INNOVATIVE WORLD WAR II DOCUMENTARY "THE COLD BLUE," FROM DIRECTOR ERIK NELSON AND PAUL G. ALLEN'S VULCAN PRODUCTIONS, DEBUTS JUNE 6 ON HBO
Directed By Erik Nelson, Film Features Restored Footage And Outtakes From
William Wyler's 1944 Documentary "The Memphis Belle: A Story Of A Flying Fortress";
Documentary Is Executive Produced By Wyler's Daughter, Catherine Wyler
In 1943, during the Second World War, top Hollywood director William Wyler went to Europe to document the air war in progress. Wyler and his crew flew actual combat missions on B-17s in extremely dangerous conditions. Incredibly, the entirety of the raw color footage Wyler and his team shot for the documentary "The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress" was recently discovered in the vaults of the National Archives. After a meticulous frame-by-frame restoration, director Erik Nelson ("Dreams with Sharp Teeth," "A Gray State") has constructed a compelling new documentary out of the material.
A meditation on youth, war, trauma and bravery, THE COLD BLUE debuts THURSDAY, JUNE 6 (8:00-9:15 p.m. ET/PT), the 75th anniversary of D-Day, exclusively on HBO.
The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners' streaming platforms.
Intimate and poignant, THE COLD BLUE allows viewers to experience the daily lives of the heroic young men of the Eighth Air Force, who flew mission after deadly mission over Germany in World War II. The film features interviews with nine surviving members of the Eighth, as well as newly restored 4K footage and outtakes from the 1944 documentary "The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress," directed by William Wyler (Oscar(R)-winner for "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Ben-Hur" and "Mrs. Miniver").
In 1943, the original footage of "The Memphis Belle" was accidentally scratched in a processing laboratory and that imperfection could not be repaired until now. With updated technology, the filmmakers laboriously went frame-by-frame and digitally painted out the scratches in an around-the-clock process that lasted three months.
"What Erik has done is restore the power to 'The Memphis Belle,' perhaps more so than ever," says William Wyler's daughter, Catherine Wyler, who is an executive producer of the documentary.
THE COLD BLUE is a tribute not only to one of the world's great filmmakers and his crew, one of whom died while filming "The Memphis Belle," but also to the men of the Eighth Air Force. "All too often, history has been reduced to cliché, or black-and-white images that immediately distance us from the past," says director Erik Nelson. "When I learned about the existence of 15 hours of radiant raw color footage that captured, home movie-style, the insanely risky missions flown by the Eighth Air Force over Europe, I knew there was a story that demanded to be told."
The new film brings to life the treacherous missions, intense weather conditions and deadly attacks endured by young American airmen more than seven decades ago. It also chronicles the ups and down of daily life, as the men coped with their fears and hardships through humor and camaraderie. In recent interviews, nine of the few surviving Eighth Air Force veterans - Dr. V.G. "Gayle" Alexander, John Doyle, Paul "Bud" Haedike, Glenn Harrison, John Ketzner, Morton Kimmel, Robert Rowland, William "Bill" Toombs and Al Villagran - recall the harrowing experiences that Wyler and his cameramen captured in the summer of 1943.
Most airmen ranged in age from 18 to their early 20s, with the oldest likely in their mid-20s. While they initially felt invincible, the number of missions they were expected to complete before returning home continued to rise, and they had some of the highest death tolls in all of WWII combat. As B-17s were neither pressurized nor heated, crews endured perilous conditions equivalent to standing at the summit of Mt. Everest, and frostbite could occur within ten minutes. With all nine veteran interviewees over the age of 90, these first-hand accounts are a priceless addition to Wyler's restored footage.
Although these veterans are considered heroes, V.G. Alexander is quick to point out, "I was a pilot. The real heroes are buried in England, Germany and France." Sharing their stories is their way to educate later generations about what they had to endure and ensure that history does not repeat itself.
THE COLD BLUE is a production of Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Productions and Creative Differences; produced by Peter Hankoff; executive produced by Paul G. Allen, Carole Tomko, Rocky Collins, Catherine Wyler, Clark Bunting and Dave Harding; directed and produced by Erik Nelson.
HBO(R) is one of the most respected and innovative entertainment brands in the world, serving iconic, award-winning programming to 142 million subscribers globally. A subsidiary of WarnerMedia, HBO is the world's most successful pay TV service with an extensive array of programming that includes some of the most notable titles to be on television including Game of Thrones(R), Big Little Lies(R), Westworld(R), The Sopranos(R), Sex and the City(R), Band of Brothers(R), and The Wire(R). In the United States, HBO(R) and sister network Cinemax(R) are available across multiple platforms including HBO On Demand(R), Cinemax On Demand(R), HBO GO(R) and MAX GO(R), as well as HBO NOW(R). Internationally, HBO branded services, including television networks and the standalone streaming product HBO GO(R), are available in more than 70 countries across Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. HBO and Cinemax programming is also sold into more than 150 countries worldwide.
ABOUT VULCAN PRODUCTIONS
Vulcan Productions is dedicated to the power of storytelling. The company produces content and large-scale campaigns that entertain, inspire and change the way people understand the world's toughest challenges. The films, television series and digital content spark ideas and turn action into measurable impact. Founded by Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen, Vulcan Productions creates content across all formats and genres, and spotlights Mr. Allen's impact work in biodiversity, science, climate, technology, current social issues, history and the arts. Vulcan Productions uses cutting edge technology to create unique experiences for its audiences, by incorporating virtual, mixed and augmented reality. The team's award-winning projects include USS Indianapolis: Live from the Deep, STEP, The Ivory Game, Unseen Enemy, Racing Extinction, Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale, News & Documentary Emmy winner and Academy Award(R)-nominated Body Team 12, Mind of a Giant, We the Economy, We the Voters, Ocean Warriors, #ISurvivedEbola, and Girl Rising. Upcoming releases include Ghost Fleet, Ballet Now and Oliver Sacks. For information on Vulcan Productions and our leadership in generating change through impact storytelling, visit vulcanproductions.com.
ABOUT CREATIVE DIFFERENCES
Creative Differences has produced an array of notable feature documentaries, including Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man (2005), Herzog's Oscar nominated Encounters At The World (2008) and the 2011 3D box office hit Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. Company founder Erik Nelson has also produced and directed such films as the 2008 biography of writer Harlan Ellison, Dreams With Sharp Teeth, as well as the 2012 animated feature Dinotasia and 2017's A Gray State. For more information on Creative Differences, please visit http://cdtvfilms.com.