Saturday, January 05, 2013

Battle of Britain – part 1

Operation Sea Lion.  That was the name given by Adolph Hitler for the invasion of Britain.  His original idea was to capture all of Britain in all or most of its beauty.  But that idea could not happen until the Royal Air Force had been wiped from the skies forever.  Hitler wanted to capture Britain instead of destroying it.  He gave orders that he, and only he could give orders that would have Germany drop bombs on London.

The film has some very good aerial sequences.  Some are so good they make you want to jump in your plane and go flying provided you have a plane at your disposal.  Some will have to settle for a video game of some sort that might give some degree of satisfaction.  I used to have one called “Yeager Air Combat”.  I blasted the dreaded Hun out of the skies on countless occasions.  But that was long, long ago.  The disk operating system was still going strong, and Windows had just passed its first incarnation.

But Battle of Britain suffers from the age old battle of Hollywood fact versus historical fact.  I feel very sorry for anyone learning about the Battle of Britain.  If they think they learned all about the Battle of Britain simply by seeing the film they are very wrong.   They, and the film are missing so much it will make any veteran grind his/her teeth in frustration. So much is missing from the film it’s almost a crime that the film was made at all.

Harry Saltzman, of the James Bond franchise, helped produce the film. So if you’re thinking the film will be littered with Bond-type women, or fancy gadgets that can do everything except walk the dog and make waffles it would be best if you thought again.  This film is fresh out of Bond-type women, and there are no gadgets whatsoever.

The film has a great many discrepancies of fact in it.  During the actual Battle of Britain only Spitfire Mark I, and Spitfire Mark II planes were used. All Spitfire planes used in the film are Spitfire variants of the Mark IV variety or greater. These can easily be noted as the canopies on the Spitfires differ wildly. Of the 27 available for filming only 12 were still capable of flight.  And all Spitfires had to have cosmetic surgery to make them appear as Mark I or Mark II types.  Some others could only taxi – and that was with the aid of a motorcycle engine.  At the very beginning of the film when the pilots are in France they are attacked by German fighters. Some Spitfires manage to take off, but “the lame ducks” – planes that won’t fly any more – are blown to bits.   To make it appear the film had more Spitfires than it actually did models were made.  Very good looking models. But wire frame models. Spitfires had a metal skin.  But the skin on the models were cloth and went up in flames in seconds.  Spitfires were designed so they could not burn as they are depicted in the screen capture.

7. model burning

36 minutes into the film the Ventnor radar station on the Isle of Wight is attacked by German Stuka Bombers.  This made the attack appear that it happened very early on in the Battle of Britain. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Most military historians generally agree the Battle of Britain began on July 10th 1940. The attack on the radar station did not occur until Aug 12th, and 16th. Over a month later. A second attack is never mention or indicated. 

But if you ignore the facts as chronologically laid out, as Hollywood has done, add few personal stories that may not be true at all, as Hollywood has done, and concentrate on one major milestone in the history of humanity you have a rather interesting film. It is in no way complete if you take the time to learn about it.  But if you’re looking for something historical, and you don’t mind using two hours and twelve minutes of your life, then this may be the film for you.  The full story isn’t depicted.  Any film depicting a historical event is never complete. But this film has more stars in it so you won’t care.

The Stars

8b. Harry Andrews                       8c. Laurence Olivier

             Harry Andrews                                                   Sir Laurence Olivier

8d. Christopher Plummer as Colin Harvey                   8e. Curt Jurgens

         Christopher Plummer                                               Curt Jurgens

     8f. Sir Ralph Richardson                               8g. Robert Shaw as Skipper

          Sir Ralph Richardson                                              Robert Shaw

        8i Michael Caine as Squadron Leader Canfield                             8j. Susannah York as Maggie Harvey

              Michael Caine                                                   Susannah York

8k. Trevor Howard as Sir Keith Park                       8L. Kenneth More as Group Captain Barker

             Trevor Howard                                                   Kenneth More

8n. Michael Redgrave                                8o. Ian McShane as sergeant pilot Andy

       Michael Redgrave                                                        Ian McShane

and….                                                                     8m.Karl Otto Alberty as German officer

                                                                                          Karl Otto Alberty

That last fellow has appeared in quite a number of World War Two films such as Sink The Bismarck, Kellys’ Heroes, Battle Of The Bulge, and a number of others. In every one he portrayed a German Officer. The fact that he is German helps when it comes to speaking German. 

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