The Dam Busters (1955)

An obsessive inventor and a squadron of courageous airmen pull off an audacious but costly raid on a dam in wartime Germany.

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Introduction

“Orchestrates the prolonged anxieties of lonely research... The style is enlivened by the scenario’s bold, original architecture of disappointments, destruction and loss.”
Raymond Durgnat, A Mirror for England, 1970

Michael Anderson’s film of the famous Dam Busters bombing raid of May 1943 is a pared-down retelling, short on heroics and long on the cost in British and Commonwealth life. Yet the extraordinary nature of the plan hatched by scientist Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave) – to destroy three dams supplying German arms factories with power and water – shines through.

The mission involves a crack squadron of veteran crews, led by Guy Gibson (Richard Todd), flying massive Lancaster bombers low over water, at night and under fire. They are to drop specially designed bombs from a precise height and distance from the target – bombs that then bounce across the surface of the water until they strike the dam. That is, if Wallis’s calculations prove correct...

Eric Coates’s martial theme tune became a popular standard, while the raid sequence inspired the climax of Star Wars (1977).

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