The High and the Mighty William A. Wellman

This movie languished for 50 years without a release on video or DVD — and when you see it, you'll know why. John Wayne plays the co-pilot of a DC-4 who's got a long-ago crash on his conscience; little does he know that he'll have to pull hero duty when a passenger fires a gun and takes out one of the engines. But there's no caring about the plot when you've got a camp travesty like this full of one-trait characters, unspeakable dialogue, shrill, unrealistic performances and crude ethnic stereotypes. Every minute brings a new expository speech, shocking understatement or hysterical performer left high and dry by the script. You could make a drinking game for every outrage, but you'd be passed out before the one-hour mark. And speaking of hours, God only knows how this thing got padded out to nearly two-and-a-half, but writer/source novelist Ernest K. Gann proves infernally brilliant at stuffing ten pounds of cheese into a five-pound casing and sending the already top-heavy vessel crashing into the drink. The wide-gauge cinematography is somewhat impressive (though William Wellman's direction doesn't make enough of it), but the flaming colour only accentuates the screaming lunacy of everything else. So consider yourself warned: you'll laugh yourself silly or stare in slack-jawed stupefaction, with no middle ground. This two-disc special edition includes two intros by Leonard Maltin, a fairly all-business commentary with Maltin, William Wellman Jr., and cast members Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, several informative (and idolatrous) "making of" featurettes, including profiles of Wellman, Gann and composer Dimitri Tiomkin, clips about commercial air flight in the '50s, the film's restoration and its "place in film history," trailers, a newsreel and a photo gallery. (Paramount)