The Dam Busters is one of those classics I never got around to seeing. I finally saw it today, and it immediately gets classed as a favorite.
I was familiar with the story, from reading David Jablonski’s two volume Air War; when I was, I am guessing, twelve years old. I have sitting on my shelf Paul Brickhill’s book, entitled the Dam Busters. I have not read it yet, but back in my teen years I read his excellent books, The Great Escape, which the movie was based on, and his Reach for the Sky, the story of the legless Spitfire pilot, Douglas Bader.
There is a good synopsis of the movie on Wikipedia. The essence of the story is this. It is during the dark hours of World War II. that British inventor Barnes Wallis has figured out a way to destroy certain dams in Germany that provide water and hydroelectric power to the Ruhr, by “skipping” bombs off the water like you skip stones across a pond.. Wallis has to convince the government to let him do it. Then, a squadron has to be assembled, the men gathered and trained, the specially modified aircraft supplied. Then, the raid has to be carried out, successfully but at great cost. The squadron commander Guy Gibson was played by Richard Todd. Todd was a good actor, who according to the Wikipedia article, was Ian Fleming’s first pick to play James Bond. Michael Redgrave gave a solid, understated performance as Barnes Wallis.
The whole thing is done in a very straightforward style, without a lot of unnecessary emoting. This is pre-Diana Britain, thank Heavens.
The actual attack was damaging to the Germans, but not as devastating as hoped, which is almost the entire Allied bomber offensive in a nutshell.
The theme music became an instant classic, and can be heard on this clip.
(Links to earlier war movies posts here.)