One of the most memorable movies of my childhood was “633 Squadron”. It was right up there with “Von Ryan's Express”. One thing I have learned through doing this blog is that sometimes childhood memories are best left untampered with. Reviewing childhood favorites as an adult can be a disillusioning experience. Since a recent rewatching of “633 Squadron” revealed that I was sadly wrong about the quality of that movie, I was expecting the worst in rewatching its lower budget kin “Mosquito Squadron”. This nonsequel came out five years later and tried to tap into the misplaced fondness for the original. It even used footage from that movie. And shrewdly borrowed the word “squadron”. That was good marketing. The movie was directed by Boris Sagal who is not a particularly renowned director, but he did have an interesting death. He was filming the miniseries“World War III” when he got off a helicopter and turned the wrong way. His encounter with the tail rotor did not end well.
The movie opens with the launching of a V-1 and its hitting a building in London. This is actually footage from “Operation Crossbow”. We get a stirring theme courtesy of Frank Cordell (a Mosquito veteran). A flight of Mosquitos is sent to bomb the launch site. German fighters shoot down Squadron Leader “Scotty” Scott. He is almost surely killed. What a shame for his best friend Quint Munroe (David McCallum). Now he will have to comfort Scotty’s wife Beth (Suzanne Neve). Since war movies insist on love triangles, one must wonder if Scotty is really dead. Munroe makes a recon mission on a chateau. His plane gets hit and a fire starts. Lucky for him the fire stays the same size the whole time. That’s extremely fortuitous for a man flying a wooden warplane. The recon photos reveal a tunnel on the chateau grounds that is being used to develop secret weapons so a mission is planned to bomb it using the same type of bouncing bombs used in “The Dambusters”. The plan is complicated by intelligence that reveals that the chateau is being used as a prison camp and one of the prisoners is Scotty. It’s a miracle! The mission can’t be scrubbed because it is crucial to winning the war, naturally. Someone has the bright cinematic idea of coordinating a prison break with the bombing raid. As long as they are going to be dropping bombs, why not have some of them breech the chateau walls to help the prisoners escape? And since we all love a good fire-fight, how about if the French Resistance attacks to facilitate the breakout? All this carrying on should resolve that pesky love triangle.
It turns out you cannot replicate the awesomeness of “633 Squadron” (except in scoring). And since “633 Squadron” is not actually awesome, that will give you an idea how bad “Mosquito Squadron” is. The best word to describe it is “cheesy”. The special effects are low rent. The explosions are big and gassy. The planes are small and modelly. Say what you want about CGI, it’s still better than models on wires. Did you know that when you drop a bomb from a moving plane, it does not go straight to the ground? Neither did the special effects people. In this movie, the bombers release right above the target and still hit it. Another cheesy element is the sappy romance replete with sappy music. The love triangle is classic cliché, but the movie does throw in a little twist by having Scotty develop amnesia so he does not remember who he is and that he is married to Beth. While that is original, it is also plot-advancingly ridiculous. The cherry on top is Scotty resolving this dilemma with a duel with a tank. For a movie that eschews even British humor, this scene does provide a good guffaw. You can elicit more chuckles if you drink while watching the film, which I highly recommend. This will help with the wooden acting and the cringe-inducing romance. Not to mention the ludicrous plot which unbelievably was based on a equally ludicrous historical operation called “Jericho”. I’m not sure that a documentary on Operation Jericho would not end up just as unbelievable. But at least the documentary would not have a love triangle involving an amnesiacal fiery plane crash survivor.
This review has attempted to save you baby boomer, war movie lovers from revisiting a fondly remembered curio that will just leave you depressed and questioning your childhood memories. You’re welcome.
GRADE = D-
HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Operation Jericho is worthy of its own movie – made by Quinten Tarantino. The British conceived a raid on a German prison camp at Amiens in France. The goal was to set free French Resistance members and political prisoners. But instead of dropping spoons for them to dig tunnels, someone with a very high opinion on the efficacy of air bombing thought of the idea of using bombs to breach the walls around the facility and open the walls of the building housing the prisoners. Also, the guards’ mess hall was to be bombed. The mission had to be moved up when intelligence revealed that a large number of prisoners were to be executed on Feb. 19, 1944. A squadron of Mosquitoes undertook the mission on Feb. 18. The bombs did the trick and 258 of the 717 inmates were able to escape. 102 were killed and the leader of the flight was shot down and killed. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the escapees were recaptured. The operation is shrouded in controversy and mystery. Noone has claimed credit for ordering it.