, 08:40 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Air Force movies

I'm old enough to remember when the Air National Guard still had some F-106s. The other day we watched Super 8, which was set in 1979 and featured the Air Force personnel as the Bad Guys. No planes, but it was interesting to see someone other than the Army or some kind of special forces. It got me thinking about films in general that feature the USAF, and the late-'50s/early-'60s and the days of the 'Century Fighters'. I grew up near a couple of Naval Air Stations, so I'd see F-4s Phantom IIs and F-14 Tomcats flying around. As a young adult I worked at an Air Force base and saw F-4s, F-15s, F-16s, T-38s, B-1s, and various experimental aircraft. The Navy has Top Gun, and the Air Force has The Right Stuff; but what I'd really like to see is some USAF-themed films that were shot in the time period in which they took place.

There's Strategic Air Command with Jimmy Stewart. Good film. Any number of films have incidental shots of USAF aircraft. For example, The Thing From Another World has the C-47, War Of The Worlds has a B-49, and other films have clips of F-86s or F-101s scrambling to the chase. But these are incidental. Dr. Strangelove; Or, How I learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb and Fail Safe featured B-52 bombers. Those were great.

What are some 'Century Fighter'-era movies that take place primarily on Air Force bases and/or focus on USAF personnel?

Additionally, what films feature the USAF Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol?
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  #2  
Old 02-15-2013, 08:46 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Just off the top of my head, how about Failsafe with Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, Larry Hagman, etc? They were trying to defuse a SAC attack and it would likely have a few shots.

Last edited by lieu; 02-15-2013 at 08:51 AM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 08:54 AM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
. . .Fail Safe featured B-52 bombers. Those were great. . . .
I think the movie version of the Fail-Safe bombers looked more like B-58s. I don't recall what kind were mentioned in the book. I also don't recall how many external shots there were of the bombers, other than the stock footage when they were shown taking off.
But, more to the point, another Air Force movie was "Bombers B-52," featuring a young Natalie Wood.
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Old 02-15-2013, 08:58 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker View Post
I think the movie version of the Fail-Safe bombers looked more like B-58s.
I think you're right. It's been a while since I've seen it.
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:04 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Argh, I missed your Failsafe mention, apologies! He's the wiki on the Convair B-58 Hustler.

"The B-58 has also appeared in the 1964 film Fail-Safe, where stock footage of B-58s was used to represent the fictional "Vindicator" bombers which attacked Moscow. Interestingly, the art used in the original magazine publication of the novel had depicted the "Vindicator" bombers - itself the recycling of the name of a World War II American dive bomber - as almost identical to B-58s but equipped with canards.[44]

In Fail Safe, a 2000 made-for-TV remake starring George Clooney, the fictional Vindicator bomber was again represented by the B-58 Hustler."

Last edited by lieu; 02-15-2013 at 09:07 AM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:27 AM
JerrySTL JerrySTL is offline
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Earl beat me to Bombers B-52.

There's "A Gathering of Eagles" with Rock Hudson. It's somewhat in the mode of "Twelve O'Clock High" in that it's more about the leadership than flying.
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:56 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Disappointingly, an F-104 is NOT featured in the movie The Last Starfighter.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:25 AM
GrandWino GrandWino is offline
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Iron Eagle?
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:27 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Ducca View Post
Oh God, no! I couldn't get past the silliness of the Cessna vs. motorcycle race.
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:37 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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Pre-century fighter but how about Battle Hymn? Rock Hudson plays a WWII vet who becomes a minister after the war. He is recalled for Korea to take command of a squadron. Based on a true story.

Eta looking it up I see they were flying P-51s. I had forgotten that.

Last edited by Loach; 02-15-2013 at 11:42 AM..
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  #11  
Old 02-15-2013, 12:38 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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McDonnell F-101B Voodoo seen in The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming.
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  #12  
Old 02-15-2013, 12:53 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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There was a '50s flick with John Wayne and Janet Leigh, in which he was a USAF colonel and she was a Russian defector. She came over in what they said was basically a Soviet version of the T-33 (it wasn't) and were flying, IIRC, F-94s and F-96s; probably others as well, but it's been almost 30 years since I saw the movie on late-night, and I don't remember.

