I’m sure this film is a favourite of a certain Doper. I hope I don’t get Pitted for this.
633 Squadron is about a raid on a German rocket fuel plant in Norway. It’s Wing Commander Roy Grant’s (Cliff Robertson) job to train his squadron for a difficult mission. See, the fuel plant is situated underneath a rocky overhang on the steep sides of a fjord, the entrance of which is guarded by fierce ant-aircraft batteries. The RAF are assisted in their planning by a member of the Norwegian Ling (underground) named Lt. Erik Bergman (George Chakiris).
Now there’s the first bit of bad news. George Chakiris as a Norwegian! Greek, maybe; but Norwegian? His sister Hilde (Maria Perschy) fits her role. But if Chakiris is her brother, methinks maybe a Greek fisherman sailed up their mother’s fjord. This role was completely mis-cast.
Cliff Robertson is a fine actor. But in 633 Squadron he’s rather somnambulant. There’s just no energy.
The story doesn’t seem to flow from scene to scene so much as it jumps. I didn’t feel any drama. The model work suffers from something I see even in today’s CGI-generated aerial scenes: The special effects artists don’t know anything about how aircraft fly. The filmmakers used the same shots, specifically of attacks on a large X painted on a mountain, and during the climactic raid, over and over and over. Dudes, change it up! And the shots show the airplanes approaching impossibly close to the mountain and then executing a flat turn like a car. The model itself looked like the one I built from a Monogram kit when I was a kid. And the cockpit interior shots were nearly all the same; a frontal two-shot of the pilot and bombardier.
One shot that mystifies me occurs before the aircraft take off on their raid. Grant is standing near the nose of his Mosquito. The camera follows him as he checks his watch and walks to a jeep that is parked just outside the hangar. Then he gets in it, and drives it to the nose of his airplane and gets out! Ar? Completely pointless.
But with the bad casting, the poor acting, the ridiculous maneuvering of the models, the sackful of clichés, the bad direction and the unimaginative camerawork, there is one thing 633 Squadron has that I’ll watch it for: The Mosquitos. They are the reason this film is on my DVD shelf. The Mossie was a beautiful aircraft. As none are currently flying, this is about the only chance one has to see them – in colour.
Your comments about 633 Squadron’s failings are entirely valid - a cheesy movie relieved only by some spirited flying through Scottish hills and valleys by the Mosquitoes.
In 1993, I and many thousands of people crowded into the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire to witness the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Dams Raid (they used this valley for training before the actual raid).
Various aircraft, both modern and historic took part, but it was the crew of the world’s last flying Mossie that seemed to be having the most fun - screaming down the valley and over the dam at very low altitude - I was looking down on it all from the hillside. It was so like watching the best bits of 633 Squadron, but live in front of you!
Sadly, a few years later, I witnessed the demise of this same Mosquito in a fatal airshow accident, an event that still replays vividly in my mind from time to time…
So the Mosquito has gone from the skies (for now anyway).
Meanwhile, though, all is not quite lost, try the link below for a hint of how a 633 Squadron re-make might look. Credit to the guy who made this clip!
Geeky question: Weren’t the versions of the aircraft as used in the movie ones that didn’t actually exist in real life? As I recall, there was a fighter version with machine guns in the nose, and there was another version with an internal bomb bay, but no version with both. I seem to recall that the aircraft in the film are the bomber versions with their clear noses painted over and machine gun barrels mounted. I suppose this was done in order to make the move airplanes more interesting, but in the interest of realism it’s always bothered me a bit. Incidentally, I became aware of this problem as a kid when I bought the Monogram kit after seeing the movie. The kit could be built in quite a few versions as I recall. Good memories…
There was a bomber version with a plexiglass nose, and there was an attack version with cannons in the nose. They wanted the latter for the film, but (apparently) they couldn’t get any. So they mocked them up. (You can see the flat bombardier’s pane on the aircraft in the film.)
