Memphis Belle (1990)

memphis belle

“Oh, Evelyn! You can have my bullets too!”

The Scoop: 1990 PG-13, directed by Michael Caton-Jones, and starring Sean Astin, Billy Zane, and Billy Zane’s Tiny Moustache.

Tagline: None.

Summary Capsule: The crew of the Memphis Belle struggles to survive their 25th and potentially-final (one way or another) mission, while still making time for the requisite number of penis-based remarks.  Sean Astin is 8 years old.

Kaleb’s rating: Oh, tomato soup; you are a mischievous one.

Kaleb’s review: No opening story this time.  There is a movie called Memphis Belle.  I watched it.  Many, many times.

So, in leiu of Thing That Happened in Houston Episode 57, how about a bit of whining?  No, no plot summary.  Guys in bomber do things.  There, that’s all you’re getting.  No!  Shut up!  If you want to know more about the plot, watch the movie!

Which reminds me that there’s something I need to get out of the way before I can commence with the bellyaching; and this will comprise about nine-tenths of the qualitative portion of this review, so if that’s what you’re here for, I’m about to save you some time: Memphis Belle is one of my favorite movies across all genres, and probably number one in terms of movies pertaining to aviation.  Yes, better than Top Gun.

Which, in the interest of maintaining my near-perfect record of keeping myself off-track, reminds me of another caveat I feel compelled to mention: I am combustibly-nerdy for World War II-anything; planes in particular.  I’m the guy who shouldered his way through Strike Witches–an anime that’s essentially about three degrees off of actual child pornography–simply because it features WWII fighters worn as pants.  WWII fighters worn as pants!  What sort of mad genius is that?

But I digress.  The point I’m leading up to — and that I will masterfully tie-in to a segue I made back at the beginning of the review (you’ll be so proud of me) — is that I’m worried by the possibility that a fondness for aviation (WWII in particular) may be essential to the enjoyment of Memphis Belle, rather than a mere modifier.

The reason I suspect thus (here comes the whining I promised), is that I’ve had a godawfully-bad run of luck when it comes to recommending this movie to people.  If I’ve been fastidious with my tallies, it looks like I’ve had… carry the two… exactly zero successes.  Meaning that recommendations will either be met with a protracted “meeeehhh” with fire coming out, or, sort-of worse still, I’ll manage to keep somebody in a headlock long enough that they agree to watch it, with the returned analysis being, “I’m not saying it sucked, but it did.”  Leaving me and my copy of Memphis Belle sitting under a tiny raincloud with our fingerless gloves, preparing a pot of boot soup.

Perhaps it’s unreasonable of me to expect everyone to love it as much as I do, and yet… I cannot accept that it might not be as great as I think it is.  This is unusual for me, because normally, if enough people present an opinion about something that’s contrary to my own, I will very boldly and defiantly fold like a chaise lounge, and assume that I must just have bad taste.

But in this instance, a rare, heartfelt sea-change kind of a thing (again, in the rain) seems to be the order of the day.  “It can’t be me this time!” I shout to the heavens, “For once, maybe for the first time ever, I’m not wrong!  Join forces with me, tiny raincloud!” or something to that effect.  You get the idea.

Whether or not I recommend this film should be abundantly clear by now.  I know I’m probably violating some review law by using the same association again so soon, but it is quite literally Princess Bride in the sky, to my mind.  Inasmuch as the two aren’t even similar.  Look, I had half a bottle of bacon bits for supper, and now my bones hurt; leave me alone.

Still, I can understand how it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  And if, after all this, you don’t feel particularly compelled to check it out, that’s fine; as long as Memphis Belle and I have each other, we’ll be okay.

Seriously, it’s practically invisible.


