The Dam Busters (1955) – Michael Anderson

As I return to the war genre I plunge into the events of World War II and the creation of a ‘bouncing bomb’ that would help the Allies against the Nazis. The film is based on two books, one by Paul Brickhill about the creation of the weapon, and the other by Guy Gibson about his actual aerial raid which delivered the bombs and destroyed the strategic Ruhr dams.

Richard Todd stars as Gibson in this cinematic adaptation, while Michael Redgrave plays Doctor B. N. Wallis, the man who went to the British Ministry with the claim that he could create a bomb that would bounce over the surface of the water on it’s way to its target.

The film was nominated for an Oscar for its Special Effects and even now, some 60 years on, it still pulls you in .

The first half of the film focuses on Wallis and his work, as he works hard to bring his theory to fruition and prove to the Ministry that this could be a game changer for the war against Germany.

There is drama aplenty in both halves of the film, as first Wallis does his best to get the bomb built, but the Ministry isn’t ready to arrange for new bombs to be created, when they are already having problems with keeping up for the demand of bombs already designed, and needed.


The second half is filled with the white knuckle tension of Gibson’s mission, from his secretive training to the actual assault. It’s a well-crafted, and paced story.

The planes look fantastic, there is some nice aerial photography, and I delighted in seeing Canadian uniforms amongst the British. Gibson assembles his squadron, puts them through their paces, and then takes on a target that they won’t know until the mission is a go.

There’s a delightful score by Leighton Lucas and a march by Eric Coates, as scientist, and pilot work to bring the war to an end that much sooner. There’s an appearance by Robert Shaw, always enjoyable, even with no dialogue, but the less said about the name of the dog, the better.

It’s engaging, thrilling, and balances the wonder of science, necessity for invention and warcraft, all done with that British stiff upper lip. Anderson keeps the story moving, and I like this type of story, watching the failures and successes as Wallis tries to perfect things within a time frame, those fantastic moments of inspiration when the mind leaps to a conclusion brought on by seeing things in a new way, and Gibson and his men train for a terrifying low-level night mission.

As a film buff, I can see how this film directly influenced the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars and it’s really something to see.

I loved this one, and can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before!




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