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The Blue Max

The Blue Max (1966), starring George Peppard, Ursula Andress, James Mason, Jeremy Kemp

Synopsis of The Blue Max

George Peppard with the coveted Blue Max The Blue Max – Promoted from the ranks after spending two years in the trenches, Bruno Stachel becomes a flying officer in Germany’s World War I air force. Most of the officer corps comes from Germany’s aristocratic elite and Stachel feels out of place. This does not dampen his ambition however as he single-mindedly pursues his goal: to be awarded the Blue Max, given for shooting down 20 enemy planes. His blind ambition leads him to claim a kill that is not his and when he confides in the beautiful wife of a General, disaster is inevitable. …

Cast of characters in The Blue Max

  • Lt. Bruno Stachel (George PeppardThe A-TeamBreakfast at Tiffany’s).  Having survived the trenches of World War I, he becomes a young pilot in the German air force of 1918.  He is disliked as lower-class and unchivalrous by his fellow pilots. But his skill is undeniable.
  • General Count von Klugermann (James Mason20,000 Leagues Under the SeaForever, Darling). Bruno’s commanding officer.  He is determined to defeat the English and French before the Americans can enter the conflict. If so, Germany will win the war. James Mason turns in an excellent performance.  Especially at the end of the movie.
  • Ursula Andress and George Peppard in The Blue MaxCountess Kaeti von Klugermann (Ursula AndressDr. NoClash of the Titans).  The General’s beautiful, unfaithful wife.  An aristocratic snob, she likes to put down Bruno – initially.  She’s having an affair with the General’s nephew – until she changes her alliance.  But in the end, she’s faithful to no one except herself.
  • Willi von Klugermann (Jeremy KempTop Secret!Four Weddings and a Funeral).  The Count’s nephew, the Countess’ lover, and Bruno’s rival.  Both for the countess and in air combat.

Editorial review of The Blue Max courtesy of Amazon.com

The Blue Max, starring George Peppard, Ursula Andress, James Mason - Fox War ClassicsThe Blue Max is highly unusual among Hollywood films, not just for being a large-scale drama set during the generally overlooked World War I, but in concentrating on air combat as seen entirely from the German point of view. The story focuses on a lower-class officer, Bruno Stachel (George Peppard), and his obsessive quest to win a Blue Max, a medal awarded for shooting down 20 enemy aircraft. Around this are subplots concerning a propaganda campaign by James Mason‘s pragmatic general, rivalry with a fellow officer (Jeremy Kemp), and a love affair with a decadent countess (Ursula Andress).

As directed by John Guillermin (who later made The Battle of Britain in 1969), the film’s main assets are epic production values, great flying scenes, and stunning dogfights. The weak point is the sometimes ponderous character drama, not helped by Peppard, who is too lightweight an actor to convince as the driven antihero. Clearly influenced by Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1958), The Blue Max is a cold, cynical drama offering a visually breathtaking portrait of a stultified society tearing itself apart during the final months of the Great War. –Gary S. Dalkin