Cliff Robertson leads the lucky 633 Squadron in this World War II melodrama that is the next recommendation from my screening of The Dam Busters for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book.
The actual aerial photography of the film is stunning, above and around England, while the rotoscope work behind the cast when they sit in the cockpits, is a little more iffy. That doesn’t make the film any less fun, however.
As they train for their mission – knocking out a Nazi rocket fuel factory located in Norway, there are laughs, montages and Robertson’s Wing Commander Roy Grant flirting with the sister of one of his subordinates, the lovely Maria Perschy who plays Hilde Bergman.
Their training is only part of the film, even as they lose friends, the mission, and stopping the Nazis, no matter the risks are what’s at stake here.
Grant’s team is a wonderfully international affair, and I was delighted to see Angus Lennie in the film as Hopkinson. I have always enjoyed his turn in The Great Escape and love seeing him in other roles.
When Lt. Erik Bergman (George Chakiris) is captured by Nazis, the entire plan is in jeopardy and Grant gas to decide whether to bomb it and kill his friend or not, to keep the mission safe, course doing so may save the mission, but would certainly jeopardise the blossoming relationship between he and Hilde.
With the plan safe, Grant and his pilots gear up for a thrilling flight that could help the Allies win the war, and cripple German fuel production!
The final assault is alternately, and a little silly, especially judging by today’s special effects standards, the rotoscoping and matte work are a little low budget, the aerial photography remains stunning, and some of the model work is pretty solid.
Overall this one is just a fun, loud, boisterous war film that isn’t afraid to swing for the fences, as the pilots accept sacrifice bravely, and face down anti-aircraft guns, torture, surprise attacks, all to bring down the Nazis.
Robertson is the film’s heart and he is as charming as he’s always been, showing he can drink as well or better than the pilots under him, not to mention, always knows where to find the most beautiful girls.
While not as exciting or tightly paced as films that would come after it, it still remains a fairly enjoyable film, and it’s interesting to see how the War Film has changed over the years.
This one is very much the height of melodrama, but the not so special effects cause it to crash land. Still, worth checking out just for Robertson!