THE WAR LOVER had been a successful novel in 1959, even winning author John Hersey a Pulitzer Prize. Adapted for this 1962 film, it didn’t strike targets, either with unimpressed critics or sparse audiences, whose $2,420,000 offerings left it in 63rd place for the year.
Easy enough to see why: it’s a stark and unpleasant way to spend 105 minutes with a clutch of dour characters. Arrogant ‘Buzz Rickson’ (Steve McQueen) captains a B-17 crew over the skies of 1943 Germany. He likes it–the flying, the bombing, the destruction. His psyche warp plays havoc with others he runs into & over, including his increasingly fed-up co-pilot (Robert Wagner) and that fellow’s English girlfriend (Shirley Anne Field), who Rickson hits on when not dropping explosives on Europe.
Directed by Philip Leacock, with a supporting cast of English actors not-too-ably playing Americans, it has some limited interest to WW2 aviation buffs and McQueen fans completing their tour of his 27 big-screen credits. The romantic angle is bland (the perpetually testy star and Ms. Field did not get along at all), and the action scenes are competent, with a fair amount of technical jive (aided by footage of the real thing) but not very exciting.
Sandwiched in between two more WW2 pictures, the decent Hell Is For Heroes, which also underperformed in ’62, and The Great Escape, a breakaway smash the following year, this was of a quintet of McQueen military movies, starting with the peacetime Navy comedy The Honeymoon Machine, wrapping with the peacetime Army farce Soldier In The Rain. The touchy ex-Marine would only don a uniform one more time in his career, to acclaim in The Sand Pebbles.
105 minutes, with Gary Cockrell, Michael Crawford, Robert Easton.