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Wings Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: Dolby Digital; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Region: A (B? C?)
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 141
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 24, 2012
  • List Price: $29.99

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BestBuy.com:
Wings (1929) - Fullscreen B&W

Purchase Wings on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

For trivia experts, name the first film to win a Best Picture Oscar. Gotcha? It was Wings, a 1927 silent movie directed by William Wellman and featuring the “It” girl, Clara Bow, Richard Arlen, Charles (Buddy) Rogers, and, yes, that was Gary Cooper early on. Since then, given the march of progress and the inexorable history of military aviation, a zillion flyer flicks have been put in the can. But Wings was the “Top Gun” of them all.

The story is simple and straightforward. Two young men, Jack (Rogers) and David (Arlen), both in love with the same woman, become military aviators during World War I. If you are even thinking about the recent dud Pearl Harbor, forget about it, this was and is the real deal. The planes and uniforms may be dated, but everything else about the story still resonates, particularly at a time when the US is still involved in overseas conflicts.

If you think that silent flickers are not worth the trouble of watching, Wings will make you change your mind.  There is some truly excellent aerial cinematography, era notwithstanding, and the addition of an orchestral soundtrack with copious  battle sound effects heightens the visual impact. The picture is amazing for its age and conveys the action perfectly, just glance at the “dog fight,” accompanied by, of all things,  Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Music.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

Not many 85 year old films are worth looking at. Wings is a clear exception due to excellent original cinematography and an amazing restoration project. There is obvious and copious grain in this film but that does not detract from the enjoyment of this picture. Tinting is done judiciously and the background varies between strict B&W and sepia prints. All told, I have seen newer movies with worse pictures and camera technique. As one of the original great war films, the screen does a great job in its portrayal of the scope of war and its combatants.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The soundtrack has been considerably enhanced by sound effects that were obviously not part of the original. For viewers accustomed to the battle films of today, the sounds of war will be quite familiar. Two music tracks are offered, a symphonic one and an organ (more authentic to the original movie theater experience) version. The first is far better and is more in keeping with the heroic nature of this film.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

Three substantial features are included in this Blu-ray reissue: “Wings: Grandeur in the Sky,” “Dogfight,” and “Restoring the Power and Beauty of Wings.”  All are presented in HD and are fascinating watches. Viewers should be grateful to Paramount for these inclusions which enhance the overall Wings experience.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Wings received a Best Picture Oscar, somewhat in retrospect since this category did not exist in 1927. In 1997, this film was selected for preservation by The Library of Congress’ United States National Film Registry. Since the original negative was no longer available, the restoration of the Paramount Studio’s spare negative is all the more remarkable. Viewers coming to the silent film genre for the first time will marvel at the evocative performances turned in by the principal actors that are only approximated by the occasional dialogue screens. The dog fight sequences are amazing considering how difficult they were to shoot with the technology of the era. What ultimately carries this film is the competition and the camaraderie between Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen both in love and in war. While previous epic silent films such as Birth of a Nation and Ben-Hur are often placed near the top of this era’s best lists, Wings definitely belongs with them. To sum it up, you will enjoy this silent classic, you won’t miss the dialogue (often a liability in movies anyway), and you will get to see some of the great actors of the era in their prime.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B0067MLCEI[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Wings (1929) - Fullscreen B&W

Purchase Wings on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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