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In this silent film, romantic rivals fly against the enemy in World War I.
For more about Wings and the Wings Blu-ray release, see Wings Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 15, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper, El Brendel, Henry B. Walthall
Directors: William A. Wellman, Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast
» See full cast & crew
Wings Blu-ray Review
Paramount's latest classic release -- the first movie ever to win a Best Picture Oscar -- flies high.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 15, 2012
C'est la guerre!
Action. Romance. Handome leading men. Luscious leading ladies. And even a few special effects. It's not the latest from Hollywood -- as much as that sounds like any major movie being released these days -- but it's certainly one of the greatest. 1927's Wings proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Wings is one of those movies of which they speak when they speak of "the mold," the classic style that's been refined, but not necessarily bettered, now some 75 years after its initial release. It's a movie that has it all, a prototypical throwback experience that's satisfying and fresh, a movie that covers the basic themes and covers them remarkably well. It's a movie that encapsulates all that's good in the medium, and shows that it's the raw elemental ingredients and the superficially simplest yet most inwardly complex of human emotions that speak to audiences even when the movie doesn't, those things that drove the movies then and drive the movies today, the picture in a way, then, a time capsule of the universality of how things work on and off this screen then, now, and forevermore. Indeed, Wings betters most modern movies -- or movies from any era, really -- through its unflinching embrace of fundamental components that drive a visual medium and stir the heart of those who gaze upon it. And now it's been released on a format that allows new audiences to experience it freshly, both as it was then or as it is now. Either way, it's a win for all those who choose to soar with its story of courage, friendship, love, and war, either for that magical first flight or for a return trip to the clouds.
Small town rivals Jack Powell (Charles Rogers) and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) are vying for the heart of the same girl, city visitor Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston). There's only one problem: Sylvia already loves David, but Jack's too blindly in love to notice. While the playboy David is wooing his girl, Jack's busy building a custom car with the help of the sweet and kindly Mary Preston (Clara Bow) who is secretly and madly in love with Jack. She helps him build the car and gives it the nickname "The Shooting Star" in hopes that she'll earn a kiss from her would-be beau; after all, what else is a man to do but kiss his girl in the presence of a shooting star? Before all can worked out, however, Uncle Sam comes-a-calling, and David and Jack -- the latter of whom has always dreamed of flying -- are whisked away to military service, both to become aviators in the battle agains the Kaiser in the first World War. Though rivals in their private lives, David and Jack become inseparable best friends in the service. They've put their romantic clashes largely behind them, though Jack carries with him a picture of Sylvia, convinced she loves him, while David secretly carries her handwritten letters that tell him otherwise. The two quickly become seasoned Aces in combat, but even with their impressive aerial skills, they'll still have to work out their love lives, one way or the other.
Wings must make sure to exaggerate -- but not to a fault -- the basic elements of its story to succeed, since all must be drawn from looks and actions with but the occasional text card to reinforce key plot points or critical dialogue. The movie shows, whether by design, by default, or simply within a comparative structure against thousands of other films and hundreds of pictures in its class of excellence (and likely some combination of all) that it's not always words, but it is almost always rather deeds that do indeed carry a story, and that holds true both during the film's on-the-ground dramatic moments of romance and friendship and high in the sky during blazing-hot action over the battlefields of Europe. By making use of what it has to work with and emphasizing more than just a string of spoken words, the film manages to craft a tale that shows character development well beyond many modern "talkies." Wings creates an enveloping world and a gripping narrative that sweeps the audience into the story, as simple as it all may be, whether in the heat of a dogfight or in the sweetly-constructed moments of cordial and romantic tenderness that play out on the ground. This is a fun, well-crafted roller coaster sort of movie that expertly balances both of its main elements -- action and drama -- and is a pure, classic example of a movie that has it all in perfect harmony and presentation.
Amidst its interlocking story of adventure, love, and friendship, there's a technical side to Wings that's very impressive, a technical side which remains evident even decades following its release. The film's aerial battles are complex and well made. The photography captures quite a bit of juxtaposing in-flight and on-ground visual elements; it's all very cohesive and natural when a camera facing the pilot also picks up running foot soldiers or devastation on the ground in the form of just-crashed planes. The timing to coordinate all of it is nearly uncanny, and on a very basic level the visuals are up to par with anything of today in terms of sheer continuity and authenticity. The acting is strong, too, taken in a context separate from what would be the norm with the talking film. It's all a little exaggerated and the actors are done up a little more to enhance the film's look, but there's a very genuine sense of authenticity across the board, whether seen on the faces of the men dogfighting high up in the sky or the twinkle in the actress' eyes as they look lovingly towards their men. Story construction and flow best even the finer movies of today; it's elementary to be sure, but the picture's heart certainly carries it even when the script seems just a little too concerned with convention. The restored music is fantastic, covering the same spectrum as the story -- it's sweet, patriotic, militaristic -- and tells the story with its ebbs and flows, becoming itself a simplistic sort of voice for the entire picture, a voice spearheaded by a catchy and memorable recurring theme. If there's a fault, it's that the movie drags a little in places when it doesn't seem to realize it's managed to get the point of the scene across. It's a small price to pay, though, for a total package that's sure to dazzle and satisfy even today's hardened and demanding audiences.
