Monday, August 8, 2011

Movie Sunday: 633 Squadron

Image from here

I know this one is not going to have what you would call broad appeal, but I'm writing it anyway.

My parents came of age during World War II. I don't think it's possible for us to understand the impact that it had on their generation and culture. "What did you do in the War?" was a common question even during my childhood, a full twenty years later. And WWII movies were still a booming business in 1964, when 633 Squadron was released.

The film is based on a 1956 novel of the same name, which draws from several real events and missions during WWII.  It holds the distinction of being the first aviation film shot in color and Panavision.

633 Squadron tells the story of a group of fighter-bomber pilots training for and executing a special, especially dangerous mission. The squadron flies the de Havilland Mosquito, one of the most amazing and beautiful airplanes of the era.*  The Mosquito was one of the fastest planes of any kind in the war, made possible by its twin Rolls Royce Merlin engines and the fact that it was made largely of wood.  Yes, wood. The light weight and high power made it particularly graceful in flight, and it was well-loved by its two man flight crews.

de Havilland Mosquito in flight. Picture from here

The plot and characters of 633 Squadron are somewhat typical of the time. Cliff Robertson does a credible job as the hard-bitten cynical wing commander, and Maria Perschy is delicious as "the woman" (every good war movie of the day seemed to have exactly one).  There is a bit of ironic tragedy, and the film is made late enough that a bit of the horror of war is beginning to seep through the glory and righteousness typical of earlier war films, but it's not exactly Apocalypse Now.**

The real star of this movie is the Mosquito. The film includes a great deal of footage of real Mosquitoes in flight over beautiful Scottish countryside, and the planes are mesmerizing to someone who built as many models as I did as a child. George Lucas credits the primary action sequence in this movie with inspiring the "trench scene" in Star Wars.

So if you like old war movies, or are a fan of planes of the era, you should check out 633 Squadron. It's currently streaming on Netflix.

* The Supermarine Spitfire, Vought Corsair, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the North American P-51 Mustang round out my childhood top five. But the Mosquito was always my favorite.

** Also, you should watch Apocalypse Now, if somehow you have managed not to see it. Awesome movie.


  1. The Mosquito is a pretty little thing, but i'm partial to the SR-71 Blackbird. Sex with wings, baby...

  2. @daisyfae: Well, if we're going to bring jets into it, then I have to agree. The SR-71 is the Sean Connery of aircraft. But I defy you to watch fifteen minutes of this movie and not want to fly a Mosquito.

  3. i'll give it a run... once i figure out how to conjure netflix on my new blue ray system, which is hooked to the interwebz directly. fucking technology...

  4. Good golly, a WWII movie I haven't seen...about aviation, no less. I will put it in the queue. Thanks for the heads-up. Robertson is an intelligent actor.