“Angels One Five” was the first post-WWII movie made about the Battle of Britain. It was directed by George More O’Ferrall from a book entitled “What Are Your Angels Now?” by Pelham Groom. Wing Commander Groom served as technical adviser. The title refers to radio code for a contact at 15,000 foot altitude. The production had access to eight real Hurricane fighters and one ME-110. The movie was popular when it was released.
The movie opens with the famous Churchill quote: “This was their finest hour…” Like the audience needed to be reminded. It is set in June, 1940. Potential hot shot Pilot Officer “Septic” Baird (John Gregson) makes an inauspicious debut at his new squadron by pranging his kite into his Squadron Leader’s yard. It’s not his fault, but the loss of a valuable replacement aircraft has Squadron Commander Ponsford (Andrew Osborn) miffed. Apparently, he hasn’t gotten the memo that replacement pilots were more valuable than replacement aircraft back then. He punishes Baird by putting him in the operations room (“the hole”). On the plus side, we get to see WAAFs doing their part. The squadron is like a fraternity. I mean a college fraternity. But it’s not all towel snapping. Baird gets to woo the vivacious Betty. All this while we wait for some action. And wait. And wait. Until the 1:04 mark. And it’s not worth the wait.
Watching “Angels One Five” is like watching a talkative chess match. We spend more time in the operations room than in the cockpit. That might be acceptable if the payoff was good. The payoff is the climactic dogfight with Baird getting the cliched redemption. Speaking of clichés, check out the scene where the squadron is scrambled and the camera zooms in on one pilot’s unfinished drink. Guess who doesn’t come back. The dogfight turns out to be the worst I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. Keep in mind that the movie was made in 1952 so its air combat is competing with many earlier movie scenes. Scenes that seemingly would have been at a disadvantage in special effects. Even with the authentic Hawker Hurricanes, the movie’s effects are laughably bad. The German bombers are the fakest you will ever see outside of a high school A/V project. Thankfully, the acting is okay by a reliable British cast. Everyone’s lip is stiff. Even the women, who dust themselves off after a bomb caves in a roof.
Why was this movie popular? It must have been nostalgia on the dozenth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. And love for “the few”. But the few deserved better than this.
GRADE = D-