Specials for United Artists: The Battle of Britain (1964)



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Credited cast:
Richard Basehart ... Narrator


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Release Date:

29 September 1964 (USA) See more »

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The Blitz.
12 May 2014 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

Producer David Wolper's story of Hitler's failed attempt to subdue an isolated England before an invasion near the beginning of World War II.

More than 400,000 British and French troops had just been evacuated from Dunkirk on the French channel coast, hectored at every moment by Hitler's Luftwaffe, their heavy equipment and much of their arms left scattered on the shores.

Europe having fallen before the Nazi Blitzkrieg, and neither the USA nor Russia having joined her, Britain stood alone and waited for the invasion forces to cross the English channel.

Before it could happen, the Royal Air Force needed to be defeated. Goering promised it could be done by air. It couldn't. German bombers attack but they were slow and underarmed. The range of German fighter escorts were so limited that they could spend only twenty minutes defending the bombers before needing to turn for home in France.

"The Battle of Britain" was seen as the first victory over Hilter's Armed Forces, while the German's regarded it as a tentative jab that was abandoned when it became clear it wasn't going to work. In any case, Hitler had often shown a peculiar distaste for conquering England, for reasons unexplained.

The film covers the main points of the air battle without getting into too much detail. Much of the footage deals with the plight of civilians who sheltered in the London underground. I had no idea they'd built tiered bunks on the station platforms, or that donuts and tea were sometimes available.

Withall, it's a quirky documentary, given the title. Sometimes the film forgets all about the conflict and we get to watch -- for a whole minute or two -- people dancing to period tunes, and we hear the entire recording of "There'll Always Be An England." What suffering. The German bombers were shot down in droves. The inexperienced RAF pilots were thrown into the conflict and lost until the supply of pilots was nearly exhausted. This documentary gives some feel of the effort but a feature film with the same title is more explicit and exciting, although some of the characters are fictional.

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