A scene from "Shady Lady." (Handout )
The so-called docudrama "Shady Lady" amateurishly reconstructs the World War II tale of the then-longest aircraft bombing mission in aviation history. But about five minutes into this stiff hybrid you wonder whether it's all not a sneaky attempt to concoct a flatfooted howler for midnight movie cult status. Or better yet, a WWII version of "Airplane."
The worthy, potentially exciting subject matter would certainly have lent itself to either a straight-on documentary or a seriously budgeted narrative feature. Instead, producer-director-editor Tristan Loraine (he also cowrote the dreadful script with Viv Young) clumsily tries to meld the two approaches — minus the big bucks.
The filmmaker mixes archival footage, vintage photos and dull narration with dramatized reenactments set inside a B-24 bomber called "Shady Lady" whose American crew flew off to destroy Japanese-dependent oil refineries in Borneo in 1943. Post-attack, however, there were complications, which forced the fuel-challenged fighter plane to eventually crash-land in the wilds of northern Australia.
Playing the real-life American soldiers are a uniformly wooden collection of unknowns stuck with such clunky, clichéd, repetitive dialogue (what's with all the "I reckons?") the most capable actors couldn't sell. Their scenes, which fill most of the film's running time, are a carnival of cheesy reaction shots, faux urgency and surplus minutiae.
The heroes of Shady Lady deserved a far better tribute.
"Shady Lady." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.