When Father’s Day rolls around, that’s the time when the programmers of classic movie channels turn to war movies. No singing, no dancing…it’s time for tanks, tough guys, and lots of guns. But today’s movie is a war movie that deep down, and despite the presence of Robert Stack, is really a chick flick. It’s 1953’s “Sabre Jet.”
The film takes place at a US air base in Japan during the Korean War. An ambitious reporter named Jane Carter (Coleen Gray) has arrived on the base to do a story about the lives of the wives of the pilots that go out on missions. These wives wait and watch each day, unsure of whether their pilot husbands will return. General Hale (Richard Arlen) welcomes Miss Carter to the base, but is soon surprised to learn that she is actually the wife of his wing commander, Colonel Gil Manton (Stack).
It turns out that Manton is none too happy to have his wife on the base. Their relationship has been strained for a long time as he feels that she puts her career before him. Nevertheless, Jane starts becoming chummy with the other wives as she interviews them for her article. She especially becomes close to General Hale’s wife, Marge (Julie Bishop). These ladies actually live in pretty normal suburban America style homes, and shop at their own little supermarket…it just happens to all be located on a military base in Japan. But, occasionally, the stress gets to them, leading to breakdowns in the middle of the dairy aisle.
As the film progresses, a lot of time is spent showing the weight of responsibility that General Hale feels, as well as the calmness and strength of Marge as she raises her two boys while the General goes out on dangerous missions. So you don’t have to be a film scholar to predict what happens to General Hale while out scouting targets. This puts Gil in charge as he must lead a huge aerial offensive while, back at the base, his wife begins to form a new idea of her role as an air force wife.
This is a deceptive film, folks. Look at it’s title…”Sabre Jet.” Sounds like an action packed, manly war film. It’s got Robert Stack!! But make no mistake, viewers, this is a soap opera. To say the actors are over-dramatic in their performances would be an understatement. Stack and Gray spend the majority of the film brooding and scowling at each other…every now and then we see him sit in a cockpit and put his helmet on. The primary focus of the film is the role of a military wife. It’s probably fair to say that many women of today would find this film’s bottom line on that subject somewhat offensive.
As the film draws to it’s climax, with a big aerial assault on enemy forces, there is some hope that we will have some good action sequences. What we get is a bit mixed. The battle is assembled with stock footage of actual World War II action. In that respect, it’s impressive. However, the footage is sloppily edited together. There’s just no flow or progression to any of it. It feels as if the footage was assembled somewhat randomly.
There are many great classic war films out there, but “Sabre Jet” comes nowhere close to that. It has no place in a Father’s Day Military Movie Marathon…let me put it that way.