One thing that did stick with me was that the AF officers were wearing weird combinations of brown and blue uniform parts. I've always wondered if there was indeed a transitional period in which Army uniforms were still being issued to AF personnel, or if the movie had just been Colorized badly. (I remember seeing such a '40s Sherlock Holmes movie, in which a USAAF officer was wearing the correct period uniform but they had colored it blue instead of brown.)
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  #13  
Old 02-15-2013, 12:54 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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This is the movie:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_Pilot_(film)
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Old 02-15-2013, 12:58 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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How can you say Failsafe without thinking of Dr. Strangelove.

Last edited by TV time; 02-15-2013 at 12:59 PM..
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Old 02-15-2013, 01:05 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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In Strategic Air Command, I'm pretty sure, Stewart was flying B-47s, at least for part of the movie.

In the book Fail-Safe, the fighters are called "Skyscrappers," and from the brief description that was given of them sounded a lot like F-104s (e.g., missiles with stubby wings).
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Old 02-15-2013, 01:07 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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This link works:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_Pilot_(film)

What I meant to say, of course, was that the plane she came over in was a T-33, NOT a "Soviet version" of one.

Last edited by terentii; 02-15-2013 at 01:09 PM..
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  #17  
Old 02-15-2013, 01:21 PM
Llama Llogophile Llama Llogophile is offline
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Two of my favorites:

The Hunters starring Robert Mitchum. Some terrific footage of F-86 Sabres, including dropping external tanks. Not a bad story either.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri. I believe they're flying Grumman Panthers. I've always thought of this film as the Top Gun of its day. The scene where William Holden has to trap with a crane sitting on the deck is one of my all time favorites. I've had a few landings with a pucker factor, but nothing like that!
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  #18  
Old 02-15-2013, 01:32 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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What about more that aren't set in the Korean War?
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:52 PM
astorian astorian is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
. The Navy has Top Gun, and the Air Force has The Right Stuff

It wasn't that neat a delineation in The Right Stuff. Of the primary characters...

1) John Glenn was a Marine
2) Alan Shepard, Walter Schirra, and Scott Carpenter were in the Navy
3) Chuck Yeager, Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton and Gordon Cooper were in the Air Force

Firefox had Air Force pilot Mitchell Gant (Clint Eastwood) as its hero, but he was mostly seen flying a Russian plane.

Last edited by astorian; 02-15-2013 at 02:53 PM..
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  #20  
Old 02-15-2013, 02:55 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astorian View Post
It wasn't that neat a delineation in The Right Stuff. Of the primary characters...
True, but much of the film took place at Edwards (Muroc) Air Force Base.
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  #21  
Old 02-15-2013, 03:04 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
What about more that aren't set in the Korean War?
The Air Force did not actually become the "Air Force" until July of 1947 so it didn't have that many wars to take part in. And wars tend to make the best movies (if we are to believe Hollywood SOP).
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Old 02-15-2013, 06:51 PM
teela brown teela brown is offline
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I'm not sure I understand all your technicalities, but this is a good place to recommend Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Is that what you're looking for?

Good Van Johnson vehicle, but I haven't a clue as to the authenticity of the aircraft.
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Old 02-15-2013, 07:01 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
what I'd really like to see is some USAF-themed films that were shot in the time period in which they took place.
I don't suppose we get to count IRON MAN and IRON MAN 2, do we?
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Old 02-15-2013, 08:14 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mach Tuck View Post

The Bridges at Toko-Ri. I believe they're flying Grumman Panthers. I've always thought of this film as the Top Gun of its day. The scene where William Holden has to trap with a crane sitting on the deck is one of my all time favorites. I've had a few landings with a pucker factor, but nothing like that!
That was about the Navy not Air Force.

