For Reel

Ace of Aces (1933)
June 29, 2012, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: J. Walter Ruben

During the late 1920s and early 1930s,  a number of distinctly anti-war pictures were made by Hollywood, most prominent of which being Lewis Milestone’s adaptation of Eric Maria Remarque’s landmark novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. Ace of Aces continues in that trend and, clunky though it may be, manages to share some insight into both what it is that draws a man into war and how a soldier’s proximity to extraordinary violence can fester as a sort of disease within them. John Monk Saunders, who is credited as the story-writer of the first Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Wings, also contributed to this aviation thriller, in which real-life veteran Richard Dix plays a sensitive sculptor who is coaxed into joining the air force by his sweetheart. One he gets his first taste of battle, he becomes a killing machine, declaring himself the “ace of aces” and documenting with pride the number of enemy planes that he has brought down. Dix was impressive as a veteran in a similarly cynical thriller the year previous, The Lost Squadron, and, although his character’s transformation in this latter effort is rather graceless, he inhabits the tortured, nearly inhuman sadist memorably, having no instinct to resort to sentimentality until the very end.

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