THE BIG LIFT is a black and white film, using the Berlin airlift as a historical backdrop. The Berlin airlift, which lasted from June 1948 to May 1949, is not just an excuse for making the film. It is a major source of tension, drama, and mild excitement. Much of the film is shot inside C-47 Skytrain airplanes (the military version of the Douglas DC-3). Much of the film takes place in airports. Tension and drama are added to the film, because of the desire of one character, the love interest, Cornell Borcher, to escape from Berlin to America. Tension and drama are also added to the film, because of the strict time-frames and strict regulations, that applied to the plans of the two main characters to get married to each other. Also, even more (mild) tension and drama are provided by the extensive scenery of bombed out neighborhoods, and extreme poverty, in post-war Berlin.
THE PLOT. That said, the following is the plot line, or anyway, some of the plot line. Don't worry, I will not give away the surprise ending. The surprise ending is a great one, and worthy of the best of the TWILIGHT ZONE episodes from the late 50s or early 60s. In short, Montgomery Clift is a U.S. air force soldier with the job of helping to airlift supplies to Berlin. As part of his job, he happens to meet a foxy young German woman (Cornell Borchers). The woman's daytime "job" is to pick up stones and bricks from bombed-out buildings, and to put them in carts for toting away. She claims that she was married to a German soldier, now dead, and that her father was a university professor. To make the storyline more interesting, Montgomery Clift's air force buddy is Paul Douglas, who also has a German girlfriend. As the story continues, we watch the maturing relationship of Mr.Clift and Ms.Borchers, and we also watch the deteriorating relationship of Mr.Douglas and his German girlfriend. A strong part of this storyline is Mr.Douglas' strident anti-German streak, and the fact that the nature of this strident anti-German streak takes a gradual but dramatic shift or turn.
COMEDY. The story includes a few episodes of comedy -- very clever comedy. For example, there is one episode in a train when Russian soldiers are interrogating various passengers for smuggled coffee. The Russian soldiers can smell the coffee, but they don't know who has it. During this episode, a shriveled old lady displays her bag of coffee to another passenger, and then quickly hides the bag under her hat. Then, the Russian soldiers come down the aisle, closer and closer. Suddenly, one of the passengers, a man, rats on the old lady. "She is the one with the coffee," exclaims the man. The Russian soldiers snatch the coffee away from the shrivelled old lady, and then disappear into the next train car. Then, the man opens up his trenchcoat to reveal about 20 bags of coffee (he is a smuggler too!), and with a broad smile, he donates a couple of his bags to the shrivelled old lady and to one of the other passengers. Another excellent bit of comedy, is the episode with the German who spies for the Russians. This episode is at least as good as any of the classic Marx Brothers episodes. We also find comedy in the opening scene of THE BIG LIFT, where a newsreel of an Atlantic City beauty contest is cut short by an emerging routine military task. Comedy is also provided by the gentle livingroom "fight" between Paul Douglas and his sweetie, when the sweetie tosses a barrage of small household objects at Mr.Douglas, while Mr.Douglas hides behind a door.
BETRAYAL. Although I will not give away the storyline, this film provides a powerful lesson regarding betrayal. Accordingly, this film would be excellent for showing in Sunday schools to pre-teens and to teenagers, where the goal is to stimulate discussions about faithfulness, honesty, moral beliefs, betrayal, and particular situations when the best moral decision is to sever a relationship.
SIMILAR FILMS. The closest film to THE BIG LIFT is the renowned CASABLANCA. In both films, the main plot concerns the need to escape from war-torn areas of the world during, or shortly after, World War II. In both films, the film ends with people escaping, by way of a propellor airplane, in the fog. In both films, we find charasmatic male actors, and a fetching love interest. I am not sure why THE BIG LIFT is less famous than CASABLANCA. Perhaps, it is because the Montgomery Clift character is just a young soldier, whereas in CASABLANCA, Humphrey Bogart is the owner of a glitzy casino.
CRITIQUE. The sound quality of the DVD is fine. However, the image quality is blurry. Hopefully, this will be fixed some day, and a new DVD issued.