January 2, 2017


Aces High – 1976 | 114 mins | War | Colour


Plot Synopsis

Aces High

Aces High is a transposed adaptation of R.C. Sheriff’s 1929 London and Broadway stageplay, Journey’s End, a downbeat classic on the theme of the futility and boredom of trench warfare in which some men cracked up while others found ways – like the bottle – of averting mental break down. The film offers some perspective on the officer/public school product but packs little of the involving emotional credibility and impact of the play and the characterisations are without sufficient ambiguity and dimension. Derek Cracknell�s aerial cinematography is entertainingly intense with a combination of close-ups and long shots that produces sequences of cumulative intensity that achieve the right degree of awe and horror. A stellar cast produce uniformly sensitive performances of suppressed emotions with Peter Firth as the bushy-tailed raw recruit, Christopher Plummer as a disciplined but emotionally soft older officer, Simon Ward�s terrified pilot, and Malcolm McDowell�s impressively credible turn as a brave but scared squadron leader dependent on whisky to sustain him.

Set in France, 1917, eager young recruit Lt. Stephen Croft (Peter Firth) is thrilled to join the elite 76 Squadron Royal Flying Corps under the command of a renowned flying ace, Maj. John Gresham (Malcolm McDowell), his former house-captain and hero. But the naive young flyer is shocked to discover his commander has turned to drink as his the high fatalities among his men take their toll. Despite father-figure Capt. Sinclair (Christopher Plummer) attempting to soften his introduction, the realities and futility of WWI are laid bare to the boyish Croft as he observes the casualties of trench warfare, discovers the short average lifespan of a fighter pilot and encounters the battle-weary and panic-stricken Lt. Crawford (Simon Ward).

Production Team

Jack Gold: Director
Maurice Cain: Art Direction
Gerry Fisher: Cinematography
Anne V. Coates: Film Editing
Neville Smallwood: Makeup Department
Susie Hill: Makeup Department
Cecil Lewis: Novel
Richard Hartley: Original Music
Carlo Rustichelli: Original Music
R.C. Sherriff: Play
Jacques Roitfeld: Producer
Benjamin Fisz: Producer
Syd Cain: Production Design
Howard Barker: Script
Jonathan Bates: Sound
Ivan Sharrock: Sound


Ray Milland: Brigadier General Whale
Richard Johnson: Major Lyle
Trevor Howard: Lieutenant Colonel Silkin
John Gielgud: Headmaster
David Wood: Lt. \’Tommy\’ Thompson
Peter Firth: Lt. Stephen Croft
Simon Ward: Lt. Crawford
Christopher Plummer: Capt. \’Uncle\’ Sinclair
Malcolm McDowell: Maj. John Gresham

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