633 SQUADRON [1964 / 2019] [Blu-ray] [UK Release]
The Winged Legend of World War Two!
Excitement, adventure, derring-do and courage in the war-torn skies over northern Europe are "the right stuff" for this pulse-pounding World War II air drama. Norwegian resistance fighter Lt. Erik Bergman [George Chakiris] offers the British Royal Air Force an irresistible target when he reveals the location of a secret Nazi factory. American pilot Wing Cmdr. Roy Grant [Cliff Robertson] commands the fighter squadron ordered to take out the plant, but he discovers that the location is even more formidable than he had been told. When the promised ground support troops fail to show up, Grant fears he and his men are on a doomed mission.
To make the film, which is based on a true story, a squadron of legendary Mosquito fighter bombers was resurrected from near extinction. Dazzling flying sequences, bone-shaking sound and superb special effects help make this one of the most realistic combat films ever to reach the screen.
FILM FACT: The musical score of ‘633 SQUADRON’ was written by the British composer Ron Goodwin and became very popular and well known to the public after the film's initial release. The theme was adapted for the computer game 1942. It was used for TV advertisements for an insurance company during the early 2000s. ‘633 SQUADRON’ was the first aviation film to be shot in colour and Panavision widescreen. Originally a project for director John Sturges, he initially worked on a script with Rod Serling of the TV Series “The Twilight Zone” fame as early as 1958 and offered Jack Lord the leading role. After John Sturges dropped out in favour of making ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ Walter Mirisch took on the project after reading the book. Filming took place during the summer of 1963. The film's climax shows the squadron flying through a deep fjord while being fired on by anti-aircraft guns. George Lucas stated that this sequence inspired the "trench run" sequence in ‘Star Wars.’ George Lucas intercut sequences into ‘Star Wars’ during post production as a guide.
Cast: Cliff Robertson, George Chakiris, Maria Perschy, Harry Andrews, Donald Houston, Michael Goodliffe, John Meillon, John Bonney, Angus Lennie, Scot Finch, John Church, Barbara Archer, Sean Kelly, Julian Sherrier, Geoffrey Frederick, Suzan Farmer, Johnny Briggs, Leo Bieber (uncredited), Edward Brayshaw (uncredited), Maxwell Craig (uncredited), Bill Cummings (uncredited), John Dray (uncredited), Wendy Hall (uncredited), Aidan Harrington (uncredited), Drewe Henley (uncredited), Bill Hibbert (uncredited), Peter Kriss (uncredited), Arnold Locke (uncredited), Cavan Malone (uncredited), Ricardo Montez (uncredited), Anne Ridler (uncredited), Richard Shaw (uncredited), Reg Thomason (uncredited), Rita Tobin-Weske (uncredited), Jeremy Wagg (uncredited), Katy Wild (uncredited) and Chris Williams (uncredited)
Director: Walter E. Grauman
Producers: Cecil F. Ford, Lewis J. Rachmil and Walter Mirisch
Screenplay: Howard Koch (screenplay), James Clavell (screenplay) and Frederick E. Smith (novel)
Composer: Ron Goodwin
Cinematography: Edward Scaife, B.S.C. (Director of Photography) and John Wilcox, B.S.C. (Additional Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p (Color by DeLuxe)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (Panavision)
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Running Time: 94 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists / The Mirisch Company / Final Cut Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘633 SQUADRON’  is a stirring wartime drama inevitably suffers in comparison with that other tribute to the Royal Air Force, is the film ‘The Dam Busters.’ Their mission is less audacious, the casting less precise. Cliff Robertson as an American pilot Wing Cmdr. Roy Grant in the RAF and George Chakiris as a Norwegian resistance fighter Lt. Erik Bergman and the famous theme tune by composer Ron Goodwin, is terrifically rousing. The flying sequences are undeniably more thrilling, particularly the Scottish Highlands training exercises.
