Two contrasting brothers both enlist in the RAF when WWI breaks out, but when Monte, the louche womaniser, seduces his upright brother Roys girlfriend Helen, it threatens to severe their bond. It takes a near-suicide bombing mission for both men to prove
Another film whose fabled making of, where millionaire director Howard Hughes sought the ultimate movie experience by spending unheard of millions (resulting in a huge loss) on his own private airforce to film the dogfights (three pilots died in its making), with the risk-addicted director nearly killing himself in the process in an air-crash, that fails to live up to its own fanfare. While the airbound photography is often breathtaking, the earthbound melodrama of two vividly different brothers squabbling over Jean Harlow’s loose virtue is horribly dated and deathly dull.
It’s best to view the overlong film in the context of what it achieved at the time. An early sequence of a doomed Zeppelin on a bombing raid over London is truly spectacular as crewman leap to their fate through the billowing clouds. And despite the ridiculous stereotyping of Germans (as sadistic fops) and English (as stalwart rods) alike — not to forget its wholesale misogyny — their plane-to-plane fights are wildly authentic as in all but live ammunition they were. And its dibs and dabs of colourisation show adventure if not success.
However, many of the film’s trite limitations cannot be put down to the period, an era where melodrama was natural, when you consider that the penetrative and powerful All Quiet On The Western Front was to beat it at the Oscars. Howard Hughes would drift into genuine aviation, leaving Hollywood to other’s excesses.
Should be judged in context but even then it's a bit high on the melodrama and low on subtlety