The delicate touch of director Yuli Raizman first became evident in “Men on Wings,” a love story set in a civil aviation school. Poised between the silent and sound eras, Raizman’s first sound film is very visual and humorous and was extremely popular with Soviet audiences. Commander Rogachev (the great Boris Shchukin, who famously lent his face to Lenin in Mikhail Romm’s “Lenin in October”) is a tough old-style Bolshevik. Two of his best student pilots are Galya (Evgenia Melnikova), a charming 20-year-old aviatrix, and the moody but fascinating Sergei (Ivan Koval-Samborsky).
Though Galya and Sergei are cinematically made for each other, script instead shifts the attraction to Galya and Rogachev. Their age difference keeps the commander from declaring himself, but pic ends on a hopeful note. Helmer Raizman uses little dialog, while experimenting with sounds and noises, filling his clean compositions with a few telling details. Newsreel footage of triumphant parades become part of the story, while a long traveling shot of Sergei running at the airshow manages to bring in what looks like the whole Soviet air fleet of 1935.