Thursday, December 16, 2010

DUELING MOVIES: “The Dam Busters” vs. “633 Squadron”


     These movies have a lot of similarities. They both are British and deal with special missions that will “hasten the end of the war” and are suicidal. TDM deals with a bombing raid on some German dams to flood the Ruhr Valley and 633 deals with an attack on a German rocket fuel factory in Norway. Both cover the training for the mission and end with a very suspenseful attack. TDM is about an actual historical event whereas 633 is loosely based on the exploits of Mosquito squadrons (there was no 633 Squadron or raid on a rocket fuel plant). Both open with iconic theme music. ( I prefer 633 on this ).

     TDM spends more time on the scientific development of the special bombs to be skipped into the dam faces. A main character is the scientist in charge of the project. It intersperses training scenes with scientific experiments. 633 includes the obligatory training sequences, but throws in a romance between the squadron commander Grant (Cliff Robertson) and a resistance leader’s sister. It also ramps up the action by adding scenes involving the Norwegian resistance.

     The bombing scenes are well handled in both movies. Similarly, both squadrons must run a gauntlet of German anti-aircraft fire through a narrow valley. Interestingly, apparently George Lucas was influenced by both movies for his attack on the Death Star in "Star Wars".

     Although it was made 9 years later and had access (you would assume) to better movie technology, 633 looks more fake than TDB. 633 had authentic Misquitoes available and used them, but the attack scene is obviously models. 633 also revs up the melodrama, but not to good effect. The whole subplot with the resistance hero Erik Bergman (a miscast George Chakaris – chosen for his appeal to teenage girls, apparently) is ridiculous. The raid to kill him in Gestapo headquarters before he can talk is just an excuse for some more aerial action. 633 also ups the suicide quotient to top TDB. Of course, since it’s not based on an actual raid, they can kill anyone they please. They can also throw every obstacle to success you can think of. For example, Bergman gets captured. Another example, the Resistance is not able to take out the defenses.

     633 has more female appeal. Not just because Chakaris was so dreamy. You have several female characters and some romance, albeit schmaltzy. There is even a female Gestapo agent and Rosie the barmaid (hey, teenage boys need someone to watch ,too). TDB is more of a “just the facts, maam” movie.

     It will come as no surprise that in both films success comes down to the last bombers. Both end with a requiem for the fallen. Question: was it worth it? Answer: TDM – they knew what they were risking. 633 – you can’t kill a squadron.

Winner: “The Dam Busters” is much superior to “633 Squadron”.


  1. I haven't seen 633 squadron but heard it wasn't near as good as Dam Busters. As you know, I saw the Dam Busters and it is a favourite. I really liked it. I am glad it "won". I think it was done with great care, down to the dog with his politically non-correct name. His grave can still be visited today (as I have been told).

  2. The dog's grave? I would think that would be a controversial grave stone.
    It will be very interesting to see what Peter Jackson does with The Dam Busters if indeed he remakes it. Does he keep the same theme music? I wonder what the British will say if he doesn't. But, of course, the big question will be the dog's name. What are your thoughts on renaming the dog?

  3. I can tell you that the British are already annoyed by the idea of a remake. If they take other music it will just be perceived as another movie on the same theme but not a remake. Maybe that is what he aims at anyway. Would be better There is more to Dam Busters than the story, it's the actors and the feel...I really wonder will he keep the same name for the dog or will there be a need to change it... I would not rename it, sod it, it's historical. I will try to find a photo of the grave for your amusement.

  4. So it is the dog's grave?! I believe that with all the great war stories that have yet to be made into movies, it is ridiculous for a director of Jackson's ability to spend a year of his time remaking an already classic movie. I had this same complaint about his King Kong remake.
    I would be shocked if he does not either get rid of the dog (perhaps replaced by a warg) or change the name. To tell the truth, although I am a strong believer in historical accuracy, I would change the name because the controversy would definitely impact the movie. You already know the British people are going to be upset with the movie, why add African-Americans?

  5. Maybe this just proves once more how stupid an idea it is. Either the whole package or nothing, if the dog's name is offensive nowadays, which it is, then just don't shoot the movie on the other hand from a European point of this is silly. What about movies about slavery, just to comply with the sensibilities of today no slave owner would be allowed to call his slave (...) in the movie?

  6. I do not completely agree with your analogy. Even though the pilot is British and it is in the 1940s, naming a black dog "Nigger" is cringe-inducing.
    It can be explained and possibly justified, but the amount of time the producers would have to spend educating the public on how it was acceptable back then (and I am not sure it was acceptable) would not be worth the historical accuracy. For all the people like you and I who would applaude the authenticity of Jackson, he would lose twice as many people who would be offended by this.
    Once again I come back to there is no good reason for remaking the movie. However, I have heard it will be in 3-D and I do want to see one of those bombs bouncing towards me. That will be awesome!!! I'll be the dam! (not a misprint)


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.