Movie Review: Dive Bomber (1941)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1941 action movie starring Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray.

Synopsis: A Navy surgeon teams up with an experienced flyer to develop a special suit that will allow pilots to fly at high altitudes and go into a steep dive without blacking out and crashing their planes, a process that requires various trials and failures as they test their ideas using real Naval pilots.


I ended up watching this movie this morning while waiting for my wife and kids to get out of bed mostly because I couldn't find anything else to watch. I've had other opportunities to see this film in the past but pretty much avoided it because it didn't sound like it would be all that interesting. After all, what's the point of a war movie if there's no fighting? However, as it turns out, this film was actually much more interesting than I thought it would be.

Even though this film takes place before America's involvement in World War II and, as a result of that, doesn't have combat scenes, the movie does have a surprising amount of action and suspense in it.

Part of the reason for this is, as they do the various tests in an effort to figure out how to stop the black outs, you never know when a failed test will lead to a fatality or, a minimum, someone washing out of the program for health reasons. And, since the film does a great job introducing us to and letting us learn a little something about the various characters in it (something that doesn't always happen in war movies), it was genuinely easy to care.

For their part, Flynn and MacMurray do an excellent job in the lead roles and, even though their characters are technically partners, you can feel the tension between them, both when they are disagreeing about the progress of their experiments and are both pursuing the same woman (Smith). Plus, while it's not the swashbuckling action movie I'm used to seeing Flynn in, he does seem to bring the same energy.

The end of the movie, which has MacMurray's character, Joe Blake, being grounded but defying orders and flying anyway, was a bit predictable. But, despite being able to guess what was about to happen, I did find I liked the ending overall, especially the final tribute at the end, which was being built-up throughout the movie.

Dive Bomber

Errol Flynn, Fred MacMurray and Alexis Smith star in this dramatic tale of two men who must choose between love of country and the love of a woman during the desperate early day...

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Final Opinion

It's not your traditional war/military movie. But, in this particular case, that is a good thing. The movie was definitely much more enjoyable than I expected it to be and I would recommend taking the time to watch it if you get an opportunity to do so.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 11/13/2017, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/30/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does have Dive Bomber amongst its Blu-ray and DVD collections. I look forward to knowing Fred MacMurray as other than a criminal out to take advantage of double indemnity clauses and a father to three sons, filmologically speaking.

Was the film based on real events?

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