Blu-ray Review: Captains of the Clouds

Captains of the Clouds

Studio: Warner Archive

May 10, 2022
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It’s funny in retrospect to think that Captains of the Clouds was the least consequential of the three films that Michael Curtiz directed for Warner Bros. in 1942. An A-list, patriotic war film starring James Cagney, released less than three months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II, the film premiered to enthusiastic audience responses and doubled its budget at the box office. But in June of 1942, Warners released their second Curtiz/Cagney joint of the year, Yankee Doodle Dandy, which would become the definitive American propaganda film of the war and win Cagney his only Oscar. And in November they released Curtiz’s final film of 1942, Casablanca, which would go on to win Best Picture, among other things.

Quite a year for any filmmaker. It’s easy to see how Captains of the Clouds would get lost in the shuffle of history. Although the film was shot in the summer and fall of 1941 – before the United States entered the war – the film makes no secret about its political alignments. Following a group of Canadian bush pilots who eventually join the Canadian Royal Air Force, the film sees the New World joining the war as an inevitability to be encouraged. There’s a pivotal scene where Cagney and his disreputable compatriots are all moved to enlist after hearing Churchill’s famous “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech over the radio.

Much like Curtiz’s other wartime propaganda films, Captains of the Clouds leavens its jingoism with strong character work and some impressive action sequences. Introduced as a girlfriend-stealing scab who undercuts the rates of his fellow bush pilots, Brian MacLean is a classic Cagney protagonist; an impish, pugnacious jerk who gets by on charm and skill. The film is at its best in the early stretches where Cagney and the other pilots slowly learn to respect each other and work together, resulting in some terrifically loose, almost improvisational bits of banter and hanging out. The film gets a big more predictable once it becomes a war movie, but the dazzling Technicolor flying sequences are impressive, even when you can see the strings for the insert shots. The care and majesty with which flying is depicted is an interesting reminder that in 1942, most people would never have flown in a plane and seeing such realistic depictions of it on film would have been quite impressive.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray of Captains of the Clouds includes a nature documentary short “Rocky Mountain Big Game” as well as two Bugs Bunny cartoons. Fans of Cagney, the Canadian landscape and aerial dogfights should consider it a must.

(Warner Archive Store)

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Title : Theatrical Trailer Captains of the Clouds Warner Archive
Artist : Warner Archive
Duration : 02:49
Size : 3.87 MB
Source : Youtube Music/Video
Type of file : Audio/Video (.mp3 .mp4)

Captains of the Clouds (1942) #WarnerArchive #WarnerBros #CaptainsoftheClouds

Brian MacLean wants to fight but what he gets is an assignment flying new, unarmed bombers across the Atlantic to England. Then, near England's shores, an enemy plane swoops out of the endless sky, splitting steel at the helpless bombers. If ever there was a time for MacLean to prove his skill and courage, this is it.

One of the first war-themed films to hit theaters after America entered World War II tells the expansive tale of rugged bush pilots who bring their flying savvy to the Royal Canadian Air Force. James Cagney plays MacLean with git and swagger. Michael Curtiz, who would next helm Cagney's Yankee Doodle Dandy, directs this two-time Academy Award® nominee cheered for vivid Technicolor® lensing of North Country lakes and forests.

Directed By Michael Curtiz
Starring James Cagney, Dennis Morgan, Brenda Marshall

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Warner Archive Collection is a branch of Warner Bros home entertainment that releases classic films and TV that were previously unreleased. Thousands of Films, TV movies and series on Blu-ray and DVD direct from the studio. WAC started as a MOD (manufactured on demand) eCommerce business in 2009 and have released over 2,500 titles spanning from the 1920s to present with distribution outlets that now include wholesale, licensee, and retail partners. Available at

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