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ACES HIGH

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Sept. 5, 2014

The World War I anti-war drama "Aces High" (1976, PG) is set primarily during one week at a British airbase in France and follows the training and subsequent combat duty of naïve young recruit Stephen Croft (Peter Firth), who is forced to grow up fast.

Coincidentally, Croft's commanding officer is also his brother-in-law-to-be, Major John Gresham (Malcolm McDowell), a disillusioned leader who has turned to alcohol to abate his guilt over sending younger and younger men into battle, knowing that all too many of them will not return.

            

      Malcolm McDowell as a Royal Air Force officer in 'Aces High'

Initially, Croft idolizes Gresham but later he begins to feel betrayed when he sees the chinks in the armor. Eventually, however, his respect for Gresham will be restored as he begins to understand the impossible task with which his future in-law has been charged.

Some of the material here may seem overly familiar and certain stereotypes begin to surface in supporting characters as the film unfolds, but it's bolstered by location filming, well choreographed dogfights and the efforts of an expert cast — which includes Christopher Plummer and Simon Ward, and guest-star walk-ons by John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Richard Johnson and Ray Milland.

    

             Christopher Plummer, left, Peter Firth in 'Aces High'

Long lost to the general public, "Aces High" makes its U.S. DVD debut on the campy Cheezy Flicks label, marking a welcome return to home video for fans of wartime flicks.