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Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
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Reviewer:Craig Butler, A number of comedies assumed epic proportions in the 1960s, such as the amusingly titled Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. The problem with many of these "super-comedies" was that the scope of the undertaking -- big casts, big sets, big screen -- has a tendency to dwarf the humor. There's a little of this in Magnificent, but it fortunately doesn't do much damage. The film maintains a zany, happy-go-lucky, freewheeling spirit that makes the whole event a very pleasant, if titanically lightweight, affair. Matters are helped by screenwriter Jack Davies' engaging, sharp dialogue and by the loving if ironic tone he brings to the story and the characters. Ken Annakin's direction is appropriately broad yet finds time for subtlety when possible; most importantly, he keeps all the many pieces of the big affair from coming apart and manages to make sure that what is essentially an episodic, one bit-after-another film feels cohesive. Annakin, working with the very fine cinematographer Christopher G. Challis, also knows how to make the big screen work to its best advantage, and does a very fine job of finding the lighthearted drama in the race itself, while still building appropriate tension in the long build-up to the event. He is aided enormously by his gifted cast. If Stuart Whitman is perhaps a bit dull, the rest of the cast more than makes up for it, especially the delicious Terry-Thomas, who has never been more amusingly oily. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi