• Retrospective: Clouds Over Europe (1939)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Mon Apr 11 01:26:53 2016
    (a film retrospective/review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: In a plot similar to YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, new
    British planes being tested are being plucked out of
    the sky and are disappearing without a trace. A British
    intelligence officer rejects the leading theory that the
    plane disappearances are coincidence. He goes off
    looking for the truth. Meanwhile a test pilot also
    thinks that there is more to the losses than meets the
    eye. And does his own investigation.

    1939 is considered the high point of the golden age of filmmaking.
    Films made that year include GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ,
    MICE AND MEN. One British film of that year that has nearly been
    forgotten was called Q-PLANES in Britain and called CLOUDS OVER
    EUROPE in the US. Though rarely recognized as such, Q-PLANES has a
    plot too similar to that of later James Bond films to be attributed
    to coincidence. I ideas of the film are very similar to the early
    James Bond films in general and to YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE in

    British planes with new secret embellishments seem to be
    disappearing all over the map. The planes go up in test flights
    and are seemingly being plucked out of the air never to be heard of
    again. British Intelligence is mystified and attributing the dozen
    or so disappearances to coincidence. One agent who is not
    convinced is the debonair, umbrella-brandishing Major Hammond,
    played by Ralph Richardson. Hammond is convinced everyone else is
    wrong about the disappearances and that he is right that there is
    some villain who is behind the vanishings. Actually there is one
    other person who has drawn the same conclusion. It is star test
    pilot Tony McVane (Laurence Olivier). Much (too much) of the film
    centers on McVane who in a comic subplot has a love-hate
    relationship with Hammond's attractive sister Kay (Valerie Hobson).
    Meanwhile McVane is anxious to take up a new and valuable test
    plane to see for himself what has happened to the other missing
    aircraft. I will not say what was discovered about the missing
    planes, but the conclusion of the film was very much the 1939
    equivalent of just so many spectacular battles at the end of James
    Bond films.

    Actually Hammond is not so much a James Bond type. He much more
    seems of the mold of John Steed of the British TV series "The
    Avengers." Like Steed the earlier Hammond does not wear a bowler
    as Steed did. But his hat is very similar to Steed's. This film
    is more of a comedy than an Avengers story and certainly more than
    a James Bond film, but one would have to be blind to miss the ideas
    of Q-PLANES that were recycled into early Bond films and Avengers

    If the name Valerie Hobson is familiar it may be because she plays
    Lisa, the wife of THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON. Also she had the title
    role in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (assuming that Frankenstein was
    the scientist and not the monster). In 1963 she was married to
    Government Minister John Profumo when his sexual relationship with
    a 19-year-old model shook all of Britain.

    This film was made in 1939. Most of it was shot before war was
    declared, so with a German market in mind the characters carefully
    avoid suggesting what country is behind the evil deeds. However,
    by the time the film was nearly complete war had broken out between
    Britain and Germany. There was time to get in only one reference
    that it was Germany who was behind the nasty bit of espionage.

    CLOUDS OVER EUROPE (seemingly a more popular title than the
    original title, Q-PLANES) shows up every few years on Turner
    Classic Movies. As of this writing it can also be found on

    Film Credits:

    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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