"Strategic Air Command," a bit of Cold War propaganda about as circumspect as an above-ground nuclear test, is still worth seeing if you get a kick out of aviation or quaint period pieces.
James Stewart pulls on his trademark aw-shucks persona as he plays a pro baseball player and World War II pilot called back into the service to fly the huge cigar-like B-36 bomber for SAC.
Like many flying pictures, the action doesn't truly get off the ground until the star does. But once Stewart hoists himself into the metallic belly of the beast and the engines begin to thunder, the film begins to soar. The aerial sequences are spectacular--not the wasp-like darting around of combat films, but the serenity of high-altitude flying in immense but graceful aircraft. The B-36, in use only briefly in SAC and unusual for its six pusher propeller-driven engines, will surely appear a strange curiosity to modern eyes more used to the sleek lines of current military aircraft.
Later, Stewart (who was himself a World War II heavy bomber pilot) graduates to the jet-powered B-47, another short-lived plane.
Back on the ground, matters get a bit treacly as June Allyson, as Stewart's wife, continues to try to talk him out of airplanes and back into baseball, even as brass hats try to keep him flying.
Victor Young's musical score is a plus, particularly the sweeping phrases played over the flying sequences.
"Strategic Air Command" probably recruited a few fliers, even if the B-36 was obsolete by the time they made it into the cockpit.
\o7 "Strategic Air Command" (1955), directed by Anthony Mann. 114 minutes. Not rated.