1950s Strategic Air Command (1955)

Published on July 27th, 2007 | by Chris

4

Strategic Air Command (1955)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On July 27, 2007
Last modified:October 8, 2012

Summary:

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film, expecting it to be just another 50's anthem-blaring feel good romp. But the combination of the historical importance, the Stewart/Allyson chemistry, the technical look at two of the USAF's period bombers and the mindset surrounding them.... Strategic Air Command was fun *and* educational.

How many movies can you say that about?

Strategic Air Command (1955)In 1955, the Cold War was just getting ramped up, and in that ten years since the end of WWII, the newly created Air Force ramped up as well, as we are shown in Strategic Air Command, starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson.  Not to mention the short-lived B-36 Peacemaker and the even more short-lived B-47 Stratojet bombers, the technological pride of the new skies.

Stewart plays Robert "Dutch" Holland, a former B-29 pilot who has become a popular baseball celebrity.  Allyson plays his wife, Sally.  Unfortunately for Dutch, he's called back into active duty by his old buddy, General "Rusty" Castle (James Millican), to fly the absolutely huge B-36.

This film is strangely reminiscent of WWII era military "propaganda" films from ten years earlier, with similar opening credits and scrolls, and a familiar "feel" throughout the entire picture.  Basically the film is a "showcase" for the new technology in use by the "modern" Air Force, and in that respect it is a masterpiece.

We're shown aspects of airbase security, as General Hawkes (Barry Sullivan) tries to sneak a DC3 onto the base in the guise of a commercial airliner in distress.  From there we practically get a commercial for the B-36, including a complete pre-flight, including all the requisite radio chatter.  Inside, we get a tour of this 10-engined behemoth, from the massively instrumented cockpit, to the tunnel through the fuel tanks and into the gunners' compartment in the rear.

Later on the B-47 Stratojet is revealed to Holland by Hawkes, and they take off on a top secret around-the-world mission to test its range capabilities.

Aviation buffs will enjoy this film, I know I did.  The attention paid to the aircraft in this picture is glorious to behold.  It's a testament to the big thinking (and big spending) of the era, as neither one of these massive planes stayed in service very long, with the B-47 starting to be decommissioned just as the last ones were delivered, to be replaced later by the immortal B-52.  And I can only imagine the sheer noise the B-36 must've made, with those six huge turbo-prop engines, AND its four jets.  Think of it.  Now *that* is "shock and awe."  Of course you'd probably never hear or see it if it came for you....

Stewart's performance is classic Stewart, although at times he seems a bit bored by the entire thing.  Allyson's performance is classic 50's Hollywood housewife, and apart from the planes, everyone else's parts just seem to disappear into the air.

The film also makes a strong justification for the spending and the buildup that was occurring in that era.  "At war but not at war" is brought up several times, and although the Red Menace(tm) is never mentioned by name, we know that's who they're talking about.  Combat readyness, and the ability to retaliate at a moments notice was paramount.  It's also made clear that nobody actually *wanted* that to happen, that all of this was done in the name of deterrence.

There's another scene which is pretty telling about the government mindset as well.  They're making test runs with the B-47, and are "bombing" cities in mock runs.  "Oh we've been bombing cities like this all over the US for some time now!"  Indeed!

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film, expecting it to be just another 50's anthem-blaring feel good romp.  But the combination of the historical importance, the Stewart/Allyson chemistry, the technical look at two of the USAF's period bombers and the mindset surrounding them....  Strategic Air Command was fun *and* educational.

How many movies can you say that about?

And here's a little airplane porn from this movie.

Strategic Air Command [VHS] Strategic Air Command [VHS]
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Description

Demonstrations of classic military tactical procedures and excellent footage of vintage aircraft (like the rare B-36), combine here to give viewers a cold war primer on the Air Force's defense capabilities, circa 1955...

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film., November 16, 2016
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I'm no movie critic, but I know what I like. This is a classic film about a classy military outfit in a scary time...the Cold War. This film will thrill those of us known as "Airplane Nuts". Some great footage of the Convair B-36 bomber is part of the story. There are low flyovers and scenes from INSIDE the B-36. If you don't know, the B-36 was designed during WWII as a bomber that could fly from the US to Germany and back without landing. Prototypes were flown before the end of the war, then well into the Cold War. The B-36 had six monster piston engines turning six pusher propellers and four just engines. It was truly huge and awesome. The film also features the Boeing B-47...our first all-jet bomber. If you like Jimmy Stewart (a real life WWII B24 bomber pilot with 20 combat missions), you'll like the film. If you like June Allison, you'll like the film. The acting is good, the airplanes are awesome, and the Strategic Air Command was real and necessary.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best this film has ever looked and it looks superb., November 9, 2016
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2016 blu ray transfer. If you are even reading this, you already know the movie. Little is published about the transfer (that I have found) but as a life long fan, this new transfer, played back on an up-converting blu ray, and a 65" SUHD screen, looks fantastic. Proud to have this in my collection, ranks up there with the looks of such greats as West Side Story, Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia etc. If you ever liked this film, now see it again, for the first time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally Out On Blu-Ray, October 18, 2016
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The transfer looks good with no color bleeding that I saw anywhere in the transfer. I would say they went back to a original negative for the mastering. It's presented in a 1.66:1 format, so most newer TVs will have small black bars on the sides in regular playback. (Most widescreen TVs are 1.77:1) Overall, I'm pretty happy with the presentation. The only thing I would like to have seen would have been the trailer on the disk.
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Strategic Air Command (1955) Chris

Summary: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film, expecting it to be just another 50's anthem-blaring feel good romp. But the combination of the historical importance, the Stewart/Allyson chemistry, the technical look at two of the USAF's period bombers and the mindset surrounding them.... Strategic Air Command was fun *and* educational. How many movies can you say that about?

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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



4 Responses to Strategic Air Command (1955)

  1. Chris says:

    its a great film, why did it only make it to vhs in the usa?

  2. Jimmy Stewart was an Air Force reserve officer and, at the time this film was made, had just won his Brigadier General’s star and qualification on the B-47.

    Gen. Hawks is obviously a very thinly-disguised Curtis LeMay.

  3. Jose says:

    Just a detail… the B-36 six massive engines were not turboprop, just the radial Wasp Major ones. The turbines where the same of the B-47s. Hence the phrase “Six turning and four burning”

  4. Chris says:

    Now there’s something I would never have known otherwise. Thanks!!

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