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Badmovies.org Forum  |  Movies  |  Good Movies  |  THE RED BARON (2008) « previous next »
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Author Topic: THE RED BARON (2008)  (Read 7255 times)
indianasmith
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« on: June 01, 2010, 10:09:31 PM »

   I was in 8th grade when I discovered that the Red Baron was more than just Snoopy's perennial aerial foe; he was in fact a real German pilot who served in WWI and shot down 80 Allied aircraft.  It was on like Donkey Kong after that;  I read everything I could get my hands on about von Richthofen and his fellow World War I aces.  They were my heroes all through high school; my highest goal was to meet a real World War I ace before they were all gone.  I never got to (although I did meet a WWI aviation mechanic, and numerous other WWI vets, before they all died off in my area).  Indeed, my fascination with World War I led to a broader fascination with history, which ultimately led to me getting a bachelor's and master's degree in history, writing my thesis on World War I's only major Pacific campaign.

   But the WWI aces were always my heroes.  Their courage and skill, and the incredible, rickety machines that they flew, fought, and died in, still fascinates me to this day.  Sadly, they had been almost completely absent from the movies for most of my adult life.  After THE BLUE MAX (1966) and RICHTHOFEN AND BROWN (1971), there was not another major film about WWI aces made until FLYBOYS came out in 2007.  And FLYBOYS was, while visually gorgeous, incredibly far removed from any resemblance to historical reality.

   So imagine my surprise when I walked into Hasting's  and saw this movie, which I have never heard of until today, sitting on the shelf.  There was no question about which movie I would be taking home tonight!  So I watched it this evening, and was overall pretty favorably impressed.

   It is a German production, and as such was designed to counter the myth of all Germans as goose-stepping warmongers in jackboots and monocles.  Von Richthofen, played by the dashing young German actor Matthis Schweighofer, is an enthusiastic young hunter and sportsman who longs to become the greatest flying ace of them all.  Early in the movie, he singles out and shoots down the famous British ace Lanoe Hawker for his 16th kill, earning the Pour le Merite, Germany's highest medal, and recognition as a national hero.  He continues to fly and fight, striking up an acquaintance with a British pilot named Roy Brown (played by the ubiquitous Joseph Fiennes)  whom he shoots down, but then pulls from the wreckage of his plane.  Brown escapes and resumes flying, and later he and von Richthofen meet again when both are shot down in "no man's land".  (BTW, neither of those incidents ever happened!)  But it is his nurse girlfriend who takes Manfred to the wards of wounded and shows him what a horrific tragedy the war truly is, causing his idealism to fade and his sensitive side to set in.  Offered a chance to quit flying for good and be promoted to command the entire German Fighter Wing, he refuses, and continues to risk his life in the air until that fateful day, April 21, 1918, when he and Captain Brown meet in the air for the final time . . .

This movie takes some serious liberties with the real Baron's life, especially his relationship with the nurse Kate Otersdorf.  In real life, she was indeed Richthofen's sweetheart, but he kept his relationship with her a closely guarded secret, so that no one knew her name until she came forward in her old age and showed some of the love letters he had written her to prove her claim true.  The meetings with Brown were purely made up, and there is no evident that the real Baron was quite as tormented with angst and doubt about Germany's purpose as his movie counterpart was.  But by and large, the movie is set at the right times and places, and von Richthofen is usually flying the right kind of plane for the stage of the war being shown.  The aerial combat sequences are gorgeous and more realistic than those in FLYBOYS, too.  One thing I found odd.  Von Richthofen's friend and rival, Werner Voss, is given a prominent role in the movie, yet it is never mentioned that he is Jewish.  However, a completely ficticious Jewish pilot is inserted into the film to honor the courage and sacrifice of the many German Jews who fought and served bravely for Germany in World War I.  Why not just use Voss for that purpose?  Anyway, I loved this film, even if some of the sequences on the ground got a little draggy.
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Monster Jungle X-Ray
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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2010, 09:40:53 AM »

Thanks for the review indiana, this sounds like my kind of movie even with the historical inaccuracies. To me the Red Baron and the rest of the WWI aces sort of represent the last of vestiges of chivalry, and knighthood on the field of battle (albeit in the sky).
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Newt
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2010, 09:59:15 AM »

Captain Arthur Roy Brown was an RAF officer, but he was a Canadian.
Just another detail in the interest of historical accuracy.   Wink 
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indianasmith
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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2010, 10:22:24 AM »

That was actually my error; I meant "British" in the sense of the Empire, not birth.  He even says he was Canadian in the movie.
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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2010, 03:21:29 PM »

if you didn't catch it there was a special on cable,  on the series "Unsolved History" in which they used modern forensics to determine if the Red Baron was shot down from the air or the ground. They even went to the actual sites, ran CGI simulations of the pilots' views and routes, set up mock AA stations, etc. There was even an autopsy report on von Richtofen's body. Unfortunately for the romantics among us (me included) it looks pretty solid that he was shot down by soldiers in the trenches, not by Roy Brown. The angle of the shot is all wrong. 
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indianasmith
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A good bad movie is like popcorn for the soul!


« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2010, 04:22:19 PM »

I bought a book while I was in high school entitled WHO KILLED THE RED BARON that reached the same conclusion about 1981 or so.  This guy even interviewed, in the 1950's and 60's, some 500 witnesses of the Baron's last dogfight.  He also had an extensive collection of Richthofen memorabilia, including the goggles that von Richthofen tore off his face in what may have been his last conscious act.

I'd love to locate another copy of the book.  It was a great read.  The author seemed to think that two Aussie machine gunners were the most likely to have ended the Baron's spree of air-to-air kills.
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Thorshammor
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« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2012, 12:49:49 PM »

the Book "Who Killed The Red Baron?" can be found here was written by P.J.  Carisella and can be found on Amazon

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rebel_1812
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2013, 02:20:58 AM »

I too loved the WWI dogfight movies THE BLUE MAX (1966) and RICHTHOFEN AND BROWN (1971).  Those movies seems to understand it was a different time with different sensibilities whereas FLYBOYS tried to modernize it and thus came out comical.  I'll look up the movie you mentioned to check it out.
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« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2013, 07:22:11 AM »

That era has always fascinated me too.  Back before planes were larger than semi trucks and before missiles took out the enemy "beyond visual range".  I've had Zeppelin (1971) with Micheal York on my Amazon wishlist for quite a while, I'll have to check out The Red Baron too.
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2013, 10:02:40 PM »

Captain Arthur Roy Brown was an RAF officer, but he was a Canadian.

Yeah that traumatized a lot of us when we first heard it  Buggedout


Just another detail in the interest of historical accuracy.   Wink 

Next up in Canadian history: is "eh" an actual word, or just an expression?   TongueOut

Cheers!  Cheers
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