Group Commander Dan Collier, on an aircraft carrier in Korean waters during the Korean War, starts to think back to the rough days of the air-war against Japan during World War II, when he was in the same squadron. In flashbacks, he recalls the arrival of the squadron, led by Executive Officer Joe Rodgers, and the campaigns in which the squadron participated and its desperate fight for survival prior to the climax of the war.
Sterling Hayden ... Commander Dan Collier
Richard Carlson ... Lt. (j.g.) Joe Rodgers, Executive Officer
William Phipps ... Red Kelley (as Bill Phipps)
John Bromfield ... Ens. Snakehips McKay
Keith Larsen ... Ens. Barney Smith aka Barney Oldfield
William Schallert ... Ens. Longfellow
Todd Karns ... Judge
Phyllis Coates ... Mrs. Dorothy Collier
Dave Willock ... Willie
Walter Coy ... Air Group Commander
My attraction to this B feature from 1952 is the above summary. Tragic perhaps to most, but to me, not even remotely interested in the Navy or war films or Sterling Hayden and Richard Carlson or anything to do with guns (it might as well have been a western too, for that matter, but it isn't) ... my only and complete fascination is that it was made by Monogram using interesting Cinecolor.
I actually quite enjoyed FLAT TOP for about an hour then I lost the thread of the story. It seemed to be a never ending circuit of missions/Japs/well filmed interesting dogfights, pink explosions in cine-color and men in jets looking out the window. I think this was one of those films that worked well in huge theaters full of kids or servicemen. Monogram seemed to have well scammed a great idea to make a film: Get permission and co operation from the US Navy to film aboard one real aircraft carrier ( A: no sets needed) using lots of men in uniform (B: no costumes needed and C: hundreds of free extras) cobbled a story together about jostling dogfight commanders and some disciplinary tactics (scenes in small rooms using A+B and some outdoors/on deck filler scenes using C.
The actual footage of some spectacular genuine dogfight action seemed to be plentiful (again, provided by the Navy or the War dept) as there was a lot of fight scenes and flying through explosions and bits of blown apart planes (all very interesting and adding to the reality) and on and on it went. Some back projection with actors wobbling and swerving their cockpit and presto: one Govt sanctioned movie as a Korean War propaganda and recruitment piece now showing thu 1952 in 10,000 theaters. Very profitable.
My fascination with Monogram's production methods satisfied again. the Red/Bue cine-color was interesting as it resulted in tan skin tones with a lot of blue/grey (handy if you film an aircraft carrier and a sky) and a lot of orange/red (good for lifejackets and explosions). There was no yellow in the film and no actual green. It all worked as I am sure it was expected to. The music was excellent, the studio photography good too. Very well edited into 85 minutes. My research in Australia showed that it had a good run and stayed in play up until the 60s believe it or not. Monogram ceased to be a production name in 1953 when they changed name completely to Allied Artists. People criticize Monogram's inventive budget production methods but I find them ingenious.
I am into WW2 aircraft carriers and the Pacific War and I find this film to be a good one for its time. The editing is great and there is only a couple of war film segments that appear twice. Unlike Midway, they don't use modern carrier shots and even through it is not completely tied to a battle or campaign, every thing gets explained(In Midway, they didn't show the fact that the USS Yorktown CV5 sinks, or at least is supposed to sink).
This is a rather run-of-the-mill War movie on board an American flat top in the Pacific against the Japs. Definitely not in the class of "A wing and a prayer" or "Tora, Tora, Tora" and, without much background footage, even not up to the mediocre Midway. Education under fire with an as always impressing Sterling Hayden, not much else. Definitely a B-Movie under war movies issued during this area. Consumer commodity stuff not, if you want action, look at the above mentioned movies, if you want it along with history, choose Victory at Sea. Five out of Ten at best for the dogfight at the very end. Actually difficult to crunch out ten lines for this, isn't it.