I'll start the DVD reviews with the first DVD of a series I've spent a long time chasing down. Back when I was a kid, I loved watching "Wings" on the Discovery Channel. I recorded almost every episode to VHS, and damn near wore out the tapes over the years.
It was easy to pick out the "Great Planes" series, but the more I watched, the more I saw other episodes that didn't quite fit the mold. This was the first of them.
Now, let's be up front: "The West's Land-Based Fighters and Bombers" is charmingly dry and totally only for nerds like me. It was produced in 1987, so it's also very dated by now. But it provides an excellent technical overview of the major aircraft types in use by the western powers toward the end of the Cold War.
This was the first of the "Modern Combat Aircraft" series produced by Command Vision, Ltd. in Britain, which no longer exists. But the series was picked up by ArtsMagic DVD, and re-released on DVD for the modern...er, nostalgic audience.
The best part of this DVD is that it's almost exactly one hour long. The old version of this that appeared on "Wings" had to be edited down for time to about 45 minutes. So if you remember that episode, you've got some nice bonus footage that you didn't see back in the day.
As far as the plot, it's an itemized rundown of the major U.S. and western aircraft types of the time. Chris Chant's narration is extraordinarily well-written, although it is technical and a bit dry at times. The video itself is pretty good, with plenty of action and solid research.
My favorite line, about the B-52: "The mighty beast is in the evening of its life, and it to be replaced in the penetration role by the B-1." That was in 1987.
Aircraft profiled include:
- Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
- General Dynamics F-111
- Rockwell B-1B
- Saab JAS 37 Viggen*
- IAI Kfir*
- Dassault-Breguet Mirage 2000
- McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II
- General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (with an interesting profile of LANTIRN)
- McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
- McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle
- Panavia Tornado ADV
- Northrop F-5E Tiger II
- Northrop F-20 Tigershark (REALLY interesting and rare footage)
- British Aerospace Harrier GR.3
- British Aerospace Harrier GR.5
- McDonnell-Douglas AV-8B Harrier II
- SEPECAT Jaguar*
- Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II
- Panavia Tornado IDS
* - Edited out on "Wings"
The overall dryness drops it from being a 5/5 in my book, although if nostalgia were the sole determinant of the review, it would be there. I recommend it only for the dorkiest of us, myself included.
You can purchase "The West's Land-Based Fighters and Bombers" here:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Added credit to Chris Chant for his hard work on this series.