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Originally Posted by teela brown View Post
I'm not sure I understand all your technicalities, but this is a good place to recommend Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Is that what you're looking for?

Good Van Johnson vehicle, but I haven't a clue as to the authenticity of the aircraft.
Army air corps not Air Force. If you don't follow the rules we will descend into chaos and anarchy!
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:02 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is online now
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The USAF features heavily in Independence Day, but the producers weren't able to get cooperation from the real USAF because of all the reference to Area 51. Most of the main characters in Stargate and on Stargate SG1 were either USAF or civilian contracters. They had alot of cooperation from the USAF, and didn't loose it when they starting mentioning Area 51 in the later seasons.
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  #26  
Old 02-15-2013, 09:44 PM
jasg jasg is online now
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
What about more that aren't set in the Korean War?
Much older and no Century fighters - but the 1938 film Test Pilot is worth a look, just for the authentic footage of the Y1B-17 squadron. Cast is not bad either, Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. I recorded it to DVD from TCM where it still shows up from time to time.
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:53 PM
Slithy Tove Slithy Tove is offline
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How about The Starfighters, starring future congressman B1 Bob Dornan?
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:24 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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I assume Air Force One had some Air Force angle to it.
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Old 02-16-2013, 03:11 AM
terentii terentii is offline
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
Army air corps not Air Force. If you don't follow the rules we will descend into chaos and anarchy!
Ahem!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_...Army_Air_Corps
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  #31  
Old 02-16-2013, 03:15 AM
terentii terentii is offline
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Originally Posted by teela brown View Post
I'm not sure I understand all your technicalities, but this is a good place to recommend Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Is that what you're looking for?

Good Van Johnson vehicle, but I haven't a clue as to the authenticity of the aircraft.
Like almost everything in that movie, they were very authentic. Real B-25s were used in addition to mock-ups.

IIRC, other period aircraft were parked in the background during the outdoor training scenes.
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Old 02-16-2013, 07:43 AM
Loach Loach is offline
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Yes?
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  #33  
Old 02-16-2013, 09:29 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Originally Posted by TV time View Post
And wars tend to make the best movies (if we are to believe Hollywood SOP).
This is hard to explain... When I watch an old movie, I try to get into the Zeitgeist. I'm a big fan of air-themed WWII films, and have a decent collection and have seen many others. I've seen the Korean War-themed films mentioned here. But what I'm really looking for are films set in the Cold War era of the late-1950s through mid-1960s.

I wasn't born in the '50s, but growing up watching syndicated reruns and old movies, plus seeing regular-8 home movies my dad shot then, I have a 'feel' for the times. I was alive before home computers and video games. I know what it's like to be in a quiet house, and to miss a phone call because I wasn't home. I remember the huge (by today's standards) old cars. (My best friend growing up lived with his grandparents, and his grandfather collected Hudsons.) So when I watch old movies, I think of how less convenient many things were. I think of people having to go to a library to look things up, and having to use a land-line to talk to people. I think of people cooking most nights instead of going through a drive-through or grabbing a bucket of chicken or something. As I said, it's hard to explain; but imagining how life was back then adds to the movie-watching experience for me.

So to the topic of this thread: In the late-'50s/early-'60s the U.S. was economically and militarily powerful. But we had a powerful adversary in the Soviet Union, and there was real fear of a nuclear war. We had bombers in the air 24/7, and interceptor aircraft ready to counter an attack.

Now think of those Century fighters. In the 1940s and into the '50s, the early jets had centrifugal turbojet engines. In the early-'50s the F-86 had an axial-flow J47 turbojet engine. Things were improving, but aircraft were still old-school in their designs. With the Century fighters, aircraft design was pretty exciting. The F-102 Delta Dagger and the F-106 Delta Dart (and the B-58 Hustler) had delta wings that were a departure from the conventional (to this day) airframe layout. The F-104 Starfighter was the 'missile with a man in it' -- long and thin and fast. The Century fighters were designed as 'interceptors'. That is, their primary mission was to intercept incoming enemy aircraft by getting there as fast as possible once the threat was detected. More modern aircraft were better at dogfighting. The Century fighters were designed more for speed, and primarily designed to attack less-maneruverable bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. They were the 'Minute Men'.