  • Only someone who’s seen the movie a squillion times is apt to notice this, but I don’t think Clay actually gets his cigarette lit; kudos to Harry Connick Jr. for convincingly smoking the impossible.
  • Phil throws up eggs he never even ate. That’s what drinking does to you, kids.
  • No points for guessing which of the B-17s meets a particularly unpleasant demise.  If you’re at all familiar with war movie tropes, you’ll have it figured out long before it happens.
  • On that note, a word to the wise: War abhors wholesomeness; they should’ve named their bomber “Super Vagina” or “Captain Titties” or something to that effect.
  • Those bombs reach the ground impossibly fast.
  • Also, much to-do is made about how they have to be precise in their bombing to avoid hitting surrounding civilian buildings, but based on the stock footage used, they clearly annihilated the entirety of Germany.
  • Continuity error with the bomb bay doors.
  • So, about what happens to Rascal: Um… how?
  • Every airfield is required to a have a dog that knows about stuff exactly three seconds before everyone else.
  • And apparently can specifically discern the sound of the Belle’s engines, as opposed to just any B-17.
  • Continuity error with the stuck landing gear.
  • Several times.
  • The “We’re not gonna die” mantra that Phil repeats while cranking down said gear clearly began life as an incoherent tirade of profanities.
  • Actually, there are a number of obviously dubbed-over f-bombs throughout the film; for the sake of allowing it to just squeeze into a PG-13 rating, I’d wager.
  • Cigarettes promote healing.
  • This is one of the only movies in existence that I consistently almost cry at the end of.  Big, manly tears.  Made of camaraderie.
  • Courtney.  Wow.  That is an unforunate name.  For a guy!  For a guy, I mean!

Groovy Quotes

Bruce: “This is the religious one–there’s always a religious one; Eugene McVey from Cleveland–there’s always one from Cleveland.”

Rascal: “Virge, you gotta promise me; if you ever lose your cherry, you’ll tell me about it.”
Virgil: “I’ll send it to you, C.O.D.”

Jack: “Say, what do you guys know about Germany?”
Gene: “Pretty women.”
Rascal: “Good beer.”
Virgil: “The hamburger’s named after a town there.”
Jack: “A little bird tells me that’s where they’re sending us tomorrow.”
Rascal: “Ah, we ain’t going to Krautville; our plane’s broke.”
Virgil: “No, it’s fixed.”
Rascal: “Let’s go break it.”

Phil: “Tell me the truth… the truth; are you scared?”
Val: “No… I’m Val.”

Rookie: “If you guys have any advice…”
Jack: “Yeah; get a gun, shoot yourself in the foot and go home.”
Rascal: “Are those size eights? How about leaving a little will that says when you get your ass shot off on your first mission, those shiny new pumps come to me, huh?”

Jack: “I can see it; I get back home, I’m doin’ it to the wife, the door breaks open, and there’s Danny, taking a picture.”

Gene: “Has anybody seen my St. Anthony’s medal?”
Danny: “Isn’t he the patron saint of missing things?”
Gene: “Yeah, I can’t find him.”

Dennis: “Men, we’re delayed; there’s cloud cover over the target. They’re asking us to stand down until further notice. Danny, tell the others.”
Danny: “Hey fellas, the target’s clouded over; we’re delayed.”
Jack: “Aw, son of a bitch!”
Rascal: “Snafu…”
Jack: “Situation normal…”
All: “All f**ked up!”

Dennis: “Okay, Luke, let’s take this extra time to double-double check everything. Let’s make this our best mission yet. Brakes.”
Luke: “Didn’t you hear? There’s complete cloud cover over Bremen; we’re not going anywhere.”
Dennis: “Brakes.”
Luke: (sighs) “Set. They were set before… and they’re still set.”
Dennis: “Intercoolers.”
Luke: “…CHECK!”

Luke: “All you gotta do is call up on the intercom and say you have a little trouble in the tail; I come back, you give me the gun for five minutes.”
Clay: “It’s against regulations, sir.”
Luke: “Aw, come on; screw the regulations!”
Clay: “Sir, if they found out, they’d put my hot dog in a bun and chow down.”

