Von Richthofen & Brown (a.k.a. The Red Baron) (1971)
Director: Roger Corman.
Starring: John Phillip Law (Baron Manfred von Richthofen), Don Stroud (Roy Brown), Barry Primus (Hermann Goering), Corin Redgrave (Major Lanoe Hawker VC), Karen Ericson (Ilse), Hurd Hatfield (Anthony Fokker), Stephen McHattie (Werner Voss), Brian Foley (Lothar von Richthofen), Robert La Tourneaux (Ernest Udet), Peter Masterson (Major Oswald Boelke), Clint Kimbrough (Major von Höppner), Tom Adams (Owen), Ferdy Mayne (Father Richthofen), David Weston (Murphy), John Flanagan (Thompson).
Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the German air ace during the World War I
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
At a German aerodrome somewhere in France. Rittmeister Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, the new guy to the air squadron, meets Werner Voss, Lt. Ernest Udet and Lt. Hermann Goering (later infamous as the Hitler henchman).
Indirectly Major Boelke criticizes Von Richthofen's flying. Von Richthofen flies with the squadron and shoots down more Allied planes. But his plane develops a tare in the fabric on one of his aircraft wings. When he lands, Von Richthofen immediately jumps into a car and drives out to the crash sight of one of his kills. He looks at the pilot's face and to get a better look, takes off the man's goggles. He then cuts out the national insignia from the side of the downed plane. When Von Richthofen returns to the aerodrome, the Major is immediately on his case again. The Major checked his plane and found the tare in the wing. He tells Von Richthofen: "But for God, he would have been drinking with his comrades and you would have been laying out there in the mud." The Major then starts giving Von Richthofen a number of very helpful pointers in how to improve his flying.
The Allies are getting the AA, a new airplane. A Canadian named Roy Brown has just arrived to be a part of the squadron.
Von Richthofen is made an ace. His little brother Lothar arrives to fly for the squadron. Goering buys a modern painting for 30,000 marks. On the next sortie, the Major wishes Von Richthofen good luck and adds: "Stay in the sun." During the dog fights, Boelke's plane is hit by another German plane and Boelke crashes. When Von Richthofen gets back to the aerodrome he is accused of having cause the death of the major. The ace responds: "I did what I thought best. . . . I owed Boelke everything."
Brown appears a bit lack-luster. He comes in last to be with the squadron, drinks his wine and then walks out.
Boelke's squadron needs another leader. The question is, who would Boelke choose to replace himself? Although Von Richthofen is only twenty-three years old, the officers decide to give the job to the ace.
Brown drives a motorcycle out into the countryside and ends up on someone's property. In French, a woman shouts at Brown from the house. He drives up closer to talk with her. As he looks at her, he realizes that she is missing one of her legs. As he tries to talk with the woman, German airplanes fly overhead. He tells the woman he has to leave to fight the Germans.
The order comes down to paint German airplanes multi-colored so they will not be as easy to spot in the air. Von Richthofen does not like the idea of having to hide from the enemy. So he interprets "multi-colored" to mean the use of "loud" colors. The squadron's aircraft are painted with colors that really stand out in the sky. Von Richthofen has his plane painted red, hence the moniker the Red Baron. Some say the new squadron constitutes a "flying circus". Von Richthofen gets a medal for shooting down 40 airplanes. The German ace also meets the airplane designer Fokker. He is coming out with a new aircraft. Later Von Richthofen dances with the singer at a night club and even kisses her.
Brown is not a very popular man in his squadron. A fellow named Murphy even grabs a machine gun and fires at Brown's feet. All Brown says is: "Can't you shoot a man in the back, Murphy?" But he is a damn good pilot and he comes up with new ideas. He suggests that the squadron act like a pack of wolves hunting together in cooperation with each other. And they do seem to be downing more German aircraft with the idea. Von Richthofen is grazed with shots to the head and has to land his aircraft. The Allied squadron wants to raid the German aerodrome.
Von Richthofen goes hunting and fishing as he recuperates from his head wound. He visits with his mother and father at their big estate. Von Richthofen is not married.
The Allies raid the German aerodrome. They wipe out or at least damage every aircraft on the field. They also kill a number of pilots, mechanics and other staff. Lothar Von Richthofen tries to get his plane into the air, but his plane is strafed and ruined and Lothar is badly wounded in the leg. Von Richthofen arrives shortly after the raid. The head mechanic tells him: "Everything's all gone to hell." Von Richthofen tells the head mechanic to get Werner Voss for him. But the head mechanic has to inform Von Richthofen that the pilot died the day Von Richthofen was wounded and forced to land. But Von Richthofen still has some luck left. Fokker's new airplanes arrive. All the men have to do is assemble them and take off. They plan to attack the Allied aerodrome.
The Allies are having a big celebration, including a dance, right there at the aerodrome. But soon the call goes out:: "Here comes the Germans." The German pilots wreak havoc on the aerodrome. In the attack, musicians, nurses, pilots, female dancers and others are shot and killed or wounded. Brown says: "We made a mistake."
Back at their aerodrome, Von Richthofen rants at Lt. Goering for leaving the formation and strafing medical personnel. He says: "You're an assassin!" Goering defends himself by saying: "I make war to win." Von Richthofen tells him: "Get out of my sight!" If Goering does something similar again, Von Richthofen swears that he personally will go to the Emperor to make sure Goering is shot.
Newspaper reporters from Canada want to learn more about Canada's newest ace. He shot down eight German airplanes. But Brown proves very uncooperative. He says it feels like he has shot down at least 100 German planes. He has a rather defeatist attitude and often says that they are all going to die before the war comes to an end.
Lothar complains to his brother that they are losing so many pilots. He wonders: "Who's next?" His brother responds: "We're all next, little brother."
The Americans have finally joined the war and they are infusing men and supplies a plenty into the Allied cause. Brown drinks with some of his buddies at the bar when someone shouts: "Here comes the Yanks!" The American pilots pour into the bar. One of the Yanks is a bit too aggressive and Brown knocks him down when he kisses a woman with whom Brown was talking.
Von Richthofen is informed that within six months the allied offensive will begin. In the first phase the Germans will be pushed back. In the second phase the Germans will be pushed back into Germany proper. Some German bigwigs want Von Richthofen to leave the front. They are sure Germany will lose the war and they want to plan for the German rearmament campaign. Fokker offers Von Richthofen a job as his company's chief test pilot, but the German ace just tells the men: "I say, you're all insane. I will not stand down." The general in the group tells Von Richthofen that he hopes the Allies blast him from the sky. The Red Baron responds: "Never doubt it, General. They will."
A German pilot tells Von Richthofen that Goering has been grounded and adds: "That's strange!" Von Richthofen only says "Not really." This response shocks the pilot. Up in the air the Germans are taking a beating. Brown gets behind the Red Baron and chases him around, even over a lake. Von Richthofen's plane takes a lot of hits and Von Richthofen himself is hit. He is able to land his plane but he soon dies. The Allied pilots heartily congratulate Brown on downing Von Richthofen.
The pilot who will take over for Von Richthofen is none other than future war criminal, Hermann Goering.
Pretty good movie. At least it keeps your interest. I saw a PBS documentary on who really killed the Red Baron. They showed that yes Brown shot and hit Von Richthofen's plane, but that it was actually a soldier on the ground with a rifle who shot at the plane and delivered the fatal wound to Von Richthofen. So maybe we should say that the two men together brought down Von Richthofen.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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