Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) starring Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Alberto Sordi, Robert Morley, Gert Fröbe, Jean-Pierre Cassel directed by Ken Annakin Movie Review

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Stuart Whitman as Orvil Newton in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)

Whitman Goes for Miles

Even when you use its truncated title "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes" still has a long title and that is not the only thing which is long about it as at 138 minutes it is a long movie. Its length is an issue especially when for about the first 100 minutes the focus is not on the race from London to Paris but flying hijinks, from sabotage to romance. But whilst it feels drawn out "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" is still good fun with amusing stereotypes, amusing accidents and some brilliant stunt work. It's because of the wonderful and humorous stunt work that even when it seems to be going nowhere you are still amused.

The year is 1910 and flight is in its infancy with each country having a renowned dare devil of the skies. It is because of this and his patriotism that media mogul Lord Rawnsley (Robert Morley) decides to invite the best fliers from across the globe to compete in a race from London to Paris. It attracts attention from Germany, Italy, France and America with Orvil Newton (Stuart Whitman - The Comancheros) arriving on English shores to try and win the big prize. But Orvil also has eyes on Lord Rawnsley's daughter Patricia (Sarah Miles) who is currently dating Richard Mays (James Fox - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). But romantic troubles is not the only thing going on as the Cad-ish Sir Percy Ware-Armitage (Terry-Thomas) will stoop to any under hand tricks possible to win.

James Fox and Sarah Miles in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)

To sum up "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" simply is easy because it is basically a whacky races movie where we have various people competing in an IR race. With the competitors being from around the world we have stereotypes from a German who bosses people about to a French man who has an eye for the pretty ladies. And with there being so many people there are things which go wrong from plane crashes to planes simply not fit for flying. Oh and of course sabotage as we have Sir Percy who is prepared to cheat to win. It is all very obvious and this whacky races formula has been used in plenty of movies since as well as before.

But the thing about "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" and what is almost wrong with it is that the actual competition only takes up the last quarter of the movie. And so for the first three quarters we get a lot of set pieces at an airfield where the fliers prepare and practice for the competition. It is good fun as we watch planes crash in to sewage, inept firemen trying to rush to the scene as well as a romance as Orvil takes a shine to Patricia and in doing so has to deal with Richard. But it does become a series of gags with little actual progression when it comes to the story.

Now whilst there are a lot of well known names in "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" such as Stuart Whitman, James Fox, Sarah Miles, Robert Morley and Terry-Thomas the real stars of the movie are the stuntmen. With their being so many gags about accidents it is the stunt men who fly these old planes dangerously or have near misses that make it so much fun. And at the same time the editing team also deserve praise for putting it all together so that a multi-part stunt such as when a plane runs out of control through the airfield looks seamless.

What this all boils down to is that "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" is basically whacky races in the air, with little which isn't predictable. But it is so much fun thanks to the humorous mishaps and the skills of the stunt team who make every moment of plane catastrophe good fun.