Please note: at the time of writing this black and white film is only available printed on colour stock. This method always results in a slightly bluish tint and is not something we view favourably. The review print was on genuine black and white stock and therefore any prospective purchaser should take this into account.

THE DAMBUSTERS 5x600ft Black & White Sound Available from Derann

Dr. Barnes Wallis (designer of the famous Wellington bomber and much revolutionary later the 'swing-wing' aircraft concept) battles against official wartime skepticism to perfect a bomb that can be bounced against the walls of the Ruhr dams. If the scheme is successful it would seriously hamper the German war effort as the dam are the power source of the German industrial heartland.

The scheme requires not only the perfection of the bomb, which itself is fraught with problems, but the formation of a special squadron trained to fly at wave-top height into heavily defended enemy areas. Wing-Commander Guy Gibson (later to be killed in action on a different mission) is given responsibility for the 'sortie' and after several weeks intensive training the raid against the dams takes place: 55 airmen are killed during the resulting action which nevertheless is considered a military success.

The film does not go in for the more popular 'Boys Own' approach of films like 633 Squadron, Mosquito Squadron etc: Rf. Sherriff's script and Anderson's directing along with matter-of-fact playing by the accomplished cast (Redgrave's low-key playing of Wallis is the cornerstone of the film) ensure that the end result depicts fairly accurately the strain and comradeship of those engaged in the execution of the mission and its concept rather than the more usual noisy mock-heroics.

Previously available from the now defunct Walton Films in abridged form this is the complete version with its opening title sequence and every bit of The Dambusters March intact! And what a good print too, sharp and with a terrific soundtrack - just feel those mighty Merlin engines throbbing through the floorboards (pity about the neighbours!) . I did detect just the slightest hint of distortion on a couple of sections of dialogue: this is in the master soundtrack supplied and nothing to do with Derann. I must emphasize that it is slight and will only be detected by the keenest ears when the sound is fed through a good hi-fi system.

There are some marks on the master and some vertical black scratches - these crop up two or three times and were on the Walton version too but this being a better print these seem to show up a bit more perhaps, once again these date back to the master material and whilst these are momentarily annoying, do not in my opinion detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

The check print had several scenes that were graded too light and these need to be corrected: the A picture rating assumes they will be corrected for the bulk prints.

This release is one with which I will always associate Richard Todd - his portrayal of Guy Gibson is probably his most famous and best-remembered role and while some reviewers list his performance as stiff?, I do not agree. I'm always moved in the sequence when his dog gets run over and killed on the eve of the raid - Gibson asking that the dog be buried while they are on the mission. Also moving (at least for this reviewer) is the stirring music: I cannot hear Eric Coat's Dambusters March without feeling the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Most definitely recommended - into the Wilton library it goes.

Print A Sound A Keith Wilton