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The Flight of the Phoenix

The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

December. 15,1965
| Adventure

A cargo aircraft crashes in a sandstorm in the Sahara with less than a dozen men on board. One of the passengers is an airplane designer who comes up with the idea of ripping off the undamaged wing and using it as the basis for a replacement aircraft they will build to escape before their food and water run out.


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Memorable, crazy movie


best movie i've ever seen.


To all those who have watched it: I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do.

Nayan Gough

A great movie, one of the best of this year. There was a bit of confusion at one point in the plot, but nothing serious.


An interesting variation on the 'Hollywood Bomber Crew' plot line with strong casting which is puzzling at times; for example by 1965 Ernest Borgnine had built on his breakout role of Fatso Judson in From Here To Eternity and his Oacar-winning Marty and had been prominent in several memorable titles like Bad Day At Black Rock, The Poseidon Adventure etc but here he is killed off in the first half hour, similarly Peter Finch is given little to do whilst people like Dan Duryea and George Kennedy seem to be there only to make up the numbers. The bulk of screen time is shared between James Stewart, Hardy Kruger and Dickie Attenborough who was competent in a part that any Hollywood supporting actor could have played just as well. It's a good example of the Boy's Own Paper School of plotting and holds up reasonably well.


The Flight of the Phoenix is one of a handful of quasi-action films under the survival-against-the-odds sub-category. Other offerings include Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" and "Cast Away", both starring Tom Hanks. Even the highly controversial "Deliverance" starring Burt Reynolds and directed by John Boorman falls into the category. "Flight of the Phoenix" rises to the top of the heap particularly because of the first-rate cast, an absolutely believable script, and superb actor-directing which can't be beat. (The later remake of 2004 is not bad but can't compete with the original.) The essential plot of the Phoenix is deceptively simple. A group of diverse and not particularly likable passengers are aboard a cargo plane bound for Benghazi. Their pilot, Frank Towns (Jimmie Stewart in one of his finest roles) is a washed-up pilot who can only get bottom-of-the-barrel jobs as a freighter pilot. His co-pilot, Lew Moran (Richard Attenborough in an equally-compelling performance) is also a frustrated aviator. Their large bulky airship hits an unexpected sand storm, forcing them to wreck in the middle of the Sarah Desert. They have only a limited supply of food and water, no communication, and the remains of about 2/3rds of their original airplane which is beyond repair. Their first plan is to send signals, assuming some kind of rescue mission from their company will be searching for them in the desert. After only a few days, they realize, no search party is coming. They're stuck in the desert. Although only about 100 miles from the nearest settlement, it's impossible on foot, because they have no way of tracking where they would go, and they would lose more water from their bodies than they would be able to replenish in the desert.One of the passengers, Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Krüger in a perfectly cast role) informs the survivors of the crash they can build a new airplane from the wreckage which can take them out of the desert. He is an airplane designer-engineer and has figured out how they can create a working plane from one of the original engines which was undamaged. (The other had been destroyed during the crash.) At first Towns is skeptical that building a working plane is even feasible, and he worries it will take too much out of the men who are already suffering from lack of water. Then Moran and Dr. Renaud in turn offer their opinions: even if their chance is one in a thousand, they would rather take it than just wait around to die. Towns gives in, and they begin the project of creating a new plane from the one surviving engine. Then, late in the film, Towns and Moran learn that Dorfman has never built a large plane before. They ask him what he's done in terms of "the real thing", to be informed that Dorfman designs "model airplanes", but he's never built a large-scale passenger plane before.This film works as well as it does because of the acting and the script. The script never falls into cliché hyperbole which is often how these kinds of films are written. There are no "we must try to survive" speeches, resplendent in material of this type. One of the more interesting aspects is that the story is taking place not long after World War II, and some of the passenger-survivors are skeptical of Dorfman who is obviously either German or Austrian. Also, animosity between Towns and Dorfman evolves as the project gets under way, in which both begin to war with words regarding who is in charge of the project and ultimately the men. Two other characters, a captain and sergeant from Britain, seem at first to play their expected roles of officer and subordinate, but as the events play out, the Captain begins losing his authority over the subordinate sergeant.The Flight of the Phoenix may be my favorite survival film. Each character is fairly well-developed. Towns is the hot-headed frustrated pilot who can't quite decide on his course of action, a reluctant leader. Moran is the pitiable co-pilot who, at one point, feels guilty about their dilemma and becomes depressed. Dorfman is the self-absorbed engineer who, although brilliant, seems less concerned about the plight of their situation than achieving the largest airplane project of his career. Not to be missed if you want a film in which you'll be riveted from beginning to end.


When I see popular films remade and then expect them to be as good or better than the original;then you realize that the original couldn't have been improved on and the remake was forgettable.This is the case of 1965's "Flight of the Phoenix". Simple plot of diverse characters aboard an Oil Company owned airplane caught up in a sandstorm that forces them to crash in the desert.My favorite character is the arrogant German Model Plane designer DORFMANN who comes up with the plan of turning the Twin engine aircraft into a single engine plane that will fly the remaining survivors back home.His arrogance and superior feeling over the other stranded passengers made you have a Love/Hate relationship with him.Even Stewart's character who really couldn't stand the man, knew he was their only real hope of survival so he had to humble himself to the wishes of Dorfmann...The film's cinematography was spectacular despite being just desert and a wrecked airplane.The diverse passenger characters all gave good performances especially the mentally challenged BORGNINE character "Trucker Cobb"...The only disappoint of the film is the ending.Veteran Aerial Stunt Pilot Paul Mantz who had done Aerial stunt work in movies going back to the 30's;was fatally injured toward the end of shooting and crashed the remade Phoenix Airplane. The last shot you see of the plane is in the air after passing over an oil crew below.You never see the plane landing because it had been destroyed upon Mantz's Crash.The final scene is the survivors walking/running to the water spring they had passed over...Although it was never really brought out Mantz was a known Drinker and had flown stunts under the influence more than once.No one really knows if it was pilot error or aircraft malfunction or Mantz may have even had a heart attack. However he still goes down in history as one of the Greatest aviator stunt pilots in Cinema History.EXCELLENT FILM!...s.m.

B. Warren

This is a great movie, where plane crashes in desert, and, well, tough to say "spoiler" , since it is almost 50 yrs old and when the movie title says it all. Not to add that 90% of the movie is directed to this one, and ,as movie goes on, only possible outcome.This is like a Shakespeare play or something as sparse as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" Initially one would call it a 'small' movie.... a few characters and a one set stage. But after watching it, seems like a much bigger stage.It's a good story that allows an amazing ensemble of great actors to strut their stuff. Well, maybe a couple didn't get a chance to fully develop, and one or two might have been a bit 'over the top', but the three keys players were outstanding.May catch hell for this, but I think one of Jimmy's best. What I didn't know till quite a bit after watching this movie for first time, was how much a Flyboy Jimmy was. It was in his DNA. When he said in the movie: "Time was you could take real pride, in just getting there, flying used to be fun Lou, it really was..." You knew that character he was playing and he were one and the same.