🎥 The Flight of the Phoenix – 1965
The Story …
Frank Towns is the pilot of a twin-engine Fairchild C-82 Packet cargo plane flying from Jaghbub to Benghazi in Libya; Lew Moran is the navigator.
Passengers include Capt. Harris and Sgt. Watson of the British Army; Dr. Renaud, a French physician; Heinrich Dorfmann, a German aeronautical engineer; and an oil company accountant named Standish. There are also several oil workers, including Trucker Cobb, a foreman suffering from mental fatigue; Ratbags Crow, a cocky Scot; Carlos and his pet monkey; and Gabriele.
A sudden sandstorm disables the engines, forcing Towns to crash-land in the Sahara desert. As the aircraft comes to a stop, two workers are killed and Gabriele’s leg is severely injured.
The radio is unusable, and the survivors are too far off course to be found by searchers. Aboard the plane is a large quantity of pitted dates but only enough water for ten to fifteen days if rationed.
Captain Harris sets out to try and find an oasis. When Sgt. Watson feigns an injury to stay behind, Carlos volunteers, leaving his pet monkey with Bellamy.
Harris and Towns refuse to allow the mentally-unstable Cobb to go along, but Cobb defiantly follows anyway and later dies of exposure in the desert. Days later, Harris returns to the crash site alone and barely alive. Sgt. Watson discovers and then ignores him, though others later find him.
Meanwhile, Dorfmann proposes a radical idea: building a new aircraft from the wreckage. The C-82 has twin booms extending rearwards from each engine and connected by the horizontal stabilizer.
Dorfmann wants to attach the outer sections of both wings to the left engine and left boom, discarding the center fuselage and both inner wing sections of the aircraft. The men will ride atop the wings. Towns and Moran believe he is either joking or delusional.
The argument is complicated by a personality clash between Towns, a proud traditionalist aviator who flew for the Allied Forces during the Second World War, and Dorfmann, a young, arrogant German engineer. Moran struggles to maintain the peace.
Towns initially resists Dorfmann’s plan – and is further incensed when he learns that it anticipates Gabriele’s expected death before the plane is ready to fly – but Renaud sways his opinion, saying activity and hope will help sustain the men’s morale. Dorfmann supervises the reconstruction, while Towns remains skeptical. During the work, the fatally-injured Gabriele commits suicide, depressing the men to where they consider abandoning the new plane’s construction.
Dorfmann, caught exceeding his water ration, justifies it, saying he has been the only one working continuously. He promises to not do it again but demands everyone work equally hard from then on.
Standish christens the nearly completed aircraft, “Phoenix”, after the mythical bird that is reborn from its own ashes. When a band of Arabs camp nearby, Harris and Renaud leave to make contact while the others (and the aircraft) remain hidden. The two men are found murdered the next day.
Additionally, Towns and Moran are stunned to learn that Dorfmann designs model airplanes rather than full-sized aircraft.
Dorfmann defends himself, claiming the aerodynamic principles are the same, and many model planes require more exacting designs than full-size aircraft. With no other choice, Towns and Moran forge ahead with the plan without telling the others about Dorfmann.
The Phoenix is completed but untested. Only seven starter cartridges are available to ignite the engine. The first four startup attempts are unsuccessful. Over Dorfmann’s vehement objections, Towns fires the fifth cartridge with the ignition off to clear the engine’s cylinders.
The next startup is successful. The men pull the Phoenix to a nearby hilltop, then climb onto the wings.
When Towns guns the engine, the Phoenix slides down the hill and over a lake bed before taking off. After a successful landing at an oasis with a manned oil rig, the men celebrate and Towns and Dorfmann are reconciled …
- Directed by Robert Aldrich
- Screenplay by Lukas Heller
- Based on The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor
- Produced by Robert Aldrich
- Cinematography : Joseph Biroc, A.S.C.
- Edited by Michael Luciano, A.C.E.
- Music by DeVol
- Production Companies : An Associates and Aldrich Company Production
- Distributed by 20th Century Fox
- Release Date : December 15, 1965
- James Stewart as Frank Towns
- Richard Attenborough as Lew Moran
- Peter Finch as Captain Harris
- Hardy Kruger as Heinrich Dorfmann
- Ernest Borgnine as Trucker Cobb
- Ian Bannen as Crow
- Ronald Fraser as Sergeant Watson
- Christian Marquand as Dr. Renaud
- Dan Duryea as Standish
- George Kennedy as Bellamy
- Gabriele Tinti as Gabriele
- Alex Montoya as Carlos
- Peter Bravos as Tasso
- William Aldrich as Bill
- Barrie Chase as Farida
Film Information Source :
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