Thursday, 26 November 2009

“The Dambusters” on BLU RAY. A Review of the 1955 World War II Film Now reissued on a 2009 BLU RAY by Optimum Releases.

"...I'm off to write some letters..."

For about 70% of the time, the black and white print on this BLU RAY reissue is superb - shockingly good in fact - a lot clearer than you've ever seen it before. There are moments later on in the film when the lines and scratches appear sporadically (the stock footage used of the actual test runs of the bouncing-bombs is knackered), but overall - the film itself is a very definite improvement over anything that went before - and Optimum are to be praised for this. Watching some of the internal cockpit scenes now for instance gives you tremendous clarity and it really brings the piece to life. The price is also very reasonable.

The really big disappointment is the complete lack of extras, not even a trailer - which is a real shame because there are interviews with Richard Todd about the film that I’ve seen on television only this year. It deserved better than this bare bones presentation.

Michael Redgrave (sporting pasty white hair to make him look older and more dotty) is wonderful as Dr. Barnes Wallis the stubborn but brilliant inventor, while Richard Todd steps up as the daring-do Wing Commander who believes in Wallis and his ‘bouncing bomb’ idea. The mission is to take out 3 dams in the Ruhr valley in one night and thereby cripple Germany’s war-machine. Directed by Michael Anderson in 1955 and featuring superb aerial photography from the inside of the planes (giving it a gritty realism), it struck a genuine chord with audiences and has remained a beloved classic ever since.

If you look closely too, you'll see a young Robert Shaw in the cockpit of one of the Lancaster bombers - and if you blink - you'll miss the young soldier outside the conference room keeping all out for secrecy’s sake - it was Patrick McGoohan of Danger Man and The Prisoner fame. He later gets one line in a similar scene with Richard Todd's unfortunately named black Labrador dog (*igger) who gets his own weepy moment.

"The Dambusters" is a fitting tribute to the 56 pilots who lost their lives on this famous low-level flying mission and with Eric Coate’s rousing score still ringing in your ears, you are genuinely moved as you watch Richard Todd walk away to write letters to the parents of those who didn’t make it back…

Recommended for a very good print – despite the disappointing lack of extras.

PS: this is subtitled on the disc as – “The War Collection - Volume 1”. I think “The Cruel Sea” and “The Colditz Story” will also feature in this series of BLU RAY reissues.

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