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They Flew Alone (Wings And The Woman) 
Written by: on August 2nd, 2010

Theatrical Release Date:
UK, June 29th, 1942
Director: Herbert Wilcox
Writer: Viscount Castlerosse (story), Miles Malleson (screenplay)
Cast: Anna Neagle, Ribert Newton, Edward Chapman, Nora Swinburne, Joan Kemp-Welch, Brefni O’Rorke, Charles Carson.

DVD released: August 9th, 2010
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Fullscreen
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £12.99

A biopic about the life of Amy Johnson (Anna Neagle) a pioneering aviatrix that won the hearts of the British public in the 1930’s with her record-breaking solo flights around the world. Beginning with her rebellious schooldays and quest to find her place in the world and eventually her first daring attempts at flying solo to some of the furthest reaches of the globe. Taking in her stormy marriage to fellow record-breaking pilot playboy Jim Mollison (Robert Newton) who chafed at being overshadowed by his wife, all the way through to WWII and her heroic role in the Air Transport Auxiliary.

First ever DVD release of this lost British classic. Directed by Herbert Wilcox, a ridiculously prolific British filmmaker that worked steadily from the silent era all the way through to the 1970’s and will most fondly be remembered for his multitude of pre-war movies (over 100) and for pimping out his muse, wife and pretty much exclusive leading lady Anna Neagle at every opportunity; having already had his missus play Nell Gwynn, Peg Woffington, Queen Victoria (twice) and Edith Cavell, unsurprisingly here she takes on the role of Amy Johnson, an honest-to-goodness living legend, a British Amelia Earhart if you like, a comparison that fits all the way through to both women’s tragic ends unfortunately.

The script pretty much writes itself in that Johnson’s life was filled with daring exploits and hurdles to be overcome from the academic; Johnson achieved a BA in Economics and worked as a legal secretary before earning her flying and engineer licenses, to the physical endurance of undertaking a solo flight to Australia in a Gipsy Moth (an aircraft most of us nowadays would think of as a fancy little toy). The brief stint at the beginning with 38 year old Neagle playing a schoolgirl-aged Johnson aside it’s a very well told story especially considering it’s 40’s limitations and UK financed budget restrictions. Perhaps less emphasis on the melodrama (admittedly inherent) in Johnson’s whirlwind marriage to her professional rival would have been welcome but that’s just how they made flicks back then. Plus the flag-waving, patriotic, propaganda could have been toned down somewhat but again this was war-time folks. The film’s feminist angle will likely be it’s most intriguing aspect for today’s audience and it is a surprisingly right-on fem-flick for something made back then.

So despite an overabundance of swirling montages of telegrams and newspaper headlines and a somewhat grim (almost Starship-Troopers-like-Fight-Goes-On) finale this is a smooth Brit biopic that can proudly stand toe-to-toe with it’s Hollywood counterparts bringing a sense of British understatement and satire to the hue and cry of Johnson’s dare-devil flying shenanigans – her favorite supper was poached eggs on haddock don’t ya know!

The DVD:

In it’s original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 fullframe the picture is somewhat dark but very nice overall despite some very minor, fairly unnoticeable instances of print damage and dirt. Good detail and fair contrast levels. The mono audio track is clean and clear for the most part with only a couple of noticeable moments of hiss/noise here and there.

Extras include a bevy of original theatrical trailers for more titles in Odeon Entertainment’s Best Of British Collection namely; Brass Monkey, Candlelight In Algeria, Forbidden, Four In The Morning, Hell Is Sold Out and Light Up In The Sky.

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