The Dam Busters (1954)

Yesterday I watched The Dam Busters (1954), a film that I’ve liked since I was a kid. One of my first models as a child was Revell’s ‘Dam Buster’ Avro Lancaster, and one of my treasured books – which I still have – was Ballantine’s Lancaster Bomber. So the appeal of this film to me is obvious.

The Dam Busters tells the story of the raids in 1943 on dams in the Ruhr Valley, and the development of the bombs by Barnes Wallace (Michael Redgrave). Preivously I’d only seen the American version, which was 15 minutes shorter than the original version. The American version also overdubbed Guy Gibson’s (Richard Todd) dog’s name. In the American version the dog is named Trigger. It was quite a shock to my PC ears to hear the unexpurgated version of the black lab’s name. But the dog’s name is an historical fact.

As much as I like aircraft – especially Lancs – I thought that a few of the flying-over-water scenes were too long. But I didn’t fast-forward! The special effects were good for the time, and included tracers from the anti-aircraft batteries. The explosions were well done, though you can tell some of the things (e.g., dams) are miniatures. The film won an Oscar for the s/fx in 1955. Lots of Lancasters, plus a few shots of Mosquitos and a Halifax make this film a treat for aviation buffs.

All in all, a good docu-drama of one of the pivotal missions of WWII.

I think this event was featured on an episode of PBS’ series Secrets of the Dead, was pretty interesting.

Nice link. Upon reading it I see that I may be mistaken on the Halifax. There’s a scene in the film where Wallace is asked why he thinks the RAF would loan him an airplane, and Wallace says ‘Perhaps if you mention that I designed it.’ According to the article, Wallace designed the Wellesley/Wellington. I’ll have to pop the DVD in later to review the scene. (As I said, my childhood attraction was to the Lanc; so I didn’t pay much attention to the other types.)

And, of course, it is the inspiration for the Death Star Trench scene.

I always liked The Dam Busters because it’s part of a sadly spare genre of film: the engineering drama, a.k.a. “Getting Shit to Work.”

For a lot of guys, getting shit to work what our daily lives consisit of, and we can relate to movies where theses same stakes are raised to the level of life and death. The grandaddy of the genre is, of course The General. Other movies I’d place in it areWages of Fear, The Train, and the original Flight of the Phoenix

Another good thing about The Dam Busters is that it has Robert Shaw in it. He and Richard Boone have always been two of my favorites because when they were given good parts they were great, and even when they were given inferior material to worked with they were smarter than could be expected.

Then you may like Spitfire (First Of The Few) starring Leslie Howard (his last film). I have a copy on DVD, but it’s barely better than my (currently missing) VHS copy and it’s a little jittery. Still, an excellent story on the development of the Spitfire. I’ll watch it again soon and post a thread on it.

The “Dambuster’s March” is, IMHO, not just perfect for the tone of the film, it’s also one of the best marches ever composed. It’s rousing without being overly martial - seems so very British, somehow.

[nitpick]The name of the designer is Barnes Wallis [/nitpick]

** detop** who in addition to the Ballantine book on the Lanc has Guy Gibson’s Enemy Coast Ahead and Paul Brickhill’s The Dam Busters.

:smack: I KNOW that!

And yet I misspelled it FOUR TIMES!.

Major cerebral flatulence on my part. :smack:

Haevn’t seen those, but how about Apollo 13?

One of these days, eh ?

We may have to start another thread, “the best ‘getting shit to work’ movies”.

I wouldn’t quite put The General in this category; more of a chase movie. Keaton was absolutely brilliant making gadgets work in surprising ways; maybe a The Making of “The General” would be a good getting-shit-to-work movie. And there’s some great GSTW action in Steamboat Bill, Jr..

The Wages Fear is a good choice, as would be the American remake, Sorcerer.

And there’s a black-and-white, French, prison-break movie called Le Trou. They get some shit to work in that one.

Including some lines that were lifted verbatim - or nearly.


“Use the Force, Guy. Use the Force”?

Most certainly a Vickers-Armstrong Wellington. Itself a very good plane, but with nowhere near the carrying capacity of the Lancaster. (I don’t remember seeing a Mossie in The Dam Busters.)

Minor interesting point: The bomb was a cylinder, not a spheroid. Upkeep was still a classified weapon when the film was made, so could not be accurately depicted. It, and Highball (a smaller variant intended for use in Mosquitos), were considered as possible anti-shipping weapons against targets like Tirpitz, but in the end Operation Chastise was their only active deployment.

Malacandra, who has played the second trumpet part to both the Dambusters’ March (Eric Coates) and, only the other day, Spitfire Prelude (William Walton) - the theme music to The First of the Few.

(Final trivia point: the last Hurricane to roll off the assembly line was named “Last of the Many” :slight_smile: )

I’d be up for a “Getting Shit to Work” movie thread, but until that happens I’ll have to check out The Dambusters. Just one question, though, since I’m not enough to Google it. What was the dog’s name?


Out of deference to the sensibilities of others, I hesitate to give you the name directly. I think I can safely point out, though, that Johnny L.A. did give clues in his post that should allow you to work it out:

Because it rhymes with the original name.

Note the colour of the dog.

Hope that helps.

The Dam Busters was based on a book of the same title by Paul Brickhill, who wrote The Great Escape, about the escape from Stalg Luft III that was later made into a movie. He’d been a prisoner there himself. Interesting book, if you can find it.

The end of Dan Busters (along with Squadron 733) also inspired the Death Star Trech sequence of the original Star Wars. Lucas has admitted as much, and he uses at least one line of dialogue verbatim from Dam Busters in his film. See my essay at .

Sheesh, beat about the bush much? :dubious:

633 Squadron.

IIRC the original bombs were barrel-shaped (note the ones in the film weren’t true spheres), but Wallis discovered they worked better if the wooden shells were removed just leaving a metal cylinder. Just going on memory though.

The black lab’s name was ‘N_____’. Sorry to be so circumspect, but I’ve disliked the word since I was nine years old and found out what it meant.