As I was growing up in the 70’s, the once-a-week excursion to the movies was a special treat. Tartous didn’t offer much in terms of entertainment then (or even now), especially in the winter. My friends and I would arrange to meet near the theater after or during school hours. We would go in raucously and act like the asshole teenagers we were. Besides watching the movies, making everybody else in the theater uncomfortable was our cruel delight.
So it came about one day that a movie came to town. It was titled “The Blue Max”, 1966. From word of mouth, we heard that Ursula Andress had her voluptuous body on display, and that her tits “almost” showed. Well of course her towel scene became an all-time classic and is a pinnacle in the delicate art of teasing. More importantly though, The Blue Max is probably one of the greatest aviation movies in the history of film making and it features some spectacular arial combat sequences. Little did I know, however, that this movie would change my life forever.
It was a movie about flying during the First World War. George Peppard plays the character of Bruno Stachel, a flyer from a middle class background, as opposed to the aristocracy, which formed most of the German Officer Corp at the time. He had to prove himself, first as a worthy officer and then, and more importantly, as an ace pilot. His nemesis, Willie von Klugermann, played by Jeremey Kemp, was an accomplished pilot, a German aristocrat and an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. The feud between Willie (pronounced Villy of course) and Stachel was purely about flying; although screwing Kaeti (Ursula Andress), Count von Klugermann’s wife, was a welcomed bonus. James Mason starred as the Count.
I shouldn’t go into the details of this great motion picture. I have so many favorite lines, however. When the commanding officer Heiderman, played by Karl Michael Vogler, asks Stachel: “Are you a good flyer?”, he simply answers: “I’m comfortable in the air.” Over the years, I must’ve seen The Blue Max over 30 times. My best friend Rick and I have memorized most of the lines, and would naturally flaunt this knowledge to each other and to whoever happens to be watching with us and suffering.
When I exited that theater in Tartous almost 30 years ago, I knew once and for all that there’s nothing else I ever wanted to do besides flying. I dreamt about it for years until it became a reality, a profession and an obsession. Rick and I flew over the bayous of Louisiana like Bruno and Willie did. Interstate 10 from Lafayette to Baton Rouge was our favorite battle field. We played between the east and west-bound bridges in the little Acrobat, and I really mean it when I say between the bridges. I still remember that gorgeous blonde in the convertible blue Corvette driving fast in the heat of the day. We approached her from the southwest and descended as low as our perverse minds allowed, then flew along. Her short tight black skirt exposed a beautiful shiny sweaty pair of legs, her hair flying in the wind, her nipples hard against the silky blouse (it could be that I’ve imagined this part), her eyes transfixed on us, less than a couple of hundred feet off to her right, her million dollar smile… boy, she was our Kaeti that afternoon. We skimmed the murky waters near Henderson and we landed that tail-dragger in places that may seem (and are) impossible. We redefined the term “short field landing” out of necessity and for simple showmanship. There’s even an aerial maneuver named after me, although I couldn’t and still can’t perform it. We didn’t shoot down any enemy but we did it all. We were both very “comfortable in the air”.
It ought to happen one day, you’re going to find yourself bored and looking through the titles at your local video store for some DVD to rent for the evening. Check out “The Blue Max”. And, if you don’t agree with me that this is one of the greatest productions, you will at least find the towel scene much more interesting and crafty than anything Hollywood has made since, silicone or not.