The Flight of the Phoenix is a 1965 film based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Elleston Trevor.
The survivors wait for rescue but begin to worry as the storm has blown them far off course, away from where searchers would look for them. After several days, Captain Harris (Peter Finch) marches towards a distant oasis together with another passenger. His aide Sergeant Watson (Ronald Fraser) feigns a leg injury and does not join Harris. Days later, Harris barely manages to return to the crash site.
As the water begins to run out, Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Krüger), a precise, arrogant German aeronautical engineer, proposes a radical solution. He claims they can rebuild a new aircraft from the wreckage, using the only working engine and adding skids to take off. They set to work.
At one point they spot a party of nomadic Arabs. Captain Harris decides to ask them for help, but Sergeant Watson refuses to accompany him. Instead, the doctor (Christian Marquand) - a person familiar with the local Arab dialect - goes with him. The next day, Towns finds their looted bodies, throats cut, and the nomads gone.
Later, Towns finds out that Dorfmann's job is designing model aircraft, not real, full-scale ones. Afraid of the effect on morale, he and Moran keep their discovery secret, though they now believe Dorfmann's plan is doomed. However, they turn out to be wrong. The aircraft is reborn, like the mythical Phoenix. It flies the passengers, lying on the wings, to an oasis and civilization.
|James Stewart||Capt. Frank Towns|
|Richard Attenborough||Lew Moran|
|Peter Finch||Capt. Harris|
|Hardy Krüger||Heinrich Dorfmann (as Hardy Kruger)|
|Ernest Borgnine||Trucker Cobb|
|Ian Bannen||"Ratbags" Crow|
|Ronald Fraser||Sgt. Watson|
|Christian Marquand||Dr. Renaud|
|George Kennedy||Mike Bellamy|
The C-82As were from Steward-Davies Inc. at Long Beach, CA, while the O-47A came from the Air Museum – Planes of Fame in California. The R4Q-1 was purchased from Allied Aircraft of Phoenix, AZ. The aerial camera platform was a B-25J Mitchell, N1042B, which was also used in the 1970 film Catch-22. The flying sequences were flown by Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman, co-owners of the Tallmantz Aviation.
A famous racing/stunt/movie pilot and collector of warplanes, Paul Mantz was flying the Tallmantz Phoenix P-1, the machine that was "made of the wreckage", in a low level pass in front of the cameras when he caught a skid on a hillock. The movie model crashed and broke apart, killing Mantz and seriously injuring stuntman Bobby Rose onboard.
Although principal photography "wrapped" on 13 August 1965, in order to complete filming, a North American O-47A N4725V from the Planes of Fame Air Museum (Claremont, California) was modified and used as a flying Phoenix stand-in. With the canopy removed, a set of skids attached to the main landing gear as well as ventral fin added to the tail, made it a visual look-a-like. Filming using the O-47A was completed in October/November 1965. It appears in the last flying scenes, painted to look like the earlier Phoenix P-1.
The final production utilized a mix of footage that included the O-47A, the "cobbled-together" Phoenix and Phoenix P-1.
The final credit on the screen was "It should be remembered that Paul Mantz, a fine man, and a brilliant flier, gave his life in the making of this film."