One of Our Aircraft is Missing Blu-ray Review

Restrained, Inspiring WWII Drama

“That’s what you’re doing for us,” says a British sympathizer, referring to Germans fleeing their post as air raid sirens wail. She speaks those words less to the characters around her than the audience. One of Our Aircraft is Missing doesn’t hide its sleeve full of propaganda; quite often, the film proudly embraces the idea.

Knowing this, it’s strange to see how earnest and, quite often, outright gorgeous Aircraft is Missing often is. Whether showcasing lavish miniature special effects or dramatically lifting tension with a noir-ish like shadow discipline, each scene carries visual perfectionism. It’s an unusual look for war films created with the intent of becoming cinematic morale boosts.

A swatch of brave creativity brings this one to life, tonally silent and without a score. This dims the spirited, playful first act and scours the dry, listless, rudimentary military procedures which soon follow. The impact later though is substantial. Aircraft is Missing signifies danger with bold sound. A cast of six British airmen, trapped in occupied Holland, surrounded on all sides by Germans – each engine, horn, or siren penetrates, transforming wartime ambiance into direct fear on the faces of the Brits.

Dialog follows the same path. Dutch, German, and Latin alike frequently goes untranslated. This weighs on the English-speaking British as much as the audience. The paranoia and unknowing lends Aircraft is Missing a genuine alienation.

Bold and measured, certainly with the specific intent of riling up war efforts of the period

Nothing begins until after the well mannered and well spoken heroes parachute from their damaged plane. Before, the cinematography’s fetish for military hardware breathes engine sounds. Bold and measured, with the specific intent of riling up war efforts. Now these scenes play as drowsy time capsules, alleviating the sense of character to show spinning propellers. These scenes lack staying power.

It isn’t long until a cast of prominent actors (including a young Peter Ustinov in his first feature length role) puff their chests, refuse to discard their uniforms, and win over locals in a bid for their escape. This spawns additional heroes, particularly women, who cast aside their own fear in the effort. Generally, the getaway is clean. German portrayals reveal an angry, inept cowardice among their forces. Deserters fare even worse, the puffy eyes of Robert Helpmann mortified as he’s caught in his act.

Of interest is the lack of action. After bombs (labeled “For Hitler”) mark their German targets, violence is almost nill. The penchant for fighting machines falls off too. Instead, it’s an every man story, showing how Holland’s tiny rebellious acts weaken the invading army. Don’t leave a football field when told. Slip a record of Dutch National Anthems to the Germans. Better still, silently help in the escape effort, because a mere six soldiers can force change.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing Blu-ray screen shot 14

Video

Worrisome is the, “best available elements” note on the back of Olive’s Blu-ray. Memories of an ‘80s exploitation flick pulled from a Beta immediately rush back, yet Aircraft is Missing looks wonderful. Pardon the damage which does admittedly wreck the images at times. Stray hairs, heavy scratches, and other aging dominate this print. Call it the “texture of time” if you’re in marketing. That’s a freebie.

Besides, what matters is the presence of real fidelity. Without touch-up, images present as accurate to the film stock. Resolved grain carries facial definition and beautiful UK scenery filling in for the then occupied Holland. Brick work holds exquisite fine detail, while long shots carry into the horizon with fantastic clarity. Upon landing, the British map out their plans in an area of high foliage, flawlessly resolved by this disc. If not fully restored, the scan is clearly of modern resolution.

Black levels become crucial late in the film as shadows rather than daylight offer cover. Given the quality elsewhere, those shadows produce deep, satisfying tones. Gray scale overall is exemplary with few exceptions. Excellent contrast, peaks, and all that falls between. If age shows elsewhere, contrast stays safe.

Audio

After a few dropouts early, Olive’s mono DTS-HD track produces an audio track which is rarely highlighted. Upon the few peaks, including a handful of explosions, loud engines, and obnoxious Nazi horns, age isn’t so obvious as with the video. No popping or hissing here.

Although dated, certainly, clean recording quality captures the era’s sonic nuance, with plenty of echoing open spaces. For a film uniquely driven by sound, all of this matters.

Extras

Sadly, nothing. While arguably another in a plethora of similar WWII propaganda efforts, two Oscar nominations indicate a better and deserving presence.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to 17 One of Our Aircraft is Missing exclusives.