They also used Messerschmitt ME-108 four-seaters to stand in for the 109s. Other WWII films used P-51s for Messerschmitts. And you’ll often see American half-tracks standing in for German ones. Some things just aren’t available, and the filmmakers use what they have. The Battle Of Britain (the subject of another thread) used Hispano Suizas and CASAs for ME-109s and HE-111s. Pretty close, though they used Rolls Royce engines in place of the originals. A buyer was able to buy the 109s from the Spanish air force as the aircraft were being scrapped. They had enough parts to put together several of them. The ‘Heinkels’ were on loan from the Spanish AF.
Anyway, it was very common to use any old equipment they could get to make a movie. Slap a coat of paint on it and call it German (or whatever).
Actually, according to www.mossie.org there was at least one fighter-bomber variant: the FB.VI:
Somewhat later, after I got to know the Mossie better, one other discrepancy occurred to me: the location of the crew hatch. In the fighter variants, it was in the side of the nose, since there were four 20mm cannon in the lower part of the fuselage (see here for a picture of a fighter being restored at the Yorkshire Air Museum). Of course, this was a moot point, since the aircraft in question appeared to be armed with only the four .303 machine guns—which, in the grand tradition of Westerns (where one shot from a cowboy kills at least six Injuns)—wreaked a remarkable amount of havoc on the Hun.
I believe the canopy on the bomber version was different than the fighter as well. Did one version have a control wheel and the other a stick?
I think the thing that made me believe that the version presented in the movie with both nose guns and a bomb bay was one that didn’t really exist had to do with the real-life location of the cannons. I believe they occupied at least part of the space otherwise taken up by the internal bombs. This wouldn’t have been a problem with a machine-gun-only version, but I’m not sure there were any of those. I think the fighter-bomber variant carried its bomb load externally.
I’m willing to be corrected in this. My recollections of the various versions comes from that old Monogram kit and the modifications needed to build one’s chosen variant. Still, as I recall, back in those days Monogram was pretty good about getting the details fo the various versions right.
The problem with the 633 Sqn Mosquitoes is that most were the T.T. Mk. 35 variant, i.e. a target towing re-work of the ultimate Bomber version, B. Mk. 35, with plexiglass bomb aimers blister, a bulged bomb bay and two-stage Merlin engines, all of which differed from the F.B. Mk. VI version which the novel was based around. They were all that were available in any quantity in 1964. Hence all the anomalies already mentioned.
Still a beautiful aeroplane though!
Yes, the Bomber versions all had a wheel (yoke) and the fighter/fighter bomber versions had a stick. In the movie, you see the wheel (yoke) which should have been a stick for the F.B. VI version. The windscreen of the fighter/fighter bomber version was a flat armoured glass affair so the film version is also wrong in this respect.
But all said and done, there’s still some wonderful flying in that film!
I guess It really isn’t fair to complain too much. As you say, they used what they had and they were afeter all real mosquitos. I’d love to see a remake of The Battle fo Britain , but I don’t suppose it would be possible to come up with any early model Spitfires either. I didn’t care much for Sky Captain , but I have to admit that seeing something that resembled an early P-40 was fun. Maybe that’s the formula for remaking some of those old movies – a few accurate static airplanes as props for the actors and CGI flying sequences that actually show how the real airplanes flew.
I guess the miniseries is more than 20 years old now, but are the Hurricanes that were used in A Piece of Cake still around and flyable?
Not so hard, really. I have a thread in MPSIMS (I want one of these. Now. (Airplane)) that contains a link in my last post to a full-sized Spitfire kit. It’s made of wood, but it’s the right size and shape. Even uses a V-12 engine. If a studio wanted to spend the money (the complete kit, less Allison engine, prop and instruments costs $320,000 – plans for a couple kilobucks) they could build as many Spitfires as they need either from the kit or from plans. There are also some real Spits still flying. (The last real Spitfire I remember for sale was something like $2 million.) Of course no studio nowadays is going to buy kits, spend a year building them, get them registered and test flown, etc. just to make a movie. But it could be done.