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  • Yes, this is British wartime propaganda. Yes, the story-line often seems cartoonish. Yes, some of the special effects seem as though they're out of a 1930s serial. While all those points are granted, "Ships With Wings, does score on featuring a lot of well-known British film and stage personalities of the period, along with some others; including Michael Wilding (Elizabeth Taylor's first husband) and Michael Rennie(The Day the Earth Stood Still) who would become well-known later on. However, "Ships with Wings" scores the most points for its' inclusion of many scenes of air operations on board the Royal Navy's famous aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, with Blackburn Skua dive bombers, Fairey Fulmar fighters and Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers. HMS Ark Royal had actually been sunk by the time this film was released in 1942, but not before the Fleet Air Arm's Swordfish torpedo bombers, the immortal "String-Bags", had crippled the Italian fleet at Taranto. Look also for historic scenes of the real "Force H" operating in the Mediterranean, showing HMS Ark Royal accompanied by the Battleship HMS Bahram and battle-cruiser HMS Renown.

    Rate this one an "8"; not for it's story, acting or special effects, but for it's value as an historic curio of the times in which it was produced.
  • This film was indeed propagandist in nature, so what? I mean so what? It has reasonably good performances from it's cast, Banks and Rennie really stand out......It's played with that exceptional British axiom, "the stiff upper lip" Stacey is the proverbial "sacrificial lamb" as a result of his indiscretion regarding an associate that wanted to fly....He comes back and gets his revenge on the axis SOB's and winds up going down in flames a-la John Carrol's "Woody Jason" in Dave Miller's 1942 opus: "Flying Tigers"..... This film NEVER fails to come through with the goods. As for the spfx.........Well, they could be better, but, as a long time spfx buff, you cannot, repeat, cannot fault the efforts and pure chutzpah of the technicians - even though it's all very improbable and very much "over the top". Look at Tsuburaya's early efforts at TOHO and Derek Medding's early work with Gerry Anderson. Screw CGI! Perhaps the lighting and photography of the miniature work could be improved, but the actual models themselves were superb and dead on accurate. Bloody good show!
  • Cabar-220 November 2000
    This movie is rather simplistic with 'special' effects right out of Flash Gordon. The movie is very much a propaganda movie covering the introduction of the Fairy Fulmar, the Royal Navy's first eight-gun fighter, into service.

    The actors did not leave me with any lasting impressions. The stars are the aircraft and ships, with excellent quality pictures of aircraft and ships that no longer exist.

    The aircraft include: Swordfish, Fulmars, and Skuas

    The ships include HMS Ark Royal and HMS Renown plus RN cruisers and destroyers. The pictures include deck scenes from the Ark Royal giving an insight to British carrier set up as opposed to the USN carrier ops that we are all so familiar with.
  • 1st watched 5/31/2003 - 4 out of 10(Dir-Sergei Nolbandov): Sweeping, yet dull at times, account of 1st aircraft carriers in the British navy. What starts out as a sales pitch for the British Navy slowly turns into a romantic drama, next comes war action, and then it's over(with "guess who" winning). The movie is set in World War II and the nazi's are portrayed as conniving and evil just as we all would expect them to be displayed. The Admiral's daughter bounces between 3 pilots until she finds the once whom she wants to marry which is displayed as a love triangle. This whole thing kind of gets forgotten in the last 1/2 hour due to the final battle scenes but it seemed out of place anyway. Good for nostalgia but not a great movie with some good scenes from the pilots perspective but not much else.
  • With good live footage of the British Royal Navy's first purpose-built aircraft carrier - HMS Ark Royal - and her aircraft, this film dedicated to the Fleet Air Arm was slated by some critics when released, although it was popular with cinema audiences, even in naval ports. The carrier was called HMS Invincible for the purposes of this film.

    But today this film seems so poor that it is almost embarrassing to think it was made. The story is so over the top, with a hopeless mix of love story and war, and the characters wooden and stereotypical. The models used made me laugh out loud - they are terrible! Still, it's propaganda and the home team win in the end, so that's all right then.

