Twelve O’Clock High

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A hard-as-nails general takes over a bomber unit suffering from low morale and whips them into fighting shape.

ACTORS :  Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill

YEAR OF RELEASE :  1949

POSTAGE : Free postage within Australia

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Twelve O’Clock High In this story of the early days of daylight bombing raids over Nazi Germany, General Frank Savage must take command of a “hard luck” bomber group. Much of the story deals with his struggle to whip his group into a disciplined fighting unit in spite of heavy losses, and withering attacks by German fighters over their targets. Actual combat footage is used in this tense war drama.

Probably the greatest film of the air war to be made about World War II

Twelve O’Clock High No gungho up and at ’em men. No false heroics. A great war film, but also an anti-war film of great intensity. Just ordinary men (and boys) doing the job they knew they had got to do. Greg Peck magnificent as the general forced to stiffen the morale of his bomber group, and who he himself eventually cracks under the strain. Dean Jagger outstanding and thoroughly deserving his oscar as best supporting actor. A truly great film, 10 out of 10 in my book.  Twelve O’Clock High There are still disused airfields like that shown at the beginning only a few miles from where I live (although they were RAF bases). In 1943-45 as a young schoolboy I lived further down south in England and often saw the American Fortresses going to, and returning (not all of them!) from their daylight raids over Germany . A fine tribute to those American airmen wo gave their lives over Europe.

‘classic’ an inadequate term for this one

Twelve O’Clock High Without any question, indisputably the greatest WWII film ever (except, perhaps for “Bridge on the River Kwai”; but that’s a WWII story only in the same sense that “Moby Dick” is a book about a whale). There are no weaknesses in this movie. The screenplay is perfect, rooted as it is in the historical reality of the U.S.’s attempt to prove the superiority of Daylight Precision Bombing over the Brits favored strategy of night bombing. The terrible human pressures it placed on young American pilots AND their leaders has never been so well-portrayed on film. Dramatic tension is perfectly manipulated, and the characters are well-drawn, sympathetic and fully developed. Every member of this superb cast gives this great material the great acting it deserves. The usage of actual WWII bombing footage adds to the sense of reality. Twelve O’Clock High The psychological drama – what “maximum effort” does to people – is at the core of the story and supercedes the mere military aspect. And the device of the framing scenes – Harvey Stovall (Dean Jagger) recollecting the story while standing in the abandoned airstrip – is brilliant. It gives the tale an overwhelmingly bittersweet feeling of “long-ago” nostalgia. It is so powerful that Spielberg must have consciously had 12 O’clock High in mind when he used the same device in Saving Private Ryan to make that whole film a flashback, just as this one is. To hell with the flashy flamboyance of Citizen Kane; I would have to give 12 O’clock High a better shot at being “the best movie ever made”. Film buffs &/or devotees of WWII history who haven’t seen this one are living a deprived existence.

 

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