In Britain of 1944, the British 633 Squadron flies De Havilland Mosquitos and carries out bombing missions across Europe against German target. Under the leadership of Wing Commander Roy Grant [Cliff Robertson], an American volunteer pilot, the squadron has established a stellar reputation for getting the job done. Wing Commander Roy Grant and his other pilots are recruited to train for a secret and difficult bombing mission in Norway. They are to destroy a heavily fortified Nazi fuel factory by toppling a protruding mountain ridge onto the enemy facility with a sustained bombing run.
British airmen embark on a daring mission to destroy a heavily fortified German rocket-fuel plant in Norway, and to ensure success the RAF pilots have to bomb an overhanging cliff to collapse it onto the building. The plan threatens to unravel, however, when a Norwegian freedom fighter plotting a land attack to coincide with the air strike is captured by the Nazis. This Second World War drama and also stars Donald Houston and Harry Andrews.
The film was based on a 1956 novel by RAF veteran Frederick E. Smith and just one in a series of 633 novels the author published between then and 2007, which drew on many real life missions undertaken by the RAF, including 613 Squadron's successful 1944 attack on the Dutch Population Registry Building where Gestapo records were held, 617 Squadron's bombing of the German battleship Tirpitz in the Norwegian fjords, the 1942 Oslo Mosquito raid which attacked Gestapo HQ in the Norwegian capital and 139 Squadron's assault on the molybdenum mine in Knaben in southern Norway in 1943.
‘633 SQUADRON’ is a British film about an RAF squadron that is sent out on a risky mission to attack a German weapons factory located in occupied Norway, where one officer is being held captive by the Nazis. Being one of the classic British war films, this is a really good watch. Although, I have to say that the story scenario was not necessarily the best ever, but made in the 1960s, was definitely the best era for these post-war British films, gave it that cheerful and patriotic feel that made it really pleasant to watch.
Like many of the other fictional stories based around Second World War missions and scenarios. The theme tune was probably the best part of this film and those trumpets gave a fantastically uplifting and ambitious atmosphere to the film, making me have a big smile with cheer at every playing of it throughout the film.
The real highpoints of this adaptation are the splendid aerial battle scenes, which of course went on to heavily and unmistakably influence George Lucas for his 'trench run' finale to the first ‘Star Wars film and the film is helped with Ron Goodwin's marvellous film music score. The filmmakers certainly knew they were onto a good thing with composer Ron Goodwin's theme that can be heard a staggering seventeen times throughout film ‘633 SQUADRON.’
‘633 SQUADRON’ was mostly filmed at Elstree Studios and at Bovingdon airfield in Hertfordshire. The final attack on the Norwegian fjord was filmed at Loch Morar on the west coast of Scotland, and the scenes showing the planes crossing the sea to Norway were filmed off the Norfolk coast. The film was a big hit in Britain and got decent reviews, winning praise in particular for the flying scenes and effects work.
Matching the reality of pilots during the war being drawn from throughout the Commonwealth, Wing Commander Roy Grant's team is a diverse and multi-ethnic group, notably including a Sikh pilot. Cliff Robertson provides the volunteer American presence to increase the film's international appeal. The final battle scene in ‘633 SQUADRON’ in which the mission actually happens was quite exciting, but the main thing was that it maintained that amazingly patriotic feel, and because of that, I definitely will give this a five star rating.
