Dam Busters [1954]

Something of a cult item among British war movies, The Dam Busters turns a minor World War II incident into a heroic saga in the classic British style. A bombing raid is proposed on a strategically vital dam, but its position is inaccessible. Enter eccentric inventor Dr Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave in best daffy professor mode) who comes up with a genius idea--a bomb that will bounce on water like a skimmed pebble. Naturally the top brass dismiss it, but gallant Wing Commander Guy Gibson (Richard Todd) is persuaded, and he and Wallis forge ahead. The touches of carefully understated emotion now verge on self-parody, but it's hard not to get caught up in the narrative sweep, especially when the bombers take off on their mission and Eric Coates' stirring march hits the soundtrack. The model work, state-of-the-art for its early 1950s period, still looks impressive, and a moment involving a pet rivals the shooting of Bambi's mother. --Philip Kemp

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