film

The Dam Busters | 1955 | Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave

With the war won, the British film industry began the action replays, showing in minute detail how Our Boys gave Jerry a sound thrashing. The exploits of 617 squadron were ripe for such treatment. In one of the most celebrated raids of the war, they destroyed three German dams, flooding the industrial heartland of the Ruhr Valley and destroying hundreds of Nazi factories. The raid was lead by Guy Gibson (played here by Richard Todd) but was successful largely because of the innovative ‘bouncing bomb’ designed by Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave), who found a way of skipping a bomb across water, maximising its destructive capability.

Gibson was undoubtedly very brave and Wallis undoubtedly a genius; but is that enough to justify a movie? The Dam Busters is devoid of emotion. It’s a film too much in awe of its heroes to be able to challenge them. The script simply processes the facts and shapes them into a lumpish narrative, without importing any actual drama or suspense.

The best way to approach the film is as an encapsulation of the British war film: there’s pipe-smoking boffins, clipped accents and handlebar moustaches balanced on stiff upper lips. It’s also stilted and bloodless but maybe that’s part of the genre’s charm.

cast
Richard Todd as Wing Commander Guy Gibson, V.C., D.S.O., D.F.C.
Michael Redgrave as Doctor B. N. Wallis, C.B.E., F.R.S.
Ursula Jeans as Mrs. Wallis
Basil Sydney as Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris G.C.B., O.B.E., A.F.C.
Patrick Barr as Captain Joseph (Mutt) Summers, C.B.E.
Ernest Clark as Air Vice-Marshal The Hon. Ralph Cochrane G.B.E., K.C.B., A.F.C.
Derek Farr as Group Captain J. N. H. Whitworth, D.S.O., D.F.C.
Charles Carson as Doctor
Stanley Van Beers as Sir David Pye, C.B., F.R.S.
Colin Tapley as Doctor W.H. Glanville, C.B., C.B.E.
Frederick Leister as Committee Member
Eric Messiter as Committee Member
Laidman Browne as Committee Member
Raymond Huntley as Official, National Physical Laboratory
Hugh Manning as Official, Ministry of Aircraft Production
Edwin Styles as Observer at Trials
Hugh Moxey as Observer at Trials
Anthony Shaw as R.A.F. Officer at Trials
Laurence Naismith as Farmer
Harold Siddons as Group Signals Officer
Frank Phillips as BBC Announcer
Brewster Mason as Flt / Lt. R. D. Trevor-Roper, D.F.C., D.F.M.
Tony Doonan as Flt / Lt. R. E. G. Hutchison, D.F.C.
Nigel Stock as Flying / Off. F. M. Spafford, D.F.C., D.F.M.
Brian Nissen as Flt / Lt. A. T. Taerum, D.F.C.
Robert Shaw as Flt / Sgt. J. Pulford, D.F.M.
Peter Assinder as Plt/Off. G. A. Deering, D.F.C.
Richard Leech as Squadron Leader H. M. Young, D.F.C.
Richard Thorp as Squadron Leader H. E. Maudslay, D.F.C.
John Fraser as Flight Lieutenant J. V. Hopgood, D.F.C.
David Morell as Flight Lieutenant W. Astell, D.F.C.
Bill Kerr as Flight Lieutenant H. B. Martin, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C.
George Baker as Flight Lieutenant D. J. H. Maltby, D.S.O., D.F.C.
Ronald Wilson as Flight Lieutenant D. J. Shannon, D.S.O., D.F.C.
Denys Graham as Flying Officer L. G. Knight, D.S.O.
Basil Appleby as Flight Lieutenant R. C. Hay, D.F.C.
Tim Turner as Flight Lieutenant J. F. Leggo, D.F.C.
Ewen Solon as Flight Sergeant G. E. Powell
Harold Goodwin as Wing Comdr. Gibson’s Batman

crew
Art Direction: Robert Jones
Director Of Photography: Erwin Hillier
Camera Operator: Norman Warwick
Aerial Camera: Erwin Hillier
Makeup Artist: Stuart Freeborn
Hairstylist: Hilda Fox
Special Effects: George Blackwell
Sound Recordist: Les Hammond
Special Effects: Gilbert Taylor
Technical Advisor: J. N. H. Whitworth
Additional Music: Eric Coates
Director: Michael Anderson
Assistant Director: John Street
Continuity: Thelma Orr
Editor: Richard Best
Production Manager: Gordon Scott
Production Supervisor: W.A. Whittaker
Executive In Charge Of Production: Robert Clark
Casting Director: Robert Lennard
Casting Director: G.B. Walker
Music: Leighton Lucas
Adr & Dubbing: Arthur Southgate
Music Director: Louis Levy
Recording Supervision: Harold V. King
Authors: Paul Brickhill, Guy Gibson
Screenplay: R.C. Sherriff

UK | 124 minutes | 1955

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