THE DAM BUSTERS(Associated British, 1955)—War. Director: Michael Anderson; Producers: Robert Clarke and W. A. Whittaker; Script: R. C. Sheriff, based on the novel Enemy Coast Ahead by Paul Brickhill; Cinematography: Erwin Hillier; Music: Leighton Lucas and Eric Coates; Cast: Richard Todd (Wing Commander Guy Gibson), Michael Redgrave (Barnes Wallis), Ursula Jeans (Mrs. Wallis), Derek Fair (Group Captain J. N. H. Whitworth), Patrick Barr (Captain Joseph Summers), John Fraser (Flight Lieutenant Hopgood), Denys Graham (Flying Officer L. G. Knight), Bill Kerr (Flight Lieutenant Martin), Raymond Huntley (Ministry Official), Nigel Stock (Flight Lieutenant Spafford), Laurence Naismith (Farmer), and Patrick McGoohan (Guard).
Richard Todd,* who plays Commander Guy Gibson, claimed that The Dam Busters was the “best military war picture ever made.”1 Although the box office receipts in 1955 provided support for Todd's assertion, there are better British war films (e.g., see The Captive Heart* ), and even more compelling and morally problematic home front films (see Michael Powell* and Emeric Pressburger's* The Small Back Room ), but The Dam Busters is a sturdy example of the popular cycle of mid-1950s films that looked back to World War II as a means to celebrate British military achievements and sacrifices during that period.
The film consists of two interconnected sections. The first part details the obstacles faced by English design engineer Barnes Wallis in 1942 to produce a “bouncing bomb” that would destroy German dams on the Moehne, Eder, and Sorbe Rivers in the Ruhr heartland. Conservative bureaucrats in Whitehall oppose Wallis until he receives military support, leading to Commander Guy Gibson's involvement and the formation of a special squadron to carry out the intricate requirements of the mission—particularly the need for extreme low-level flying so that the bombs can be dropped in such a way that they will skip along the surface of the water, slide down the dam face, and then explode alongside the