Wings Blu-ray, Video Quality
Wings debuts on Blu-ray with a nice looking retro 1080p, 1.34:1-framed transfer that places vertical black bars on either side of the 1.78:1 display to preserve the film's original presentation appearance. The visual experience opens brilliantly, beginning with the current, colorful high definition Paramount logo which gives way to each previous variant of the same, until reaching the film's original take on the famous stars-and-mountains. The movie itself produces an image that's generally presented in a sepia overlay. There's a stretch of black-and-white and a stretch of heavier blue shading, with the only real splashes of color coming in the form of bright oranges that accent firing machine guns and planes on fire. Fine detail is strong; backgrounds can look a little warped and soft, but foregrounds, clothes, and faces appear nicely resolved, with good clarity and texturing evident in most every scene, from the aerial battles to a Parisian night club. Some slight banding is evident, and such instances introduce a false arc of green onto the image. There's certainly a hint of wear and tear here and there, but this is, for the most part, a remarkably clean restoration. A visible grain structure retains, and the cumulative result is a veritable time machine that takes audiences back decades thanks to the horsepower of today's best restorative and projection video technology.
Wings Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Wings features a pair of soundtracks, one a DTS-HD MA 5.1 presentation with "re-recorded score composed by J.S. Zamecnik (orchestrated and arranged by Dominik Hauser; featured pianist -- Frederick Hodges) with sound effects by Ben Burtt" and the other a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that offers the "pipe organ score composed and performed by Gaylord Carter." The DTS presentation is spectacular. It offers up a listen that's wonderfully clean and very spacious. Music plays with a crispness and clarity that makes it easy to distinguish the range of instruments used to re-score the picture. The crisp notes throughout the range and the strong supporting low cumulatively yield a sonically beautiful presentation. The 5.1 track additionally makes use of the entire soundstage in the implementation of various sound effects. Whirring propellors slice through the listening area, whether churning on the ground or carrying an aircraft in the sky. Machine gun fire is crisp and emanates from various speakers depending on the situation. Screaming sirens blare into the stage, explosions are hefty and accurate, and artillery shells zip around the soundstage during some of the more critical land battle scenes. The effects, however, aren't so unnatural that they pull the audience out of the movie; there's an authenticity to the experience that benefits the movie and each plays seamlessly in the greater context. The Dolby Digital "organ" track sounds fantastic, too. It's clean, spacious, and very distinct, and not lacking too far behind the seamlessness of the lossless effort. However, it lacks the added sound effects. Both tracks provide unique listening experiences; the re-recorded track and effects blend very well with the visuals, and even the purists might be surprised at how well it works. The easy solution: watch the movie in full with both!
Wings Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Wings contains a trio of extra very good features.
Wings Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Compare 1927's Wings to 2001's Pearl Harbor; there's a similarity in plot and action that's unmistakable, but more than that, they're excellent titles to view in succession for a pretty eye-opening look into the evolution of the cinematic landscape over the course of generations. The technology has certainly evolved greatly, but in a way, the eye candy visuals of today -- not to mention basics like enhanced sound and color -- don't necessarily make a movie "better" because both films also demonstrate that it largely remains a film's ability to create worthwhile characters and involve its audience in the story to the point that the outcome becomes truly important to all watching that both play a major role in a movie's success. Sights and sounds are fine, but content remains king. Wings goes to show that storytelling principles and fictional plots remain largely unchanged; it's just the surrounding elements that have evolved. Wings is a truly wonderful movie that's been lovingly restored and brought to Blu-ray in a package that only falls short because its supplements are far too few in number for a title of this historical significance. Paramount's Blu-ray does offer fine video and audio. This is truly a must for cinephiles, collectors, and casual viewers alike; if only it offered more supplements. Still, Wings comes very highly recommended.
Wings: Other Editions
Wings Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Paramount Teases Five Upcoming Blu-ray Releases (Updated) - January 18, 2012
Along with a new, monthly sweepstakes designed to commemorate the studio's centennial, Paramount Home Media Distribution has announced further plans for the studio's 2012 Blu-ray slate. Today's press release also hinted at Clueless, Hondo, Barbarella, and Clue ...
• Wings Blu-ray (Updated) - November 15, 2011
In an early announcement to retailers, Paramount Pictures has revealed that it will release on Blu-ray William A. Wellman's Wings (1927), starring Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, and Gary Cooper. Wings was the first film, and the only silent film, ...
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