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Battle of Britain Movie Review

film air marshal war

1963 – Guy Hamilton –

The publicity bragged about rounding up over a hundred vintage aircraft for the film, and the aerial sequences are very impressive. The problem seems to be that the producers forgot to round up some personalities for the characters. The film depicts one of the key moments of the war for England, their greatly outnumbered aerial defense against the Luftwaffe in June 1940, but the unduly solemn approach to the subject robs the film of any humanity.

A number of scenes occur in war rooms of various sorts, usually with Trevor Howard looking down bulldogishly from a mezzanine as secretaries and messengers post information on maps and shift replicas of gun emplacements on strategy boards. Laurence Olivier, playing Sir Hugh Dowding, usually sits behind his desk commenting on the oversized odds against England. One of the best moments occurs in a tracking shot, when Kenneth More walks across a compound with Susannah York as a bomb blast in the background suddenly takes out a sizable hunk of the airfield and fills half of the frame with red and black flames. The attempts to create a personal drama fail badly, consisting mostly of Christopher Plummer constantly complaining about the war to his wife (York), a section officer.

For a while, the film shifts between action scenes of some impact and those detailing the planning of the defense. The stodginess of the ground scenes, however, eventually detracts from the thrill of the air sequences, as they come to resemble something of a highlight reel. In time, the audience can recognize a pattern to the aerial combat, one that picks out a representative gunner or pilot as the planes engage the enemy and then sacrifices him to a bloody death. Battle of Britain is strictly for the most enthusiastic war-film aficionado.

Cast: Harry Andrews (Senior Civil Servant), Michael Caine (Squadron Leader Canfield), Trevor Howard (Air Vice Marshal Keith Park), Curt Jurgens (Baron von Richter), Ian McShane (Sgt. Pilot Andy), Kenneth More (Group Captain Baker), Laurence Olivier (Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding), Nigel Patrick (Group Captain Hope), Christopher Plummer (Squadron Leader Harvey), Michael Redgrave (Air Vice Marshal Evill), Ralph Richardson (Sir David), Robert Shaw (Squadron Leader), Patrick Wymark (Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory), Susannah York (Section Officer Maggie Harvey) Screenwriter: Wilfred Greatorex, James Kenneway Cine-matographer: Freddie Young Composer: Malcolm Arnold, Ron Goodwin, William Walton Producer: Benjamin Fisz and Harry Saltzmann for United Artists MPAA Rating: G Running Time: 133 minutes Format: VHS, LV Budget: $12M Box Office: $2M.

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