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Old 07-12-2007, 11:03 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 463
The Great Waldo Pepper

This is a really great movie, especially if you like period pieces, nostalgia and outstanding flying sequences, particularly the ones between the Sopwith and the Fokker Triplane.

Spoiler to follow...and my question.

The highlight of the movie is the "mock" dogfight between Waldo and Kessler, the German ace. They are doing stunt flying for a Hollywood movie, but decide to go off on their own. They have no live ammo, so they basically ram each other's aircraft until both are pretty much no longer airworthy.

Then they salute each other, and peel off.

Waldo and Kessler respected each other, and both had big problems on the ground. Kessler was heavily in debt among other things, and Waldo was forbidden from ever flying again because of some past incidents.

The question is, did this "dogfight" result in both of their deaths? The implication is that both of them would have preferred it that way.
Old 07-13-2007, 12:20 AM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: The Golden State
Posts: 10,565
That's how I interpreted the ending, but I saw the movie quite a while ago.
Old 07-13-2007, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: ∆thelmearc
Posts: 701
It's been a while since I have seen the filme. As I recall, Kessler's plane was damaged on it's upper wing, a major control surface on a DR I. It seemed like he flew away under control though, so perhaps he was able to make a safe landing, it is left up to the viewer.

Waldo's landing gear is all but torn off. The only way his plane is going to land is a crash.

My interperatation was always that Waldo died, Kessler didn't.
Old 07-13-2007, 10:06 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 463
Thanks for your responses.

It's possible that Waldo died and Kessler did not.

At the very end of the film, they show a photograph of Waldo with the dates 1897-1931. But I'm not sure what year the dogfight took place in so I was never sure he died as a result.

Kessler was patterned after Ernst Udet. Kessler had "Lola!" on the side of his aircraft, and Udet had "Lo!". Udet commited suicide in the 1940's, I think, so it's possible Kessler made it to a safe landing only to kill himself later.
Old 07-13-2007, 12:38 PM
NDP NDP is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: PNW USA
Posts: 8,781
The 1970's--when downer and/or ambiguous endings were in vogue.

Waldo definitely died and Kessler likely did too. They knew they were dinosaurs whose time had passed so they decided to go out in one last self-destructive blaze of glory.

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