Blu-ray Image Quality – Final Cut Entertainment presents this film with a 1080p image and because it is in Color by DeLuxe and it can give a slight warm soft colour image at times, which might be because of the age of the film. On the whole the transfer is very solid with decent colour saturation, as well as adequate black levels. The image is nice and sharp when it comes to the outdoor scenes. Some fluctuation in brightness and colour occurs during transitional scenes. There is also some film grain evident in certain scenes, but these are all issues quite common with a film released in 1964 and especially back then they did not preserve films of this calibre much like they do now. All in all, this Blu-ray release looks better than I had hoped. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Final Cut Entertainment brings us the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ with a very standard 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio experience that comes across fairly well balanced. Ron Goodwin’s rousing film music score is nice and clear as are the dialogue and sound effects. There isn’t much in the way of dynamic range but the audio track is free from any glaring distortion. Sure it’s only in 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio and the Blu-ray sounds just fine. So very well done Final Cut Entertainment for a 5 star audio.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: In Good Company: Remembering 633 Squadron  [1080p] [2.35:1/1.78:1] [23:50] Final Cut Entertainment presents this special feature and here we are introduced by Kim Newman [Author and Critic] who talks in-depth and the film ‘633 SQUADRON,’ and feels it is the evolution of the Second World War genre films. When the film was released in 1994, they said it was like a Hollywood version of the Second World War, even though it was filmed in England, but was a Hollywood production, and that is why it had an American actor in the leading role, plus a plethora of English actors as the supporting ensemble. Kim Newman reckons the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ was based on the true British spirit film ‘The Dam Busters,’ and like that film, throughout the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ it also had a rousing and stirring composed film score by the wonderful Ron Goodwin running throughout the film and was of course at the time it was a massive hit by the British public, as was the composed film score for the film ‘The Dam Busters.’ There was for a brief period in the late 1940s in America that they had a lot of films release on the genre of the Second World War, like ‘The Best years Of Our Lives  and ‘The Small Back Room’  which were disenchanted films relating to the Second World War. Then in 1950s Britain, there was an instant nostalgia about the Second World War achievements and conquering Hitler and his nazi war machine, and we had a plethora of British War Films that were a great success, like ‘The Dam Busters,’ ‘Malta Story,’ ‘Dunkirk,’ ‘The Battle Of The River Plate’ and Ill Met By Moonlight,’ which basically reflected when the British soldiers came home from fighting in the war, and there were also lots of books were released on the experiences of the soldiers in battle and their daring missions into the enemies territory. Of course the ‘633 SQUADRON’ was based on the 1956 novel by Frederick E. Smith entitled “633 Squadron” and was not based on any true stories, but it was a sort of combination of anecdotes about the Mosquito aircrafts and the pilots daring missions, and the Mosquito aircraft was a combination of a fighter/bomber aircraft, and built specifically for these types of daring raids on the German instillations, like you view in the ‘633 SQUADRON’ film. But what was totally amazing about these Mosquito aircraft was that they were built of 100% wooden frames and were very dangerously vulnerable in getting damaged in attacks with their combat missions. The ‘633 SQUADRON’ film was the first Second World War film to be shot in colour and shown in widescreen, plus a variety of actors from America, Australia and the first film to feature a Indian Sikh character. But of course also we had a plethora of British actors like Harry Andrews, Michael Goodliffe and Donald Houston, who have appeared in dozens of Second World War films. But when British Television was at its height in the 1960s, it would broadcast on a Sunday afternoon, massive amounts of War films and of course over time people got bored of viewing these films constantly and they went out of favour, but now nostalgia has come back even more popular for Second World War films, especially on the Blu-ray format, and now the public can at last appreciate these films so much more, now for the time in seeing them in a stunning 1080p image presentation and even better than when the films were released in the cinema. Kim Newman praises most highly the producer Walter Mirisch, who was not only an International Producer, but was also a Hollywood producer and he was involved with a lot of glossy 1960s films, and he was amazed with his credits, because he went from his first film ‘The Disembodied’  right through to the big budget film ‘633 SQUADRON’ and if you check out Walter Mirisch Biography details, you will actually see that he was an actual bomber pilot, and of course got the job with the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ because of his experience on bombing raids. But amazingly he worked in American Television and he did 57 episodes of “Murder, She Wrote” the American drama series with Dame Angela Lansbury. On top of all that, the success of the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ was down the screenwriters Howard Koch and James Clavell who were blacklisted in America due to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. Another fantastic fact credit revealed about Howard Koch, is that he wrote the script for the famous Orson Wells 1938 American radio broadcast “War Of The Worlds” that scared all of the American public and that is why Howard Koch got his Hollywood contracts. Another film that Howard Koch was not credited to was the film ‘Casablanca’ and was also a Warner bros. contracted screenwriter. With a younger audience that never experienced the Second World War, to find out about this historic period in time, they started watching films like ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘The Great Escape,’ and this led them onto films like the Indiana Jones franchise, that were of course all very jolly escape adventure films and also were very typical stereotype Royal Airforce pilots, who think all women are easy virtue and Kim Newman inserts scenes from ‘633 SQUADRON’ to show examples of what he is talking about. So as we come to the end of this special feature, it was all very interesting and also especially very fascinating information about all aspects of the Second World War films genre in general and Kim Newman’s insightful rhetoric on the ‘633 SQUADRON’ film and this special feature is well worth viewing and I also know you will enjoy a very good viewing experience.
