Over the years, Hollywood has made films that have promoted the U.S. Military and films that have advertised specific products. But fifty years ago, those two tendencies intersected for a curious artifact of cinema and the military industrial complex. Say hello to “The Starfighters”
fan worth his salt can tell you all about "Starfighters": It's a proto-Top Gun
with non-professional actors, a boring plot and endless refueling sequences. But more than any of these elements, it is a feature length commercial for Lockheed’s F-104 Starfighter.
First introduced in 1958, the Starfighter racked up a number of safety problems
and took the lives of a number of pilots (and nearly killed Chuck Yeager in 1963, which is an incident
featured in “The Right Stuff”). So in 1964, director Will Zens
(who himself served as a test pilot during WWII) filmed “Starfighters” on location at George Air Force Base
in Victorville, California.
Given that the plot concerns three new pilots (one of which is played by future congressman Bob Dornan
) who have just been transferred, there are near constant
scenes of them being told all the different ways the plane is awesome and then them in turn telling others
the different ways the plane is awesome. There is an effort to address the safety issue through the main character’s father, who phones repeatedly to convince his son to fly a different plane. There's even a plane crash... but it's due to pilot error.
In addition to describing how awesome the plane is, the film makes pains to portray the Starfighter as irresistible to other countries like West Germany, Italy and Japan. Oddly enough, these were three countries involved in a bribery scandal
over purchasing contracts, which included the F-104.
Sadly, there doesn't appear to be an uncut version of the film available online, but you can see the entire MST3k treatment of the movie on Hulu