Thanks Raine. I’ve seen the film numerous times over the years (the first being as a very small child) and have got different things from it each time. One reading would definitely be a clash between rival alpha males. And it’s definitely in the ‘high adventure’ tradition, but I do think there’s more to it than that. Not least as ultimately it’s largely essential for everyone to put aside their own ego in order to succeed and survive. The film also changes some of the nationalities of various characters – in the novel, the Gabriele character is German and the aeronautical engineer, English. But making him German in the film added a whole other element of tension that is almost completely unspoken – unresolved hostility from WW2, apart from one exhange consisting of two or three lines. That must have been incredibly powerful in 1965 when the film came out, and Dorfmann’s harsh voice and commanding attitude, seriously jarring. That’s another reason why Towns must make a step into the future. I found it very interesting to study the minor characters’ arcs more closely than one usually might. Standish is a good example. He starts out completely failing to adapt to the situation, approaching Towns to ask when they might be expected to be rescued as he has to provide some figures to the company in time for the annual accounts to be compiled, then asks if they might put aside some of the water supply for washing. He appears in various scenes after this, usually in the background, often struggling silently with the conditions more than the others but getting to grips with the environment he finds himself in. His two most prominent appearances thereafter show him attempting to saw through the tailplane with nothing more than a hacksaw blade, tearing his hands to pieces in so doing, but carrying on until the job is done; and later, proudly and hopefully, painting the name on The Phoenix. You get the feeling that most of the characters could have been presented as the main character and had their arc front and centre, and it would have worked.
The recent remake of the film introduced a female character played by Miranda Otto, but as it focussed more on the adventure side (and clash of alphas), I don’t know that this made much difference to the tone.