The War Lover

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THE WAR LOVER  had been a successful novel in 1959, even winning author John Hersey a Pulitzer Prize.  Adapted for this 1962 film, it didn’t strike targets, either with unimpressed critics or sparse audiences, whose $2,420,000 offerings left it in 63rd place for the year.

Easy enough to see why: it’s a stark and unpleasant way to spend 105 minutes with a clutch of dour characters.  Arrogant ‘Buzz Rickson’ (Steve McQueen) captains a B-17 crew over the skies of 1943 Germany.  He likes it–the flying, the bombing, the destruction. His psyche warp plays havoc with others he runs into & over, including his increasingly fed-up co-pilot (Robert Wagner) and that fellow’s English girlfriend (Shirley Anne Field), who Rickson hits on when not dropping explosives on Europe.

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Directed by Philip Leacock, with a supporting cast of English actors not-too-ably playing Americans, it has some limited interest to WW2 aviation buffs and McQueen fans completing their tour of his 27 big-screen credits. The romantic angle is bland (the perpetually testy star and Ms. Field did not get along at all), and the action scenes are competent, with a fair amount of technical jive (aided by footage of the real thing) but not very exciting.

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Sandwiched in between two more WW2 pictures, the decent Hell Is For Heroes, which also underperformed in ’62, and The Great Escape, a breakaway smash the following year, this was of a quintet of McQueen military movies, starting with the peacetime Navy comedy The Honeymoon Machine, wrapping with the peacetime Army farce Soldier In The Rain.   The touchy ex-Marine would only don a uniform one more time in his career, to acclaim in The Sand Pebbles. 

105 minutes, with Gary Cockrell, Michael Crawford, Robert Easton.

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