The Dam Busters

Posted on September 24, 2007 by Flibster.
Categories: Cinema Reviews.

The Dam Busters Poster

Who would have thought that a movie from 1955, that gets repeated every year, can almost pack out a cinema screen 52 years after it was originally relelased.

Anyway, as part of the British Film Festical, they have digitally restored seven iconic films and have been showing them for one day only. Seven films, seven weeks. Easy.

There’s been a few good films on as well. Goldfinger, The Wicker Man, and the best for me, The Dambusters.

So, for the two people who don’t know the plot of the Dambusters, here it is.

It’s the story of Operation Chastise. Barnes Wallis *genius and designer of the Wellington Bomber* comes up with an idea for destroying the 3 dams in the Rhur Valley. The Möhne, the Eder and the Sorpe, which will destroy a lot of the production capability in the Rhur Valley and he fights to get the plan put into action.

So, filmed in 1955 it’s not in 5.1 digital surround, it’s not in widescreen, it’s not even in colour. But it’s massively atmospheric. It takes you through the concept, refinement, design, testing and operational stages of the Upkeep Bouncing bomb.

The film features some of the original footage of the experimental dummy bombs being tested. There was a massive involvement from the MoD and the RAF in this film. Allowing the test footage to be available, the Lancasters and aircrews supplied, the Mosquito aircraft, the Wellington aircraft, access to RAF Scampton and so on…

I finding it difficult to be objective about this film. It is one of the most incredible raids ever performed by the Air Force and imho was unbeaten until the Black Buck raids on the Falkland Islands. Also, my grandad was a merlin mechanic at 617 squadron so I’ve got some personal interest in it as well.

Anyway, back to the film.

Yes, it’s black and white.
Yes, sound is mono
Yes, it’s only 4×3 ratio

But so what. It’s a fantastic film

With the name of Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s dog coming into focus again with the remake of the film by Lord of the Rings destroyer Peter Jackson, it’s nice to see that the reshowing of the film doesn’t edit it. Yup, he’s still called Nigger. Not Trigger or Digger *as some recent showings of the film on tv have called him*

Thing is, most people say it’s racist. Well, yes, that word does have racial connotations now, but back then it didn’t. Plus it was a codeword for the mission as well. If the Möhne was breached, the crew were to trasmit the word Nigger as the code for the breach of the dam. It’s a simple as that with this film. It’s not racial at all.

I would also like to say that they do show some of the crew who didn’t return very well. Especially after the raid. Rooms left empty, just a few very quiet scenes, one who wrote a letter before leaving, one who wound his clock – the cinema was silent during these scenes. They still have a massive impact showing the casualties of war.

Onto the acting. It’s very, very good. Michael Redgrave is excellent as Barnes Wallis. He plays the role as I imagined him to be from reading various books, a very clever if slightly nervous individual who was obsessed with his work. Richard Todd as Guy Gibson is also very good giving an impression of a very confident pilot.

I’d really recommend anyone who likes war films to watch this film.

And so, on to the ratings.

Visuals: 6/10
For the time, it was great. Now, looks like a cheap tv movie sadly.

Audio: 8/10
Mmmm. Merlins…. 😀  Again, gret for it’s time.  Nice and clear.  Dambusters March is iconic.

Theme: 8/10
War film – about war. Works.

Overall: 9/10
One of the best war films of all time.


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