    Lieutenants get involved in Gunroom horseplay - that would not have happened. A Chief Petty Officer is called "sir" by a Sub-Lieutenant and referred to as Petty Officer by a senior officer! And the Admiral and Captain give most of the orders from the bridge of the carrier, giving the impression that only they would do so; indeed, the admiral is so involved with the running of the air squadrons that the Commander (Air) - who is allowed a few moments of duty to camera - might as well have stayed turned in. All of the foregoing are nothing like life in the real Royal Navy, now or then, and it is amazing that the naval adviser at the time did not so advise the film's makers. Worse still, one gets the impression that it is only the officers who do anything! Apparently, the criticisms made of this film at the time of release were well taken by the studio and later propaganda feature films tried to be more realistic.

    The film has some interest but it's not worth a detour. I have the video but won't bother buying the DVD if one is ever released.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The title refers not to ships that sprout wings and take off by themselves. The ship is an aircraft carrier, the Invincible, and the "wings" are the torpedo planes, fighters, and bombers that she carries.

    There's a love triangle that takes up quite a bit of screen time, with two pilots of the Fleet Air Arm loving the same woman, while yet another woman yearns from afar for one of the smitten aviators -- but enough about that.

    The movie introduces us to a couple of airplane types that many movie goers might not be familiar with. The Fairy Fulmar and the Swordfish played important parts in the war but aren't nearly as glamorous (or attractive) as the Spitfire or even the numerous Hurricane versions.

    The movie is a war-time flag waver. Everyone is chipper, even those who are about to die and know it. They crack mild jokes about it. A young aviator cashiered for cowardice and misbehavior (don't worry; he was innocent) redeems himself through an act of heroism that, had it been performed by an enemy, would have been called fanatical.

    Given all the grins and dash and bonhomie, Ealing Studios pulled together the right cast: John Clements as the protagonist, Leslie Banks (the self-reliant father in Hitchcock's first version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much"), uber-handsome Michael Wilding as a fighter pilot, Michael Rennie as Lieutenant Maxwell the pilot of a torpedo plane (I had to get that name in there), and John Laurie ("Do ye eat the herring?") as another pilot. And how curious to see Cecil Parker, who excelled at dithering in British movies, as a stern and monocled German officer. Ann Todd is the devoted blond who sacrifices herself for the general will.

    But all that is icing on the cake. The cake itself consists of scenes of flight, conflict, and combat. The Germans lose, of course, and the Italians are ridiculed. The visual effects are of the period -- pre-CGI, pre-Ray Harryhausen, pre-everything except wooden toys afloat in bath tubs -- and yet they're very well done. And they're interpolated with some nifty real scenes of aircraft aboard the Invincible, played by the ever-popular and doomed HMS Ark Royal. Somehow the primitive effects, including airplanes levitating from the runways on take off, don't spoil the fun. And it IS fun, even the scenes of tragedy, because they're over with in a jiffy and nobody really suffers much.

    The mano a mano brutality is muted, but some of the material is rather racy and probably wouldn't have passed in a contemporary Hollywood production. A man's voice on the radio tells a naval officer: "She has a beautiful pair of legs, and a beautiful pair of eyes, and a beautiful pair --", and the officer shuts the radio off. I enjoyed it, but I usually enjoy movies about airplanes as long as they clear my bar, which is set pretty low.
  • JohnHowardReid13 August 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    A British Film, made and recorded at Ealing Studios, London. U.S. copyright 1 May 1942 by Ealing Studios, Ltd. Released through United Artists. New York opening at the Rivoli: 23 May 1942. U.S. release (in a version cut to 91 minutes): 15 May 1942. Australian release through British Empire Films: 30 July 1942. U.K. release: 10 January 1942. London trade show: November 1941. 9,470 feet. 105 minutes. Re- issued in the U.K. in 1946, cut to 89 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: Dismissed from the service for alleged cowardice and insubordination, an officer (John Clements) later redeems himself by heroically… Where have we heard that story before? The Four Feathers, starring John Clements, for one. Convoy, starring John Clements, for another.

    COMMENT: Drearily directed, stiff upper-lip, wartime romantic melodramatics which — if you can last the distance — suddenly burst into a marvelous all-action climax. The miniature work here is absolutely top-notch (if slightly undermined by a few inter-cut shots of stock footage). Though nicely photographed, the rest of the movie, alas, is either wearisomely corny and tediously clichéd or just plain boring.

