Historical reenactment of the air war in the early days of World War Two for control of the skies over Britain as the new Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force determine whether or not an invasion can take place. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
When Air Vice Marshal Park first visits Squadron Leader Harvey, a double was used in place of Trevor Howard for the shot of him jumping out of the Hurricane because, as Guy Hamilton said, "You don't have elderly actors jumping out of elderly planes". Howard was in fact only 55 at the time. See more »
As the Heinkels are flying up the Thames for the first daylight raid on London, the lead bombardier clearly says "Five seconds" in English, although the audio track has him saying "Fünf Sekunden" in German. See more »
[Squadron Leader Skipper and Simon are doing training in Spitfires. Skipper has just ordered Simon to engage him in a dogfight, but Simon has lost sight of him and is blinded by the sun. Suddenly Skipper bursts towards him from the sun]
Squadron Leader Skipper:
[imitating a machine gun]
[flies past Simon]
Hello Rabbit Leader - thought you might come in from the sun!
Squadron Leader Skipper:
DON'T THINK! Don't just glance! LOOK! Search for the bastards! OK, let's try it again.
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This film was an attempt to deal with the crucial events of 1940, when Britain might have been invaded and oppressed by Nazi Germany. Had this succeeded then subsequent history might well have been very different, a Europe subjugated by the dark evil of that regime.
As a straight historical account this film fails rather badly. Most of the characters are artificial, created for the Stars and stars involved. Dowding and Park, historically absolutely crucial, never develop properly - a pity. Goering is cartoonised, but at least reflects his total failure to conduct a strategic assault on the UK.
The flying sequences are, mostly, superb. It was a huge achievement to bring together the aircraft used. As an enthusiast I can pick massive holes in those used. None of the 'German' aircraft have correct engines
they were post-war Spanish Air Force stand ins. And that's before we
start on the late war mark Spitfires etc. But who cares? The point is the conflict in the air. It is not close enough to 'real' aerial combat
10 seconds of terror in 60 mins of boredom. But that is the nature of
the cinema medium.
The distraction of Suzanne York (BTW she's not trying to get divorced!) in full 40's u/wear was very exciting when I was 16. At 52 I suppose it still gives me the odd moment!
And look for the hanger being 'bombed' behind Suzanne York and Kenneth More, it really WAS blown up at Duxford - boy, were they cross!
The revisionist historians like to claim that the (actual) Battle of Britain was not that important. That the Germans couldn't have crossed the Channel anyway because of the Royal Navy (probably, but not necessarily so. With air supremacy JU87s would have massacred RN vessels). That the Germans already had eyes on Russia and really wanted to ignore GB as a sideline, possible and a fatal mistake. That the Germans lost the battle, rather than the RAF won it (no statistical basis for this, the Luftwaffe smashed itself against the RAF).
But the Battle WAS fought, and won by the RAF.
Which is why I believe this film is worth a viewing.
Especially the Walton scored sequence, where the Luftwaffe's bombers are hacked down by the Hurricanes and Spitfires of the RAF. An impressively moving sequence of the horror of war in the air. To which the music adds enormously.
I place this film well ahead of the 1990's Memphis Belle travesty in depicting the reality of war. It is certainly on a par with 12 O'Clock High.
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