So to set the stage: Two powerful countries stand toe-to-toe, each capable of inflicting collateral damage undreamed of before. The front line -- the tip of the spear -- against nuclear annihilation brought by long-range enemy bombers was the U.S. Air Force; men trained, primed, and ready to throw themselves into battle. Their mounts were the fastest interceptors of the day. The pilots sit in their ready rooms, knowing that at any moment war might come...

Strategic Air Command in particular did a good job of capturing the spirit of the times and its urgency. Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe took a darker path; the former satirically, and the latter played straight. Maybe those films were enough. Or maybe people do prefer war films -- especially 'safe' war films set in Korea, where the outcome was already known. Maybe they prefer a lot of action instead of a lot of tension that climaxes in an action scene. It seems to me that there is a dearth of films featuring planes that served the USAF and ANG for decades. (The F-106, introduced in 1959, served in the U.S. until 1988.) Home defense seems a forgotten genre. The Right Stuff took place at home (for me, literally; as I worked at EAFB) and was quite exciting. From The Earth To The Moon also took place 'at home' and captured the times quite well.

Being a 'Navy brat' and working on an Air Force base, i saw how people lived on bases. Those cinder block houses in The Right Stuff? They're real. Sure, there are newer houses; but the old ones are still there and occupied. (Or they were when I worked there, until 1985.) I'd like to see more films that focus on life on an Air Force base in the days when we were facing off against the Soviet threat. And I'd like to see more of those planes between the early jets fighters and the ones that came after the Century series.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lute Skywatcher View Post
Why, oh, why won't someone release a restored edition of that? The video quality on my DVD is typical for an unrestored '30s movie, but the audio needs work.
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  #34  
Old 02-16-2013, 10:13 AM
terentii terentii is offline
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You would probably love this TV series:

http://www.ovguide.com/tv/steve_canyon.htm

http://stevecanyondvd.blogspot.ru/

There were a few full-length episodes available under "Action/Adventure" at a site called tv4u.com, but I can't access it from where I am now (hopefully they're still there). One of them had a five-second walk-on of an 18-year-old Mary Tyler Moore at the end.

Last edited by terentii; 02-16-2013 at 10:14 AM..
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  #35  
Old 02-16-2013, 10:21 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is offline
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Originally Posted by Loach View Post
Yes?
Probably just pointing out that the Army Air Corps didn't exist at the time Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo takes place (at least, not the raid from which the movie takes it's name). By then they had been reorganized into the Army Air Forces.

Anyhow, for purposes of discussion, I think "Air Force" should include the direct precursor organizations (Army Air Forces, Army Air Corps, etc.) We can draw the line at not including anything before the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Signal Corps though, in order to maintain some semblance of order.

In which case, you have 12 O'Clock High, The Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails, Tora Tora Tora, and Pearl Harbor.

...

You know what? It's best if we pretend Pearl Harbor never happened. Ben Affleck would probably think it best.
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  #36  
Old 02-16-2013, 01:02 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Cool story about an F-106.

The Cornfield Bomber

After the pilot ejected from F-106A S/N 58-0787 in a flat spin, the aircraft recovered itself and flew until it ran out of fuel and landed in a field. Damage was minimal, and the aircraft was repaired and returned to service.
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Old 02-16-2013, 01:08 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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Speaking of old TV series featuring cool jets....

Did you ever see the episode of Sea Hunt where Mike Nelson had to rescue the pilot trapped underwater in the cockpit of this bird?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_F2Y_Sea_Dart

The show opened with actual footage of the airplane landing (or crashing, maybe) during one of its test flights.
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