The Great Waldo Pepper (Universal) (1975)

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Released 24-Dec-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Unknown Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 103:21
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George Roy Hill

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Robert Redford
Susan Sarandon
Bo Svenson
Bo Brunin
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Henry Mancini

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Robert Redford stars as The Great Waldo Pepper, a former World War I pilot who saw little action having been stuck in Calais, but who makes money out of barnstorming (running around the country offering joyrides to the locals for $5 for 5 minutes) and telling tall, but untrue, tales about his so-called daring exploits with the most famous of German aces, Ernst Kessler (played later in the movie by Bo Brunin). The year is 1926 and things are starting to look grim for these pioneers of the aviation field. People are becoming jaded and joyriding is being replaced by circuses which offer death-defying stunts and air-speed records instead.

    After a run-in with another barnstormer, Axel Olsson (Bo Svenson), whom Pepper almost kills after disabling his aircraft (callous, but quite funny in a morbid way), they form a partnership and attempt to join Dilhoefer's Flying Circus. Unfortunately Dilhoefer (who has the famous Kessler on his payroll, but only for a very short time) advises them that dwindling attendances means that being the best flyer doesn't cut it anymore and they need a gimmick, a death-defying stunt to perform. Along with Axel's girlfriend Mary Beth (Susan Sarandon), they embark upon an attempt to find a worthy stunt with a lot of stuff-ups and some really bone-crunching results. After attempting and failing, they hit upon the idea of using Mary Beth in the act as a scantily clad female clinging to the wing in order to attract attention.

    Tragedy ensues and both men are grounded for a year by the newly-formed civil aviation authority. Axel, whose heart is not in flying anymore complies, as does Pepper initially, but after a disastrous meet at which his friend crashes whilst attempting to perform an 'inside loop', and is subsequently engulfed in flames, Pepper goes mad and crashes a plane to try and keep the spectators away. Cut to a year later and Pepper is broke, unemployed and down on his luck when he meets up with Axel who has just been hired as a stuntman for Hollywood movies. Deciding anything is better than moping around, Pepper invites himself along and together they begin a new career, with Pepper changing his name to Brown to hide his identity. After a time, they are invited to help with the flying stunts on a new movie about Ernst Kessler's life and finally Pepper gets to meet the man he so admired. They find that each of them has lost something since the war and find a mutual respect for each other.

    This is one of those mid 70s movies that originally passed me by but ended up in endless repeats on TV. In hindsight, this is a fairly good movie from that period of time aided by some excellent acting from its primary cast and some very good directing from George Roy Hill, who also made notable movies such as The Sting and SlapShot. The Great Waldo Pepper isn't going to appeal to everyone - there is no CGI for one and the stuntwork, although excellently done, sort of pales a bit by today's standards. All-in-all though, this is worth a look and has little sex and violence which makes for a nice change of pace once in a while.

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Transfer Quality


    Movies of this ilk rarely get decent transfers and unfortunately that is the case with this movie.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    This movie looked blurry for me, even though there is some evidence of edge enhancement. Simply put, it just looked slightly out-of-phase. Grain was fairly even across the board with this transfer - visible but not intrusive. Shadow detail and backgrounds are quite good, showing off some excellent detail at times. There was no noise noticed and some decent delineation between blacks.

    Overall, the colour is good with a wide palette in use, but some of the action shots and stunt work showed that some of the movie has been washed out a little. There was no evidence of bleed and colour levels held true with good saturation but no oversaturation detectable. Skin tones showed up nicely and the general 'feel' of the movie was good.

    Some minor pixelization can be seen during the movie with the most noticeable at about 8:11 on Robert Redford's shirt. Aliasing is probably the major offender with this transfer with wing edges, cables, barns, and so forth all suffering from break-up at some stage or another. A good example is at 5:07 where the cables on the airplane break up during the entire scene. The same can be said for film artefacts which occur in profusion. Most of them are minor black and white flecks but there is a nasty mark at 4:23 and again at 14:32 which look like either large dirt marks or flakes of emulsion missing. There aren't many moiré effects but there are a few, with the most noticeable at 31:48.

    The subtitles are located in the lower black bar below the movie. They are easy on the eye (white on black) and as usual they miss out occasionally on the spoken word but are adequate to follow the movie.

    The layer change comes at 55:46, mid-scene and is badly placed. Fortunately it's a very rapid change which makes it a lot easier to accept, and doesn't disrupt the movie too badly.

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


    There are two available soundtracks on this disc. The first is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 192 kilobits per second. The second is a German version of the same track. I stuck to the English and sampled the odd bit of German. This is strictly front speaker territory here. On the whole, my centre speaker got the most workout with some separation across the front channels offering some variety.

    As you would expect, the dialogue and sync were spot on and very easy to understand

    Henry Mancini wrote the music for this movie and it is nicely done, matching the on-screen drama along with some of the more death-defying stunts worked into the movie.

    Neither the surrounds nor the subwoofer are used on this disc

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

    With a running time of 3:16 and displayed in 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, pretty much your standard quality for a trailer of this vintage.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this movie is presented in widescreen, whereas the Region 1 version of this movie is presented Full Screen, presumably Pan & Scan, so our version is the version of choice.


    Overall, The Great Waldo Pepper is an entertaining movie much in the mold of the movies that came out in the mid-70s. Certainly not on a par with a movie such as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines but a very watchable movie all the same.

    The video is less than stellar. Too blurry for my tastes.

    Average audio, although no major problems were detected.

    Extras - just a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Friday, January 25, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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