Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are blink-and-you'll-miss them swear words and ethnic slurs, and a few stunts of a don't-try-this-at-home-with-cardboard-wings variety. One running gag concerns a Frenchman who seduces a string of women throughout (nothing explicit is shown). Some video boxes of this feature carry a "G," others a "PG," and there's no difference in content.
What's the story?
An all-star super-deluxe widescreen slapstick epic, THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES takes place in 1910. A British newspaper baron (Robert Morley), to boost the infant field of aviation, sponsors an air race from London to Paris -- with part of the journey by land, because it's still inconceivable these spindly, prop-driven craft could stay aloft more than 60 miles at a time. The race draws an international cast of contenders: an Italian aristocrat, a womanizing Frenchman, a pompous squad of German military, a Snidely Whiplash-style cheater named Sir Percy (Terry-Thomas) and an American cowboy named Orvil (Stuart Whitman). When not dealing with balky engines and Sir Percy's sabotage, Orvil and the main British contender (James Fox) begin a romantic rivalry over the press baron's daughter.
Is it any good?
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines recently charted high in a UK survey of favorite kid-friendly movies, and no wonder. From the opening faux-silent movie sequence with a caveman (mimed by Red Skelton), there's hardly a dull minute for viewers of any age, even with a super-sized length (home-video preserves the "intermission" break and orchestral overture for old-time theater audiences). The cast sparkles, and they're all larger-than-life actors playing broad character spoofs, right down to major Euro-actors in bit roles (yes, that's the villain from Goldfinger as the pratfalling German marshal).
Sets, costumes and nostalgic Edwardian-era flavor are a joy to behold. And the sputtering, chugging, wire-and-canvas flying contraptions are wonderful. In all but a handful of shots it's clear that these are real aircraft, not CGI or f/x illusions. Watching them aloft conveys some of the thrills that early plane-spotters might have felt back then.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the period atmosphere. What must it have been like to behold early airplanes at the dawn of aviation? How has air travel and technology changed the world? You can research real air-races and barnstormers from the old days, and famous larger-than-life daredevil pilots (like Roscoe Turner, who traveled from race to race with a pet lion).