Rascal: “Virge, if I hear one more word about that stupid restaurant…”
Virgil: “It’s not stupid; at least I’ve got a plan! What are you going to do after the war, Rascal?”
Rascal: “Come to your restaurant, and rob it.”

Dennis: “Navigator, give us a position.”
Phil: “Sir, that’s the Third Reich down there.”
Jack: “Now the s**t really hits the fan.”

Bruce: “Craig… you’re working a little hard at being a hard-ass.”

Luke: “They’ve got something like 500 anti-aircraft guns around Bremen.”
Virgil: “I could live without knowing that, lieutenant.”

Rascal: “There’s a hole as big as my d**k in the left wing!”

Virgil(?): “Bandit, twelve o’clock high; look out cockpit, he’s heading straight for you.”
Luke: “What am I supposed to do, spit on him?”

Clay: (throwing out his guns to save weight; singing) “Oh, Evelyn! You can have my bullets too!”

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Rocketeer
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
  • Twelve O’Clock High


  1. I am combustibly-nerdy for World War II-anything; planes in particular. I’m the guy who shouldered his way through Strike Witches–an anime that’s essentially about three degrees off of actual child pornography–simply because it features WWII fighters worn as pants.

    Sing the praises of pants!

  2. Strike Witches…

    If they just got rid of the loli aspect, it would be one of the most kick-ass anime out there. You suffer through it, and then Gonzo does some incredible aerial battles or a sequence that’s right out of Exupery’s Night Flight. This AMV is NSFW due to panty flashing, but it illustrates what he means:

    Also Kaleb, have you seen Sky Crawlers? That also has a retro ww2 feel despite being science fiction.

    I agree on Memphis Belle. Back then I used to love early 20th century aviation, and MB was a great watch. I’d have tobwatch it again to see how it is, but I was the kind of person back then who fangirled while watching the Rocketeer’s ending where they brought out an actual, restored GeeBee. I’d love to see a resurgence of that kind of movie.

    • “If they just got rid of the loli aspect, it would be one of the most kick-ass anime out there.”

      This, and then this, followed by this.

      It is, quite possibly, the most aggravating anime I’ve ever seen. Because just as you’re getting all sparkly-eyed with aviation-fueled wonderment, here comes the Loli Witch of the East, saying “How ’bout a little thirteen year-old camel toe, scarecrow?”

      To which I calmly reply, “DEAR GOD, IT’S IN MY SINUSES!!”

      Seriously, it almost seems deliberately timed.

      Just checked out the trailer for Sky Crawlers, and I’d say it definitely warrants further investigation. And hey, adults! What an unusual treat!

      • Gonzo animation has a love of flight and things mechanical, and it’s too bad they’re on a slow spiral to doom. Unfortunately Strike Witches’s mix of mecha-musume and moe probably isn’t going away soon. From all accounts it was a huge success in Japan, although not enough to save Gonzo.

        Such is anime, I guess.

      • A more recent example of the Cute Girls with Vintage Military Hardware genre is Girls Und Panzer (which I believe has the same military historian as a consultant that Strike Witches did). It takes place in a strange parallel universe where operating tanks is considered to be very feminine and girls’ schools hold competitive tank battles. However, it avoids the uncomfortable sexual aspects of Strike Witches, with a Magic Skirt rule being strictly enforced.

  3. Acck…sorry I had no idea it would embed the video in the actual comment as opposed to link it. Please edit or delete my comment as you like.

  4. Rascal: “Ah, we ain’t going to Krautville; our plane’s broke.”
    Virgil: “No, it’s fixed.”
    Rascal: “Let’s go break it.”

    See, and I thought this was just my shop! Getting word we have to insert a pack of Grunts into Fallujah the next morning… we didn’t fly over the shit hole one time without having to patch bullet holes on our birds after we landed bak at base. Can’t fly if your helo is down!

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