September 15th, 2013: The Battle of Britain (1969)

Cast and Crew: Guy Hamilton (Director); Ron Goodwin (Score); Harry Saltzman (Producer); Harry Andrews, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Curd Jurgens, Ian MacShane, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Nigel Patrick, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Robert Shaw, Patrick Wymark, Susannah York, Jack Gwillim, Michael Bates

What It’s About: The key events and some of the key individuals in the Battle of Britain are recreated, with a focus not just on the leadership but the individual pilots and support personnel about whom Churchill famously stated, “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”.

Why Watch it Today?: Today is Battle of Britain Day, which marks the key battle fought in 1940 over the skies of London, the turning point in the campaign.  The Luftwaffe abandoned daylight attacks on Great Britain just 15 days later, although night bombing continued into May 1941. The Battle of Britain features an excellent cast and aerial combat footage shot using aircraft that were used in the conflict (including 27 Spitfires, 3 Hawker Hurricanes, and Bf109s and He111s on loan from the Spanish Air force), something that today would need to be done using CG (although there are also plenty of 1960s special effects shots for the actual crashes, blood and close-ups of pilots, and the aircraft are not necessarily the correct models.)  The film pays equal attention to historical accuracy in its depiction of events, showing the decisions of the high command point by point as well as the toll the conflict takes on the men flying in it; it’s even relatively even-handed with the German opponents, who get less screen time but are not turned into propaganda film sneering enemies.

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