Howard Hughes: The Great Aviator (2004)

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Released 16-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Short Film-Movie: The Sin Of Harold Diddlebock (Mad Wednesday)
Trailer-For 6 Of Hughes' Films
Short Film-Movie: The Outlaw
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 73:32 (Case: 278)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Kinetic Pictures
Visual Entertainment Group
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $24.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Howard Hughes: The Great Aviator is a shallow, but interesting, documentary composed of file footage, archival stills, clips from Hughes films, and a few recent interviews.

    Howard Hughes was born in Houston, Texas in 1904. His father, Howard Hughes Snr., had founded Hughes Tools, on the strength of his dual cone roller bit, which allowed rotary drilling in hard to access oil wells. This drill bit was to make the Hughes family very, very wealthy.

    Hughes' parents both tragically drowned in separate incidents, and Howard inherited $US17 million, and became the CEO of Hughes Tool in 1924, aged just 19.

    As a teenager, Hughes announced that his goals in life were to become "the world's best golfer, world's best pilot, and the world's best movie producer".

    Following the death of his parents, Hughes moved to Hollywood, and set about reaching these goals. This included producing a string of films, including the world's first multi-million dollar film, Hells Angels (1930).

    Hughes was married multiple times during his life, but while in Hollywood, he became a well-known playboy, enjoying well-publicised liaisons with countless women, and according to some gossip, some men as well.

    A self-taught aircraft engineer, Hughes co-designed many planes and personally set a number of aviation records as a pilot. During the Second World War, Hughes won two large contracts: one to build the giant cargo plane, the HK-1 (nicknamed "Spruce Goose") and another to build the photo-reconnaissance F-11. These multi-million dollar contracts, and Hughes' non-delivery of the planes were later to be questioned by a Senate War Investigating Committee. Hughes also bought, and later sold, a controlling interest in TWA airlines.

    In his later years, Hughes became a strict recluse and ran his business interests from sealed-off hotel suites. During this period, his health deteriorated sharply and he died in 1976, leaving an estate estimated at over $US2 billion.

    Howard Hughes: The Great Aviator strings together a lot of file footage, such as news coverage of events, archival stills, clips from Hughes' films, and interviews with a couple of people (who are presented as Hughes experts), to create a rather shallow documentary of this amazing individual.

    Like Martin Scorsese's film, The Aviator, this documentary largely ignores the last extraordinary chapter in Hughes' life - that of Hughes the recluse. Also like the film, the documentary merely skims the surface of facts, events, and dates, never probing or questioning, nor providing answers.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer has a number of problems, mostly due to the very dated source material. However, even the new footage, mostly composed of a few interviews, appears cheap, and of home video quality.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, full screen.

    Ignoring the issues with the old source material, the sharpness, black level, and shadow detail of the new footage is poor.

    Most of the content is black and white, but what colour footage is available is often faded and appears washed out.

    There are no problems with MPEG artefacts, but a lot of the footage is very grainy. Also, some of the Hughes's films suffer from terrible telecine wobble, and (not surprisingly) a variety of large film artefacts.

    No subtitles are present on the DVD.

    Disc One is a single-sided, dual-layered disc. I assume the layer change is between the documentary and extras.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio option on the DVD: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The vast majority of speaking comes from the documentary's narration, but the dialogue quality and audio sync on the recent interview footage is fine. That said, some of the dialogue from the original films, such as The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (Mad Wednesday) at 49:01 is muffled and crackling.

    There is no musical score per se for the documentary, but some of the music from the films mentioned is used throughout.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is not surround encoded, so there is no surround presence or LFE activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are a little strange, as they are dominated by two full-length, feature films.


    Animated with audio

Disc One

The Sin Of Harold Diddlebock (Mad Wednesday) (89:43)

    A Hughes film, and sequel to Harold Lloyd's silent film, The Freshman, written and directed by Preston Sturges. A black and white film, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.


    Trailers for six of Hughes' films:


    A text list of 43 Hughes films produced between 1926 and 1957.


    An odd extra, a text listing of Hughes' past homes, with a note, "please do not disturb occupants".

Disc Two

The Outlaw (115:45)

   Produced and directed by Hughes, The Outlaw stars Jane Russell, and tells the story of Billy the Kid. Another black and white film, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has been region coded for Region 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. All versions are identical.


    An interesting but limited documentary, obviously cashing in on the success of a recent film.

    The video quality is disappointing but watchable.

    The audio quality is limited.

    The extras are generous.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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