Strategic Air Command Blu-ray Review

B-36 and B-47 bombers star alongside Jimmy Stewart in this ode to the US Air Force

Incredible, vintage aerial photography and Jimmy Stewart’s inescapable charm make Strategic Air Command a crowd-pleasing favorite from the 1950s. The 1954 aviation drama worked as a two-hour commercial for the United States Air Force and its planes, throwing in light melodrama courtesy of stars Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson.

Loosely adapting elements from baseball immortal Ted Williams’ life as a pilot, Strategic Air Command tapped into the powerful fascination Americans had in the Fifties for the nation’s awe-inspiring military hardware. The impressive military aircraft used in the movie are almost co-stars with Stewart. It remains a highly watchable slice of Hollywood drama courtesy of screen legend Jimmy Stewart. His believable performance as a respected pilot in the Air Force adds a certain force to the role many other stars would have lacked.

Playing a star baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals, “Dutch” Holland (James Stewart) is called back into active military duty by the Air Force for their Strategic Air Command. Always prepared for the next battle or war, it’s the unit responsible for long-range bombings across the globe. Dutch’s experience as a pilot in WWII is needed by them once again.

… pornography for airplane lovers, shot in spectacular VistaVision and Technicolor…

Dutch’s wife Sally (June Allyson) isn’t thrilled to hear her new husband is going back into active duty, though she remains his devoted and loving wife through thick and thin. Their domestic life is uprooted as Dutch quickly gets assigned commanding a B-36 bomber crew, a demanding job that requires a rigorous schedule. Naturally respected as a leader for his skills as a pilot, Dutch becomes a key cog for Strategic Air Command and its demanding service. Although Dutch and his wife are reluctant to permanently give up civilian life, both come to realize the importance of Strategic Air Command’s vital mission keeping the peace.

Strategic Air Command stands out with its attention to detail showcasing the airplanes used by the Air Force during this period. Providing an accurate snapshot of manning B-36 and B-47 bombers, aviation enthusiasts have always loved its gorgeous aerial photography and eye for detail. This is pornography for airplane lovers, shot in spectacular VistaVision and Technicolor by cinematographer William Daniels. Take-offs and landings have never been filmed in such impressive scope.

What ultimately makes Strategic Air Command such a winning movie is Jimmy Stewart. The screen legend proves once more why he’s one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars, giving an affable spin to his character and infusing Dutch with a wholesome determination. It’s a classic turn done with that trademark Jimmy Stewart charm that proved undeniable for audiences.

In a simpler era of Hollywood filmmaking, it was enough to please audiences with heroic characters played by their favorite stars. Strategic Air Command is a loving ode to the United States Air Force and the planes that served its Strategic Air Command unit. Some may find that combination slightly dated but it remains a winning piece of storytelling.

Strategic Air Command Blu-ray screen shot 5

Video

Olive Films delivers a nearly perfect film transfer in this immaculate 1.66:1 presentation. Strategic Air Command has never looked better, the 1080P video contains lush color saturation and crisp definition. The 114-minute main feature is encoded in high-bitrate AVC on a BD-25. Licensed from Paramount, I have no idea how that studio passed on releasing this wonderfully film-like transfer with striking clarity. It’s a marvelous-looking Blu-ray and captures the film’s aerial shots in glorious quality.

Shot in beautiful VistaVision by William Daniels with a clear goal of impressing audiences, the aerial cinematography is breathtaking. This was intended as eye candy and made a huge impression on fans when it was first released. The vintage film possesses razor-sharp definition in unfiltered clarity. The vivid Technicolor palette is brilliantly reproduced with perfect contrast and flawless black levels. Inky black levels round out its technical excellence.

The film elements reside in a state of fabulous preservation. Few visible signs of wear or deterioration intrude on the nearly pristine, film-like video. Close-ups are flush with generous detail. If digital processing has been used on this new HD transfer, it is undetectable on larger displays. Grain and color reproduction rank with other high-quality restorations from the era.

Olive Films deserves kudos for this excellent technical presentation of Strategic Air Command. This Blu-ray is an immense upgrade over DVD in every dimension.

Audio

Composer Victor Young offers a stirring score, a fairly traditional effort the time. It is heard in perfect fidelity in a fine 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The mono mix offers intelligible dialogue with adequate dynamics. The audio recording has fairly crisp clarity for a 1954 production.

Optional English subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

No special features are included on this Blu-ray.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • Strategic Air Command
  • Video
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Summary

Jimmy Stewart flies this classic Hollywood film to success with his charm and stunning aerial photography of U.S. bombers.

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