Special Feature: Flying High: The Mirisch Strategy  [1080p] [2.35:1/1.78:1] [18:53] here once again we have another Final Cut Entertainment special feature, and with this one we are introduced by Paul Kerr [Academic] who talks in-depth about The Mirisch Company and its history, and informs us that The Mirisch Company was an American film production company owned by Walter Mirisch and his brothers, Marvin Mirisch and Harold Mirisch. The company also had other firms known at various times as Mirisch Production Company, Mirisch Pictures, Inc., Mirisch Films, and The Mirisch Corporation. Walter Mirisch began producing at Allied Artists beginning with ‘Fall Guy’ (1947), the profitable ‘Bomba the Jungle Boy’ series, ‘Wichita’ (1955), ‘The First Texan’ (1956), and many others. Walter Mirisch was in charge of production at Allied Artists Pictures Corporation when the studio made ‘Friendly Persuasion,’ ‘Love in the Afternoon,’ ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ (1956), ‘Riot in Cell Block 11’ (1954), and numerous others. The Mirisch Company was founded in 1957 at which time it signed a 12-picture deal with United Artists, which was extended to 20 films two years later. United Artists acquired the company on the 1st March, 1963, but the Mirisch brothers continued to produce for their distribution, under other corporate names, in rented space at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio. That at the time they started making films, most of the time they made “B” Movies, but tried to make “A” Movies and it didn’t quite work out. As to Paul Kerr, he informs us that in he started his career at the British Film Institute but for twenty years was an award-winning television producer, making dozens of programmes for the BBC and Channel Four as well as a number of international co-productions. He began his TV career by specialising in major series about the media first as researcher on “Open The Box” (Channel Four 1986), then as producer on “The Media Show” (Channel Four 1987-90), and subsequently as Series Editor of the award-winning cinema series, “Moving Pictures” (BBC2 1990-96) but developed into working on a range of documentaries, especially on the The Mirisch Company. Paul Kerr also informs us that he did stuff like arts and history and including a series about the Crimean War, black British history, British theatre and international design. Paul Kerr also informs us that people should look out for the Walter Mirisch book entitled “I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History” as it gives great historical detail about The Mirisch Company and the family. The Mirisch Company bought the rights of the book “633 Squadron” as they were keen to make the film of the same name, and in 1963 they went into production of the film ‘633 SQUADRON.’ Paul Kerr also talks a lot about Walter Mirsch in saying that he went to Harvard Business School, and heard about recruitment for business, and also heard them talk about successful bombing raids, and the amount of tonnage and bombs needed for a successful raid. While the Second World War was in progress, Walter Mirisch kept all of this information in his mind for later use, and then went to work for the Lockheed Company, and when the Second World War ended, then became a producer in the film industry, then quickly went into the production department of Allied Artists with his two other brothers, then eventually they started their own film company The Mirisch Company, then went onto make 6 war films, that included ‘633 SQUADRON,’ ‘Submarine X-1’  and ‘Attack On The iron Coast’  and of course with all of Walter Mirisch experience background, the Second World War films was ideal to be made. Unfortunately the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ was not a success in America, because it was all about the British Squadron bombing raids on Nazi occupied installations, even though it had a token American leading actor, and because the British Government had the Eady Levy scheme which was a tax on box-office receipts in the United Kingdom, intended to support the British film industry. The Eady Levy scheme, was paid into the British Film Production Fund, was made compulsory in 1957 and terminated in 1985. So The Mirisch Company got all of their money back on all the films they made in the UK in that period. Other great successful films The Mirisch Company they made were ‘Some Like It Hot’ , which unfortunately did not do very well at the box office in America, but was a massive box office hit outside America, showing us Brits we know a good classic comedy film when we see it. Other films that were a success in America were ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ ‘The Return of the Seven,’ ‘The Guns of the Magnificent Seven,’ ‘The Pink Panther,’ ‘In The Heat Of The Night,’ ‘The Apartment,’ ‘The Thomas Crown Affair,’ ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ which was a totally amazing achievement for such a small company. They also made the Top Ten grossing films for United Artists in the late 1950s and early part of the 1960s, which included ‘The Great Escape,’ ‘Toys in the a Attic,’ ‘A Shot In The Dark,’ ‘What Did You Do In The War Daddy?,’ ‘Kid Galahad’ starring Elvis Presley, ‘The private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Scorpio.’ But like all things with the film industry, it becomes very fickle, and unfortunately The Mirisch Company started to decline in their film output, as a lot of their later films did not make the grade and lost money. But to keep going, the Mirisch brothers formed Seven other companies and made another staggering 67 films for United Artists over a 17 year period, and a lot of those films were very successful, but unfortunately the brothers were getting very old and in that time they allowed only one new director to make his debut to make a film, whereas normally they would stick with the same team and director, and of course near the end the audiences were getting younger, so the later films were losing money, so ended their 17 year run and at the end of the 17 year period, just two of the Mirisch brothers set up another company in collaboration with Universal Pictures and made another 6 films, which included ‘Midway,’ ‘Gray Lady Down,’ ‘Same Time, Next year,’ ‘Dracula’ and ‘Romantic Comedy’ and of course like all aspects on the history of cinema, the two Mirisch brothers had run out of steam and the ideas for films dried up. But despite this, The Mirisch Company at the height of their success, made lots of brilliant box office hits that are still popular today and of course now they are being released on the Blu-ray format that will of course live on for future generation audiences. Also all in all, this was another fascinating special feature and well worth viewing.
Special Feature: Mission Impossible: Analysing 633 Squadron  [1080p] [1.78:1/2.35:1] [16:40] Here for third and final time, we have another special feature from the Final Cut Entertainment. Here we are introduced by Dr. Russ Hunter [Northumbria University] and of course talks about all aspect of the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ and in informing us that in the film all the pilots sacrifice themselves in the pursuit of defeating the German War Machine and the Nazi occupied countries, and of course realising that these heroic pilots will never return from bombing raids, but because of their sacrifices, it will not stop their pursuit of stopping the Nazis making the rocket fuel for the rockets they hoped would devastate the mainland of the UK, and also the pilots and their pursuit of shortening the Second World War. But the success of the film ‘633 SQUADRON’ was due to the author Frederick E. Smith who was an actual fighter pilot and brought out three books entitled “633 Squadron,” “633 Squadron #2: Operation Rhine Maiden” and “633 Squadron #3: Operation Crucible,” which of course were all used for the screenplay for the film ‘633 SQUADRON.’ But of course the film plays on the emotions, knowing couples who got married of were falling in love, they knew deep down inside that the male pilots will probably not ever see their female partners again, and in the end they feel it was well worth the sacrifice in stopping the Nazi war machine. Of course this was not the only Second World War film that emulated the brave pilots who became heroes and one other film that did that was ‘Battle of Britain’  where the RAF pilots saves the British nation and gave the British public on seeing those films an uplifting spirit, and of course even more so now that these Second World War films on being released on the Blu-ray format for future viewing generations. So all in all, this was nice special feature, but a very short one for your enjoyment.
Finally, ‘633 SQAUDRON’ was probably the enduring popularity of the film version that inspired Frederick E. Smith to eventually begin writing sequels to his original novel. Despite a slightly weak screenplay, the film ‘633 SQAUDRON’ is an entertaining enough war film. Although the writing and acting never rise to the heights of its other film ‘The Dam Busters,’ it's notable for its excellent aerial sequences and the punchy and insistent composer Ron Goodwin’s film music score. The Mosquitoes aircraft have never looked so great on film, and ‘633 SQAUDRON’ is a pretty safe recommendation for any war film and aviation enthusiasts. As the first combat aviation film produced in colour and Panavision widescreen, ‘633 SQAUDRON’ set the new standard for what is possible, and the visuals rarely disappoints you. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso