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Those magnificent men in their flying machines,
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes, to give its full title, is a 1965 British film farce (released through Twentieth Century Fox) about an international air race held during the early, pre-World War I days of aviation. A wacky cast of characters assembles with their wacky aircraft, a love triangle develops, Worthy Opponents square off, and great fun is had by all...except for those who can't stay in the air.
The brilliant international cast includes Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Alberto Sordi, Robert Morley, Gert Fröbe, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Yûjirô Ishihara, John Le Mesurier, Benny Hill, and Terry-Thomas as Sir Percy Ware-Armitage. Extra footage added for the American release featured popular comedian Red Skelton as a hapless victim of flight tests throughout the ages.
The 1969 Sequel, Monte Carlo or Bust (aka Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies), does for vintage cars what this movie does for vintage planes.
Contains examples of:
- Innocent Innuendo: Richard Mays would like to take Patricia "up". Her father is okay with that... until Mays reveals that he means physically flying with her in his plane.
- Animated Credits Opening: Featuring the magnificent art of Ronald Searle.
- The Big Race
- Cool Plane: Well, in the era of the setting, any plane that can stay aloft for more than five minutes is essentially cool by default. But the amusing early flying machines are certainly a focal point of the film.
- Disposable Fiancé: Richard gradually emerges as one.
- Duel to the Death: Two characters try to have one in hot air balloons.
- Ahem: "Balloons ... AND BLUNDERBUSSES!"
- Epic Race
- Fake Nationality: Oberst von Holstein, the Prussian, is played by a Saxon speaking with an undisguisable Saxon accent. This was seen as rather funny in Germany when the film was released.
- The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles
- Great Big Book of Everything: The Prussian Army's Big Book of Instructions includes instructions on how to fly an airplane. Step one: sit down.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Did you recognize Goldfinger as Oberst von Holstein?
- And Benny Hill leads the Fire Battalion.
- Hey, It's That Voice! Did you recognize Ware-Armitage as Sir Hiss?
- Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: After Richard knocks him out, Orvil complains that it was against British fair play that Richard hit him while he wasn't looking. That he had done the exact same thing to Richard a few scenes earlier (and something very similar to Sir Percy even earlier) does not bother him, though.
- Mockumentary: The film opens with a narrator describing Man's age-old quest for flight with relevant clips, some real, some not. It's amazing we ever succeeded...
- Apparently the silent footage was lifted wholesale from a 1920s compilation short.
- National Stereotypes: Most of the participants of the race are humorous caricatures of their nationality. There's the lustful Frenchman, the strict, pointy-hatted Prussian soldier, the boisterous Italian bringing his whole family with him, etc. Though it is a British film, British Stuffiness is certainly there, too.
- One YouTube review points out that some of the offensiveness is mitigated by the fact that all of the actors are the nationalities of the characters they're playing and are clearly having a ball playing up their roles to the hilt. Maybe it's because absolutely nobody gets off scot-free; everyone is painted in a stereotypical way.
- It is somewhat subverted in the case of the Japanese pilot in that he fails to conform to 1910-era expectations, not only by speaking flawless English and having a taste for Scotch whisky, but also in the scene when his plane crashes on take-off. When he asks for a knife it is not, as the fireman fears, to commit Harakiri, but to free himself from entangling wires.
- Prussia: Colonel Manfred von Holstein is here to play out every Prussian stereotype to its fullest.
- Running Gag: The French pilot chats up a series of beauties whom he keeps confusing the names of, so that they have to introduce themselves as being of different nationalities and names. The suggestion is that all beautiful women look alike to him. The joke is that they're all played by the same actress!
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Sir Percy Ware-Armitage's attitude. (Orvil on the other hand clearly thinks he deserves special consideration because unlike the other participants he is poor.)
- Shout-Out: Among the girls Dubois chats up are Brigitte from France, Marlene from Germany, and Ingrid from Sweden.
- Shown Their Work: All the race planes in the film are fairly faithful reproductions of actual early aircraft, with some modern updates to ensure safety.
- Stiff Upper Lip: Richard and the Navy pilot.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: The Trope Namer.
- Wacky Racing: If nothing else, the amusing characters and the very nature of the race make it quite wacky.
- Worthy Opponent: Richard and Orvil eventually develop respect for each other.