    Clements' off-hand, casually unattractive performance doesn't help. Nor do the routine impersonations by Leslie Banks, Basil Sydney, Michael Wilding (who has a large role, despite his lack of prominence in the cast list), Michael Rennie (who has a small part), Charles Victor and company. Some of the players even venture towards the ludicrous, particularly Edward Chapman as a cheapskate blowhard of a Greek and Cecil Parker as a ruthless Gestapo commander. The girls are no better. Overly made-up Ann Todd as a nightclub singer (dubbed, of course) and impossibly dowdy Jane Baxter (shortly to return to the stage) are hardly our cups of tea.
  • "Ships with Wings reminded me of three other war films. Three years earlier, John Clements in "The Four Feathers" had played another disgraced British officer who redeemed himself, and "Casablanca" also portrayed Italian officers as ineffective popinjays.

    Most strikingly, though, just as "Air Force" depicts an instant United States naval victory days after Peal Harbor, SWW portrays a mass sinking of German ships by the Royal Navy at a time when Axis forces were sweeping across the Eastern Mediterranean. Such fictitious achievements may have been designed to raise morale, but I wonder how contemporary cinema-goers reacted to the preposterous antics shown in the last part of SWW, which today look risible. Another reviewer has described them as "comic-book".

    To avoid "spoiling", I won't list all the half-dozen improbable actions, though I do wonder why there was no attempt by the carrier's crew to deal with the burning aircraft that had crashed on its deck.

    The film did start well, with some good scenes of the launching of HMS Ark Royal and of aircraft of the early 1940s.

    As always with films of this period, there are some interesting names to look out for among the cast.
  • Trying to compare the production values of this film with a modern day blockbuster is stupid! It is like trying to compare a Ford Model T with a Ferrari - pointless. This film was made in 1941 two years into WW2. It was made on a low budget by actors trying to bring a little enjoyment and entertainment to an audience facing agonising uncertainty. I think it did that admirably! Remember also that if Hitler had won the war most of the cast would probably have been either shot or sent to a concentration camp for making this film. It was a film made for it's time. When you view it today try to view it in that context and you will not be disappointed. I grew up on these films and enjoy them as much today as I did in my childhood. If I want to watch a multi million dollar blockbuster then I watch a modern film.
  • Ships With Wings made in 1941 tells the story of the British flagship aircraft carrier the Ark Royal in battle in the Mediterranean theater. The first thing to compliment in this film is the judicious use of editing real battle newsreel footage into the film, integrating it with the plot of the film. I doubt very much if Ark Royal was being used for location shooting, the Royal Navy kept her quite busy in those years.

    Three pilots take the lead here, John Clements, Michael Wilding, and Michael Rennie. Of the group Clements is an easy going, but reckless type. Some dereliction of duty gets him washed out of the Royal Navy's pilots.

    But when war comes, Clements who is now working for a spitball Greek Airliner in the Mediterranean gets hold of German plans and flies to Allied territory to bring the world. The former Three Musketeers are united and Clements lends a helpful hand to the others at a critical moment in battle.

    Ships With Wings is a nice rousing tribute to the men who served on Great Britain's Naval Air Arm and on the Ark Royal in particular. And this review is dedicated to everyone who ever served on that most gallant ship of the British Royal Navy. You folks kept us all free.
  • "Ships With Wings" starts out admirably - with an excellent title and introductory sequence featuring sharp studies of aircraft and ships of the Fleet Air Arm. The movie proper also begins well, with snappy, witty English banter and the glimmer of what appear to be some complex characters. And then, before you know it, it all falls apart into what others have appropriately referred to as a 'comic book.' That's really the only way to describe it.

    I kind of like this film nevertheless, so my 4/10 rating may be a bit harsh, but I said to myself "if 5 is average, surely this film must rate below average." And, it does.

    Noteworthy are the aircraft used in this film as, on balance, they are some of the worst military aircraft to have flown. Specifically, the Blackburn Skua and (especially) the Breda 88 Lince routinely feature on lists of the "world's worst aircraft". However, the Lince at least looked the part of a decent aircraft, so it is understandable that it would have been cast as a fearsome enemy. It is worthwhile to read the wikipedia article on the Lince to see just how useless it was.