The Dam Busters
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A much-loved British classic, Michael Anderson's 1954 drama captures the tension and bravery of an audacious raid on the centre of Nazi Germany's industrial complex, and the quintessentially English combination of inventiveness and dogged determination. Split into two distinct sections, the film deals first with the fraught, but ultimately successful development of a new weapon by Dr. Barnes N. Wallis (Michael Redgrave). The second and pacier section deals with the mission itself during the British raid on the Ruhr Dams, and its associated costs for the enemy and for the British airmen. Adapted by R.C. Sherriff from Paul Brickhill's book Enemy Coast Ahead and featuring superlative special effects photography by Gilbert Taylor (to say nothing of Eric Coates' stirring theme tune), The Dam Busters was Britain's biggest box-office success of 1955. Shot in black and white to allow the integration of original footage of the bomb trails, the film boasts a 'gritty', documentary-style reality.
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Top Customer Reviews
If all you care about is having a good copy of this movie, then I highly recommend this DVD. If you also want special features like trailers, "Making of" documentaries, deleted scenes, etc., then you may want to wait until someone puts out a "special edition." All this DVD offers apart from the great transfer is scene selection (that missing star is actually half a star for not having more in the way of special features).
In the meantime, I recommend also getting Paul Brickhill & Guy Gibson's books ("The Dam Busters" and "Enemy Coast Ahead," respectively) upon which the movie is based along with the DVD of the PBS documentary "Secrets of the Dead: Bombing Nazi Dams" (which incidentally uses footage from this movie though uncredited). If you can find it, you might also want the audio cassette version of Brickhill's book read by the film's co-star, Richard Todd.
Given the very high regard the British have for Wing Commander Gibson, who was awarded Britain's highest military honor (Victoria Cross) for this raid and died in action just over a year later, I'm sure that - in 1954 - they were being very careful about accuracy, and left in historically accurate details which some will find offensive.
By "modern" (pre computer graphic animation) standards, the special effects are a bit primitive, but quite well done for 1954. Unlike the Congress Entertainment DVD, the audio and video quality are excellent, and the presentation is quite professional. Both may have been taken from the same original, as they both have a momentary frame freeze at one point.
Those familiar with Star Wars may notice a similarity between the X-wing approach to the drop zone and the bomber approach to the dam. ("The Dam Busters" was made in 1955.)
If shown on TV, the original film is often shortened. (They often leave out the minor story of the pilot's pet dog.)
The film got one Oscar nomination.
"The Dam Busters" tells the story of ingenuity and courage during wartime. In the wrong hands, such a topic might be heavy handed, but one of the things that British filmmakers of the 1950s did so well was to deliver their patriotic messages with a touch of wry humor mixed with just the right amount of pathos. The camera may not focus on exploding planes or dwell on the devastating effects for the inhabitants of the Ruhr valley, but in leaving such details to the collective imagination of the audience, the director has developed cinematic understatement into a fine art.
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