One of the most successful independent producers in Hollywood history, Walter Mirisch first began his career as a producer for the low budget Monogram Pictures before becoming the head of production for Allied Artists (Monogram’s successor) as the young age of 29. In 1957, along with his brothers Marvin and Harold, Walter formed The Mirisch Company and his company provided United Artists with a string of critical and commercial hits over the next decade; coming in during this time was 633 Squadron, a WWII aviation thriller whose success spawned similar films released by UA later in the decade, like Mosquito Squadron. Both films are making their Blu-ray debut as a double feature from Kino.
The Production: 3.5/5
633 Squadron (1964); 3.5 out of 5
Royal Norwegian Navy Lt. – and resistance leader – Erik Bergman (George Chakiris) has discovered the location of a V-2 rocket fuel plant in Nazi occupied territory and flees to Great Britain to report it. The Royal Air Force assigns the 633 Squadron, under the command of former Eagle Squadron pilot Roy Grant (Cliff Robertson), to destroy the plant that’s located in the treacherous fjords. However, when Bergman is captured by the Nazis when he returns to Norway to assist the resistance in destroying the anti-aircraft defenses, Grant has to take on a difficult mission that will sacrifice Bergman in order to protect the greater operation.
In what was only his third feature film as a director (his second, the underrated thriller Lady in a Cage was released the same year as this film), TV veteran Walter Grauman turned in what was likely his best effort with 633 Squadron. The main selling point of the movie is the fantastic aerial sequences involving actual WWII aircraft; Grauman, who was a former bomber pilot in WWII and a collector of period aircraft, helped to assemble the nine De Havilland Mosquitos used in the film while he himself piloted a B-25 Mitchell for the scene where Bergman is dropped back into Norway. Another chief advantage of the film is the great camerawork by Edward Scaife – utilizing the Scottish Highlands as both a training ground for the Squadron as well as scenes depicting the Norwegian resistance; Ron Goodwin’s thrilling score is also another highlight as well. The only real demerit with the film is a somewhat choppy script that does take some liberties with history and an ambiguous ending where the fates of some of the men are left ambiguous, however some decent performances from the cast – especially Cliff Robertson, George Chakiris, Maria Perschy & Harry Andrews – help to smooth over some of the rough edges. The success of 633 Squadron helped pave the way for Oakmont Productions (a UK based production company under the UA banner) to make some smaller scale WWII productions at the end of the decade – including the next film in this double feature – as well providing inspiration for George Lucas for his immortal space epic Star Wars.
Mosquito Squadron (1969); 3 out of 5
After destroying German “buzz bomb” installations in a raid, the plane of RAF Squadron leader David “Scotty” Scott (David Buck) is shot down over Nazi occupied France, presumably killed. While Flight Lt. Quint Munroe (David McCallum) comforts Scott’s wife Beth (Suzanne Neve), he is tasked by Air Commodore Hufford (Charles Gray) to lead an attack on the Château de Charlon – which is harboring an underground rocket fuel factory – with a Highball bouncing bomb. However, when it’s revealed that the Nazi have taken prisoners in the Chateau – including a very much alive Scott – the plans change into both a bombing and rescue operation.
Though better known today for the Charlton Heston sci-fi film The Omega Man (1971), director Boris Sagal – also a veteran of television – did a decent job with Mosquito Squadron. Although it’s not a sequel to 633, the movie does utilize footage from that movie as well as the opening sequence was lifted from Michael Anderson’s Operation Crossbow (1965); the film’s lower budget compared to the previous movie is also reflected in the fact that 4 De Havilland Mosquitos are used in the film compared to the 9 in 633. While the film does boast a great score by Frank Cordell and a very well done series of action sequences in the second half, the film in hampered by a slow first half as well as a rather awkward script that nearly grinds the movie to a complete halt in the quieter moments; there’s also not much in terms of great performances from the cast, except for David McCallum (just fresh off of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and Charles Gray. So while it pales in comparison to 633 Squadron, Mosquito Squadron is still a rather decent and watchable WWII movie that has its strong moments and mostly works as good old fashioned entertainment.
3D Rating: NA
633 Squadron is presented in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio while Mosquito Squadron is presented in its original 1:66:1 aspect ratio for this double bill release. Both films exhibit organic film grain and faithful representations of color palette and fine details; problems like dirt, scratches, tears and damage are fairly minor and not too distracting. Overall, both films have likely been given their best home video incarnation here and represent an improvement over the previous MGM DVD releases.
Both films’ original mono soundtracks are presented on DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue on both films are strong and clear, with sound effects and music scores (Ron Goodwin composed the rousing music for 633 Squadron and Frank Cordell provided the terrific score for Mosquito Squadron) each given faithful representations; there’s minimal to no instances of hissing, crackling or distortion present. This Blu-ray release likely represents the best both movies will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 3/5
Commentaries by filmmaker/film historian Steve Mitchell & author Steven Jay Rubin – Recorded for this release, Mitchell and Rubin share information on both films in a casual manner.
633 Squadron Theatrical Trailer (3:16)
Mosquito Squadron Theatrical Trailer (2:41)
Bonus KLSC Trailers – The Devil’s Brigade, Attack, The Train & Beach Red
Flying in under the radar of great WWII films of the 1960’s, both 633 Squadron and Mosquito Squadron give great entertainment value as well as some impressive aerial sequences in the former. Kino has given both movies a great presentation in this double bill Blu-ray release, with solid HD transfers and a pair of engaging and informative commentary tracks as special features. Highly recommended and worth upgrading from previous DVD releases of both films.
Amazon.com: 633 Squadron / Mosquito Squadron [Blu-ray] : Cliff Robertson, David McCallum, George Chakiris, Harry Andrews, Charles Gray, Suzanne Neve, Maria Perschy, Donald Houston, David Buck, David Dundas, Walter Grauman, Boris Sagal: Movies & TV
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