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FLAT TOP(director/writer: Lesley Selander; screenwriter: Steve Fisher; cinematographer: Harry Neumann; editor: William Austin; music: Marlin Skiles; cast: Sterling Hayden (Commander Dan Collier), Richard Carlson (Lt. (j.g.) Joe Rodgers, Executive Officer), William Phipps (Red Kelley), John Bromfield (Ens. Snakehips McKay), Keith Larsen (Ens. Barney Smith), William Schallert (Ens. Longfellow); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Walter Mirisch; Republic; 1952)
“An action-packed WW II flyer film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An action-packed WW II flyer film that’s well-paced and acted and wisely mixes in actual newsreel footage to give it an authentic look. Lesley Selander (“Fort Vengeance’/”Fort Osage”/”Fighter Attack”) keeps things moving without a hitch; Steve Fisher turns in a serviceable screenplay.

It begins in flashback during the Korean conflict aboard the navy aircraft-carrier Princeton, where senior officer Dan Collier (Sterling Hayden) recalls his pilot days on the same ship as a squad commander during WW II. Collier is the new leader of the Third Fleet carrier force on a mission to the Philippines, whose purpose is to launch an all-out attack to regain control of the islands from the Japanese. There’s some friction because the new leader, a combat seasoned hero, is a strict disciplinarian who believes in a no-nonsense approach and doing things as a unit rather than on one’s own. For disobeying orders, ace pilot Barney Smith is grounded to a desk job. The popular executive officer, Lt. Rogers (Richard Carlson), is deemed too soft by Collier for trying too hard to please the green flyers under his command. When the squadron suffers great causalities, the suspended Smith is reinstated as a pilot. Everyone (and that includes Rogers and Smith) soon learns that Collier’s lessons on how to conduct themselves during combat were difficult to swallow at the time but pay off in their combat missions by saving lives and getting results.

It may be strictly formulaic, but it’s effective for what it is.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”