The Dam Busters (DVD)
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|Contributor||Michael Redgrave, Michael Anderson, Basil Sydney, Richard Todd, Ursula Jeans|
- Aspect Ratio : 1.85:1
- Package Dimensions : 18 x 13.8 x 1.5 cm; 85 Grams
- Director : Michael Anderson
- Media Format : DVD, PAL
- Run time : 2 hours
- Release date : 16 August 2017
- Actors : Ursula Jeans, Basil Sydney, Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave
- Dubbed: : Italian
- Language : English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
- Studio : StudioCanal
- ASIN : B0776K3ZT2
- Country of origin : Australia
- Number of discs : 1
- Customer Reviews:
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Classic wartime drama directed by Michael Anderson. The film tells the story of Dr Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave), whose invention of the 'Bouncing Bomb' is greeted with scepticism in World War II. However, RAF Wing Commander Guy Gibson (Richard Todd) proves the bomb's worth in a daring mission to destroy the German Ruhr dams. The cast also includes Basil Sydney and Ursula Jeans.
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Top reviews from Australia
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The extras are okay but not the reason to buy the film.
The price is right for a Blu-ray at $9.95, but I don't think I can stay awake for 32 hours in one sitting.
Top reviews from other countries
Wing Commander Guy Gibson was a highly decorated pilot with a VC from the Dams raid, DSO and Bar and the DFC and bar. He was a lot less approachable than Richard Todd's portrayal in the film but was a results man.
Why then is this film so highly regarded and not consigned to cinematic oblivion? The answer includes a sharp intelligent script and fine understated character acting especially from Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave. The fast-paced narrative story line is gripping and absorbing, with a documentary feel which the viewer knows is based closely on what actually happened. A few minor changes are made to enhance the drama like Wallis' battles with the Air Ministry to have his bouncing bomb idea accepted, when in reality the AM was enthusiastic and supportive from the start, but you can forgive these minor details because the end result is so excellent.
Guy Gibson himself was killed flying a Mosquito on operations over Europe in 1944, so though he survived the May 1943 Ruhr Dams raid he did not survive the war. However many of the other people portrayed in the film were still alive in 1954 and were consulted extensively to ensure the fine details were got right. The Avro Lancasters in the film are real aircraft still airworthy in 1954, and because the film was made only 9 years after the end of WW2 it has the look and feel of the period. Decades-later reconstructions rarely get right exactly how people looked and spoke, their values and selfless devotion to duty so anachronistic in the 21st century, but here it's natural and true-to-life. The script has an economy of language and refreshing absence of mawkish emotional baggage (and no sub-plot to clog-up the action), qualities from which many aspiring contemporary film-makers might learn. The theme music by Eric Coates is one of the most instantly recognisable film scores in cinematic history, perfect in tone with an enduring power which endows the story with a kind of nobility and sense of great occasion.
The `Special Anniversary' 1080p Blu-Ray is a fine sharp print of the original, unedited film. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1, so nothing is cropped. The picture quality is so good that it looks as though the original negative has been extensively restored (as with the recent `World at War' series Blu-Ray release) with fine greyscales, deep blacks, near-perfect contrast and no flicker. The image quality stands up well in the company of more recent monochrome productions like `Schindler's List' and `The Artist'.
The sound is good, too: not great, but more than acceptable for a 60-year old film. You get a couple of extras, the longest of which is a talking-heads based documentary on the raid and 617 Squadron's other wartime exploits, featuring the few now-very-aged survivors - this in colour and in 16:9 to fit current TV screens.
For the image quality alone, this Blu-Ray release can be unconditionally recommended. In an unedited script Guy Gibson's pet labrador retains his name, in 1943 England a centuries-old word in common use for a specific shade of dark brown, completely absent the baggage attached to it in the USA with its very different racial-social history (in Peter Jackson's proposed new remake, in a gesture towards modern PC sensibilities the dog is reportedly to be referred to throughout as `Nigsy', a pet name Gibson often used when calling his labrador which steers the hound clear of possible controversy).
1. Operation "Chastise" and real "Dam Busters"
Operation "Chastise" (very appropriately named, possibly for the first time in military history) was an attack on three German dams carried out on 16-17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron flying specially modified Lancaster bombers and using a new weapon: "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by renown engineer Barnes Wallis (amongst his earlier realisations was the design of Vickers Wellington bomber). This mission was unusually dangerous because to succeed British bombers had to attack at low speed and very low attitude, risking at any moment crashing in the ground, when in the same time being exceptionally vulnerable to the Flak, including the numerous 20 mm guns, which usually were not a concern to four engine bombers operating at high attitude...
As the result of the attack, the Möhne and Edersee Dams were breached, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and of villages in the Eder valley - the third target, Sorpe dam, sustained only minor damage. Two hydroelectric power plants were destroyed and several more were damaged. Numerous factories and mines were also damaged to diverse degree due to flooding and an estimated 1,600 people drowned. Even if the damage was repaired by Germans, production in affected areas didn't return to normal before September 1943.
The cost to the attackers was high, as out of 20 Lancasters which took off for the attack 8 were lost and 53 crew members were killed with 3 more being taken prisoners.
What made this incredibly daring and very successful operation even more remarkable, was that, although it was not made on purpose, the 617th squadron was a very multinational and diverse outfit, with crews hailing from all over the Commonwealth: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and amongst the pilots there was even one American volunteer serving with RAF, Lieutenant Joe McCarthy.
