Thursday, June 18, 2015

"633 Squadron"

This film seems to have attracted a number of interesting, positive reviews--there is little for me to add except to say that is is a fine World War II thriller, featuring Cliff Robertson, George Chakiris and a solid British cast in support.

Of course, the real "stars" of the movie are the Mosquitos--seeing them fly is a feast for aviation fans. Some scenes really seem to put you in the cockpit with our heroes as they train for their "mission impossible". There is also a fair bit of model work involved, and this is perhaps the only area of the movie that is dated. Special effects have made huge strides since the sixties--when these planes crash or blow up, it is not done in a convincing way for modern audiences.

Cliff Robertson is fine in the lead--later in the decade, he was to win an Oscar for "Charly", yet he has always been under-rated. His career certainly had it's "ups and downs"--in the seventies, he blew the whistle on a Hollywood executive who was embezzling money, and good movie roles seemed to "elude" him for a while. Clearly, he is a man of great integrity. It was nice to see him, after so many years, have an important role in the monster hit, "Spiderman".

George Chakiris aquits himself well as a Norwegian resistance leader. British character actors, Harry Andrews and Donald Houston, provide the mandatory "stiff upper lips" ! When the movie is over though, it is those fabulous planes that you remember most.

The DVD is widescreen, with decent colour for its age--the sound is mono ( imagine those Mosquitos in surround ? ! ). The packaging is very rudimentary, but I suppose this is in keeping with the low price ?

If you like war films with the accent on aviation, this one is for you. Try it !

633 Squadron has great flying sequences involving the very unique WW-II British plane called the "Mosquito". The Mosquito was a twin engine "fighter bomber" made of WOOD that the Royal Air Force used for "unconventional" type flying missions portrayed in 633 Squadron. The Mosquito was a fast, light, multi-role aircraft that carried a crew of two seated side by side.
It was long suspected that the Nazi's had an Atomic Bomb development program and 633 Squadron's final mission is to fly through a heavily defended Fiord in Nazi occupied Norway and destroy a German plant that is suspected to be involved in Atomic research.

Cliff Robertson plays a "Yank" in the RAF I'm sure he was cast for US audience appeal (Robertson, an accomplished pilot, at one time owned a WW-II British Spitfire fighter) and George Chakiris (West Side Story) has a good role as a member of the Norwegian Underground.
The movie has all the usual flying cliches -- and a romantic interest as well. The flying sequences are first rate -- however, when the planes are flying through the Fiord a very crude attempt at simulating anti-aircraft fire from the gunners perspective is made and that detracts from an other wise exciting sequence given the technology available in 1964.

Historical accuracy[edit]

The Royal Air Force (RAF) did not form a unit called "633 Squadron" during the Second World War. However, there was a 613 Squadron, equipped with Mosquitos, and credited with an attack on a Dutch Central Population Registry building on 11 April 1944, where the Germans held their Dutch Gestapo records.
A multinational Allied war effort is depicted: in addition to an American central character, the film features members of the Norwegian resistance, airmen from IndiaNew Zealand and Australia. This reflects three historical facts: first, airmen of many nationalities joined the RAF proper; second, under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, airmen from Commonwealth air forces were frequently assigned to RAF units and; third, many squadrons belonging to Commonwealth air forces, or European governments-in-exile were under the operational control of the RAF during the war.[14]
The film draws from many of the real operations of 617 Squadron, in particular their attack on the German battleshipTirpitz in a Norwegian fjord, although that squadron used four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bombers to carry the Barnes Wallis designed, 6-ton Tallboy Earthquake bombs, not the twin-engine de Havilland Mosquitos depicted. The Mosquito, however, was used by 618 Squadron, also involved with another of Barnes Wallis' "bouncing bombs" called High Ball. Though High Ball was never used operationally, 618 Sqn was used as a special operations unit and is, probably, the closest match to "633"


When Norwegian resistance leader Lieutenant Erik Bergman travels to Great Britain to report the location of a German V-2 rocket fuel plant, the Royal Air Force's No. 633 Squadron is assigned to destroy it. The squadron is led by Wing Commander Roy Grant, an ex-Eagle Squadron pilot (U.S. fighter pilots serving in the RAF before America entered the war).
The plant is in a seemingly impregnable location beneath an overhanging cliff at the end of a long, narrow fjord lined with anti-aircraft guns. The only way to destroy the plant is by collapsing the cliff on top of it, a job for 633 Squadron's fast and manoeuvrable de Havilland Mosquitos. The squadron trains inScotland, where there are narrow glens similar to the fjord. There, Grant is introduced to Bergman's sister, Hilde. They are attracted to each other, despite Grant's aversion to wartime relationships.
The Norwegian resistance is tasked with destroying the anti-aircraft defences of the facility immediately before the scheduled attack. When unexpected German reinforcements arrive, Bergman returns to Norway to try to gather more forces. However, he is captured while transporting desperately needed weapons, taken to Gestapo headquarters and tortured for information. Since Bergman knows too much, he must be silenced before he breaks. Grant and newly married Flying Officer Bissell are sent in with a single Mosquito to bomb the Gestapo building. Though they are successful, their shot-up Mosquito fighter-bomber crashes on its return, and Bissell is wounded and becomes blind. A tearful Hilde thanks Grant for ending her brother's suffering.
Still worried, Air Vice-Marshal Davis decides to move up the attack to the next day. However, the resistance fighters are ambushed and killed, leaving the defences still intact. Although Grant is given the option of aborting, he decides to press on. The factory is destroyed at the cost of the entire squadron, though a few crews are able to ditch in the fjord. Grant crash-lands but a local man helps Grant's navigator, Flying Officer Hoppy Hopkinson, pull the wounded wing commander from the burning wreckage. Back in Britain, Davis tells a fellow officer who is aghast at the losses, "You can't kill a squadron."