Director: Michael Anderson
Producer: Robert Clark and W.A. Whittaker
Script: R.C. Sherriff
From the book by Paul Brickhill
Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Editing: Richard Best
Music: Eric Coates
One of the best British wars films ever made and with a soundtrack that still has young British lads humming it at rugby games… it clearly is destined to endure. The Dam Busters tells the tale of the flying heroes with Richard Todd playing the VC-winning commander Guy Gibson. Todd is just ultra cool as Gibson and takes everything thrown at him with courage, style and acceptance. It should be noted that Todd served with distinction during the war and parachuted into France during D-Day.
The other major character in the film was not an airman at all, but rather a bespectacled scientist by the name of Barnes Wallis played brilliantly by Sir Michael Redgrave. A lot of time is spent in the movie on Barnes Wallis' battle to develop the bomb and the training of the air crews, however, there is never a dull moment and when the action comes it is very exciting indeed. Sir Michael does a superb job in one of those roles that was made for the actor. His frustration in trying to get authority to develop the bomb is well done. The final moments when he resolves not to develop weapons that cause so many allied men to die in the delivery of them is really well portrayed.
In terms of realism the film is true to source. From Wallace’s pain at the end, to Gibsons stiff upper lip in the face of danger - all the components are there. This was not a minor operation. It was a highly technical operation for the day, no radar, flying at 100 feet across the channel and over Holland and Germany, and the 60 feet over the lakes to the dams. Recently the feat was recreated using RAF pilots they just managed to deliver the bomb under peaceful conditions. Throw in anti-aircraft flak and the thought you could die at any moment truly show the heroism of these men.
The actual bomb explosions were hard to re-create at that time and whilst now they would have under slow mo exploding sand – they did not have that technology. This only detracts slightly from the final sequences which during bomb delivery are really well put together.
In conducting research on the film from other reviewer I noted with interest the debate over the word ‘nigger’ which was of course the name of Guy Gibsons dogs. For me the argument is fairly infantile. In the context of the 1940s the term "Nigger" did not have the connotation is has today. Leaving that aside anyone who wins the VC can call their dog whatever the hell they want and some of these forgetful liberals have missed the fact that these men fought and died to save the world from a Nazi dominated world. (Link to Guy Gibsons VC citation). Whenever they pick up a rifle, stand a post and put their life on the line they can criticise a dogs name. I would hate to think that such frivolous arguments would dissuade anyone from buying such a wonderful and gratifying film that honours all the participants, including many from the Commonwealth. Oh and a final rant, comparing the death of Nigger to the death of Bambi's Mum (which I have also read during research), is belittling the men who held this dog as a mascot. Guy Gibson firmly believed that had his crews found out about Nigger's death it would have been seen as bad luck and quite rightly so.
On a final note Eric Coates score was one of the best ever created for a British war movie. The use of the main theme and it underscores is well done and the moment where the young men gather for the final briefing still brings a lump to my throat.