Following the Dams Raid 617 Squadron was kept together as a specialist unit and participated in numerous bombing operations, frequently using other types of specialised ordnance developed by Barnes Wallis, including giant Grand Slam and Tallboy bombs. It was with those latter munitions that the 617th Squadron attacked and destroyed in 1944 German super-battleship "Tirpitz" in her base in Norway. The squadron is still active today.
Very sadly, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the officer in command of the whole mission, didn't survive the war - he was killed in action (probably shot down by a German fighter) on 19 September 1944, when flying a target marking Mosquito over Netherlands. He was only 26 years old. Five of men who flew on the same bomber with him in operation "Chastise" were killed even earlier, during another bombing mission over Germany on 16 September 1943.
2. The film
The film was made in 1955, when Barnes Wallis and many "Dam Busters" were still alive, therefore it was possible to consult with them extensively and as result this film sticks quite closely to the reality of things. This real deal feeling was also helped by RAF contributing three real Lancaster bombers taken out of reserve and refit for service for the needs of this film.
The narration is strictly chronological, from the moment when Barnes Wallis got the idea of "bouncing bombs", through the phase of conception of those new munitions, experimentation and modifications until finally the introduction in service. Then begins the phase of selection of crews for the mission, training and other preparations and finally the extremely dramatic mission itself.
For the needs of the film some changes were of course introduced, the most important of which is the whole struggle Barnes Wallis has to wage with war time bureaucracy (both civilian and military) to even be able to launch the whole project of "bouncing bombs". In reality no such thing took place, to the contrary, Wallis, who was already very well known in this time, received lots of support and was efficiently backed up by both civilian and military hierarchy, which explains how this project advanced so fast.
Another interesting thing is that in 1955 the whole "bouncing bomb" technology was still a military secret, therefore in the film the bombs have the shape of spheres, when in the reality they were shaped as barrels...
Finally, another major change was made to make the action even more dramatic - in the film one of the bombers crashes into a mountain as it is not able to pull up fast enough from the bomb run (I am NOT saying which bomber it is...). In reality no such thing happened during the bomb run but some planes damaged by Flak crash landed after the attack itself was over.
The music written for this film is of course already a legend - the "Dambusters March" achieved already immortality and will certainly continue to be performed, listened to and adored for centuries.
3. My impressions about the film
The first time I saw this film was ages ago, in communist Poland, when I was still a boy - and it was an "eyes wide open, nail biting, jaw dropping" experience! And now, after re-watching it recently, I was very pleased to see that with time it didn't lose any of its fire power!
The success of the film is certainly not due to special effects which in 1955 were nothing like those available today. This film is also in black and white and action scenes happen at night, which should logically diminish their impact - but it is NOT the case! No, the real reason why "Dambusters" is so good is the strength of scenario and a perfectly structured narration of the story, an art frequently forgotten (or simply discarded) in today's films. The tension is build up from the beginning, with initially just a hint that something REALLY big is going to happen and then the stakes are raised slowly but regularly, until the moment when Gibson and his men see this first dam... At that moment the viewers couldn't care less about special effects as we are already so immersed in the story that no escape is possible, even if the Flak started to shoot spaghetti instead of tracers...
To conclude on the action scenes - their age notwithstanding they still pack such power that together with the great finale from "633 Squadron" (a lesser war film describing a fictitious raid) they very strongly inspired George Lucas when he was creating the archi-famous sequence of rebel fighters attacking Death Star in "Star Wars".
The way in which the heroism of those incredible men is described is another treasure. The whole story is narrated in a matter of fact way, as if it was just another day at the office - it just so happens that the office for those men is deep inside the enemy territory. There is no pathos, there is no drama, there is no soul searching, there is no PrTSD (Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, something that figures in most modern war movies), no politically correct pseudo-psychological babble (are we the good guys? Are we REALLY the good guys? Are we REALLY, REALLY, REALLY the good guys?), which all affect so badly so many modern war films.
Here things are told simply and calmly and the viewers are trusted to be adult enough to understand by themselves how terribly dangerous that mission was and how it took real balls to fly at the lowest possible level into this Valley of the Shadows of Death, with Flak in the front, on both sides and even above(!) on the hills, carrying an enormous bomb exposed to enemy fire and still go at the target - MORE THAN ONCE if the first approach was unsuccessful!
I heard many rumours that a remake of "Dambusters" is being prepared in USA, but until now nothing concrete was ever announced. Honestly, I am of two minds about it - on one hand I would be tempted to see this raid again, with the state of the art XXI century special effects but on another, when I think of all the abominations, horrors and other indignities visited lately upon war stories by Hollywood (just think of "Pearl Harbour", "U-571" or "Wind Talkers") I would as much prefer that at least this masterpiece remains unspoiled...
There were many book written abouth this famous raid, but if I was to recommend just one I think I would go with "Dambusters. Operation Chastise 1943" by Doug Dildy, published by Osprey in its "Raid" series in October 2010. It is a small book, only 80 pages long, but quite comprehensive and it may be a good idea to read it before watching (re-watching) this film.
CONCLUSION: this is a GREAT film, a GREAT classic, still as powerful today as in 1955. To buy, watch, keep and re-watch. Enjoy!