I’ve written here before about my fondness for World War I aviation movies (I think I’m the only one who loves the movie FLYBOYS, predictable though it may be). So naturally I had to watch THE RED BARON, a biopic of sorts about Baron Manfred von Richtofen. I say “of sorts” because it basically just covers the war, although it touches on von Richtofen’s childhood and family life.
Even though it was made in 2008, THE RED BARON indulges in the sort of historical fictionalization I associate more with Hollywood epics of the Thirties and Forties. The viewer gets to know some of the members of von Richtofen’s Flying Circus, and most of that seems to be fairly historically accurate, if a little soap-operatic at times. It’s with von Richtofen himself that the filmmakers play fast and loose, turning him into a matinee idol hero who romances a French nurse and forms a friendship with Canadian pilot Captain Roy Brown by saving his life when Brown crashes during a battle. Later, in another dogfight, Brown cripples von Richtofen’s plane and forces him to land, so Brown lands, too, and they stand around in a field philosophizing about war. Ironic as hell for the viewer who knows
that eventually Brown will be credited with shooting down von Richtofen (although later research indicates that von Richtofen was probably killed by machine gun fire from a battery manned by Australian soldiers). Unfortunately, as far as I know von Richtofen and Brown never met in real life.
But hey, it’s a movie, and historical quibbles aside, here’s what you want to know: it’s a pretty entertaining one. The dogfights and aerial sequences look great. So good, in fact, that I suspect there was a lot of CGI involved. The acting is fine, the script moves right along, and I enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of World War I aviation movies, it’s definitely worth watching. In fact, it made me want to watch THE DAWN PATROL again.
The other thing about this movie is that most of the way through it, in the back of my mind I kept hearing, “Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more . . . the Bloody Red Baron was rollin’ up the score . . .”