Blu-ray Review: Stunning Restoration of ‘Wings,’ First Best Picture Winner

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CHICAGO – By today’s standards, “Wings” would be more expensive than any movie ever made. That’s what an undertaking this legendary film was for Paramount in the ’20s. The biggest studio in the world set out to make the biggest film in history, presenting viewers with things they had never seen before and pushing the boundaries of what was capable on celluloid. Sadly, “Wings” has somewhat become an answer to a trivia question and the remarkable quality of the film itself has been underappreciated by time. This glorious Blu-ray restoration should help fix that oversight. Blu-ray rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

As the Blu-ray version of the film opens, the Paramount logo cycles back through its different iterations, arriving at what it was in 1927 when “Wings” was released. It’s a brilliant overture, taking us back in time. A sepia-tinged plane flies overhead and the gloriously-reconstructed score, which was rerecorded by a modern orchestra in 5.1 and is simply spectacular, plays and one can, for the first time, get the feeling of what it was like to sit in one of those massive movie houses of the ’20s and truly experience a film as an event and not just another night at the movies. Bringing a war that was less-than-a-decade over to viewers was one thing, but the aerial photography in “Wings” was truly stunning, not just “for the time,” but for any time.

Wings was released on Blu-ray on January 24th, 2012.
Wings was released on Blu-ray on January 24th, 2012.
Photo credit: Paramount

As for the transfer, the sepia tinge is a bit off-putting at first. Everyone looks like they’re washed in dirt, but one gets accustomed to it and the detail within that visual palette is stunning. There are scenes that don’t look that far off from “The Artist,” the likely Oscar-winning silent film from 2011 that seems like a fitting companion to this silent masterpiece from 84 years earlier. There are elements of film that are timeless and after you watch “The Artist” rack up more awards, go back and check out “Wings” to see how it all began.

As for special features, the documentary about the making of the film, “Wings: Grandeur in the Sky,” is a beauty. It’s a solid 35 minutes, offering just enough background to allow for further appreciation of the movie as something of a lost work of art. The featurette about the film’s restoration is also an interesting one.

Director William A. Wellman’s masterpiece is the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Featuring a meticulous restoration and a newly recorded soundtrack based on the original score, Wings comes to Blu-ray for the very first time. This timeless story of love and loss follows two men who go to war and the girl they leave behind. Popular Twenties “It” girl Clara Bow stars in this unforgettable World War I epic alongside Richard Arlen, Charles “Buddy” Rogers and the legendary Gary Cooper in a cameo appearance. The aerial battle sequences still rank among the best in motion picture history.

Special Features:
o Wings: Grandeur In The Sky
o Dogfight!
o Restoring The Power And Beauty Of Wings

“Wings” stars Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, and Gary Cooper. It was written by Hope Loring & Louis D. Lighton and directed by William A. Wellman. It was released on Blu-ray on January 24th, 2012. content director Brian Tallerico

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