Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
During WWII Hollywood director William Wyler, who would go on to direct classic films like BEN-HUR and BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, took a team of photographers onto US B-17 bombers to document, in color, what one particular aircrew experienced. The color documentary THE MEMPHIS BELLE resulted.
That film has long been viewed as one of the best and most realistic documentaries to come out of WWII. Over the years, however, the original film has deteriorated. Copies now readily available online are faded, scratched, and of low quality.
Recently 15 hours of raw film footage generated by Wyler and his team were rediscovered. The footage was digitized, restored, rescored, and edited into this documentary. Accurate sound effects and narration have also been added.
The result is the stunning documentary INTO THE COLD BLUE. When seen on the big screen it envelops the viewer in the fear and terror — and occasional beauty — of what young (most in their 20s) B-17 crew members experienced in daylight bombing raids over Germany.
The most impressive thing about this documentary is not just the beautifully restored color footage but the voices of the narrators. The producers have sought out the few remaining living veterans of daylight bombing over Europe in the B-17 now in their 90s. It is their descriptions of their personal experiences that accompany the film.
As a historical documentary the film is a total success, not just because of the quality images and sounds on display but also because of the veterans’ voices as they recount the almost unimaginable fear and terror they experienced. It’s a sobering view of the dedication these young men felt about the duty they felt despite the low probability — 25% — that an Air Force crew member would actually make it through his 25 assigned daylight bombing missions alive.
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald