Disaster movies are big box office these days. Every summer you’ll see a smattering in your local multiplex. The current vogue is for natural disasters. Big budget Studio films such as The Day After Tomorrow, Twister, Armageddon, The Core and Deep Impact may boast incredible visuals but there’s often less care and attention taken over the script. Will Smith punching an alien is also never far away. Their heyday was the ’70s with The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. However, arguably the first ever disaster movie was Robert Aldrich’s 1965 outing Flight of the Phoenix.

Frank Towns (Jimmy Stewart) is an ageing pilot tasked with flying a group across the Libyan desert. He’s ably assisted by navigator Lew Moran (Richard Attenborough). His passengers include Captain Harris (Peter Finch) and Sergeant Watson (Ronald Fraser), a physician (Christian Marquand), an engineer (Hardy Krüger) and several oil workers including Trucker Cobb (Ernest Borgnine). When they encounter a sand storm Towns has no option but to perform a crash landing. Leaving the group hopelessly off course and stranded in the desert.

They may not have been in their prime but it’s great to see Jimmy Stewart and Richard Attenborough chewing up the screen together. Aldrich assembles an all-star cast, with Hardy Krüger’s performance standing out. It’s fairly light in terms of action, relying on the ensemble to keep nerves on edge and tensions frayed. Flight of the Phoenix is an impressive drama which laces several of the best actors of a generation at loggerheads.

Special Features:

  • New high-definition 1080p presentation
  • Uncompressed mono soundtrack
  • Isolated music and effects track
  • New video interview with film historian Sheldon Hall
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
  • Plus: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Neil Sinyard and archival imagery

Flight of the Phoenix is released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on 12 September.