"Sportsmen, Not Butchers"
What You Need To Know:
THE RED BARON gives a totally German perspective to World War I. It shows Von Richthofen and the other pilots as gentlemen who are cousins to the English pilots. These are not the vicious Huns portrayed in American movies. In refurbishing the Red Baron’s image, one wonders how much is true and how much is revisionism. There’s very little foul language. There is the obligatory house of ill repute scene, but it’s very 1950s in presentation. The movie has a European sensibility, but is well worth watching.
(BB, PC, C, L, VV, S, A, D, M) Strong moral worldview with some politically correct tendencies, some hagiography idealizing an historical figure, and some Christian values included, including one “May God be with us” and elements of sacrifice; four obscenities; lots of action violence includes World War I planes being shot down, pilots being shot, wounded soldiers, gaping wounds, and other wartime violence but nothing over the top; implied sexual content such as scene set in a whorehouse, man and nurse come out of a tent like they just had a sexual liaison, and man and nurse start sexual relations but break off when bombs start falling, but nothing explicit depicted; no explicit nudity but low cut dresses and turn of the 20th century provocative clothing; alcohol use; constant smoking; and, jingoism and adolescent attitudes about war.
With 80 kills to his credit, the Red Baron, Baron Manfred von Richthofen was the Number One flying ace in World War I. This German movie, opening in 1917, pursues the Baron’s career from young pilot to its very end.
The movie opens with Von Richthofen, as a boy, starting to shoot a deer. He is a crack shot. He can shoot anything with his father’s rifle at almost any distance. When he hears a plane, he takes off on his horse to follow it. Thus, the opening scene establishes his desire to fly and his skill at killing.
Cut to the 1917 scene of him entering the German Flying Corps. In spite of the hazing of his commanding officer, he is self-assured and competent. Soon he has established himself as an ace and his commanding officer becomes his adjutant. He brings down a Canadian pilot, Capt. Roy Brown, but then saves his life. His goal is to shoot down planes, not to kill people. He is a sportsman, as he says, not a butcher.
The beautiful nurse taking care of Capt. Brown abhors Von Richthofen because he treats the war like his own personal game. Soon, however, Von Richthofen and Kate fall madly in love. He starts to see the war through her eyes. And, by the end, he’s almost become a pacifist. He realizes that Germany cannot win against the overwhelming firepower of the Allies in spite of the fact that the Germans are better pilots and have better equipment. Before the fatal mission, he tells everybody to save themselves. Ever the gentleman, he’s always willing to sacrifice his life for others.
THE RED BARON gives a totally German perspective to World War I. It shows Von Richthofen and the other pilots as gentlemen who are cousins to the English fighting men. These are not the vicious Huns portrayed in American movies. In refurbishing the Red Baron’s image, one wonders how much is true and how much is revisionism. This is a John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart movie from the German perspective. There’s very little foul language. There is the obligatory house of ill repute scene, but it is very 1950s in its presentation. Although it’s clear Von Richthofen and Kate are having an affair, the audience only sees them coming out of the tent.
The movie is about chivalry, honor, and all the gentlemanly values. In the beginning, Von Richthofen treats the war as a game, but after his friends get shot down, he starts to abhor fighting. This pacifism may be a little too much, but it does not go as far as the famous pacifist movie, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT.
The movie is fascinating in many ways. The aerial scenes have a real authenticity to them that modern CGI moviemaking does not have. Since this has been shot in English, it may find an audience. Certainly, anyone who likes history should appreciate it. It does ramble a little bit. And, it does have a European sensibility, but it is worth watching.