Sunday, 29 October 2017

Mosquito Squadron (1969)

If you're looking for one word to sum up Mosquito Squadron it would be 'derivative'.

This 1969 effort from Boris Sagal is hanging on to the coat tails of 633 Squadron (which itself was hanging on to the coat tails of The Dam Busters) to the extent that it even re-uses footage from that film along with a pre-titles sequence that is lifted from Operation Crossbow. Indeed, so closely and similarly does this film follow 633 Squadron that many mistakenly believe it to be an official sequel. It isn't a sequel, but there is a direct reference to 633 taking part in this raid when, in reality, no such squadron existed - so we are definitely occupying the same world here. The earlier film wasn't exactly the starriest of productions to begin with, but Sagal certainly assembles a lower division team of players to breathe life into this tale. David McCallum, fresh off the back of TV's The Man From UNCLE returns to the RAF uniform he last wore in The Great Escape to deliver a rather subdued and uninvolving lead, which is a bit of an issue as he is clearly also the film's biggest name, playing a Royal Canadian Air Force officer (bizarrely, given that he's English and doesn't even attempt the accent) who finds himself torn between duty - both to his country and his friend - and love.

Based in part on the 1944 RAF/Maquis operation that was codenamed Jericho - a still highly secretive raid on Amiens gaol that helped liberate the French prisoners contained within - the film tells the tale of an RAF squadron whose mission is to destroy the Chateau de Charlon in Northern France where the Nazis are currently developing new weapons based on the V-1 programme. Their mission to attack and destroy the Chateau and the missile installation with Barnes Wallis' bouncing bomb is thrown into jeopardy when the Nazis get wind of the RAF's intentions and transport RAF POW's to the Chateau in an attempt to deter them from the raid. One of those POW's just happens to be the previously presumed dead Squadron Leader David 'Scotty' Scott (David Buck), the lifelong friend of Squadron Leader Quint Monroe (David McCallum) whose comfort of Scotty's 'widow' Beth (Suzanne Neve), has seen a romance develop between the pair.

Rounding out the cast are Nicky Henson, Dinsdale Landen, Bryan Marshall, Vladek Sheybal and David Dundas (pictured above), before he found fame as a musician with his 1976 hit single 'Jeans On' and composed the score to Withnail and I. Dundas, the son of the 3rd Marquess of Zetland, is now Lord Dundas and made a fortune from his jingle 'Fourscore' which was the music over Channel 4's ident from its launch in 1982. It is said that he earned £3.50 from every play, raking in approximately £1000 per week for the ten years it was used. I doubt he misses acting all that much! Charles Gray also pops up for an elongated and mellifluous cameo as a genial Air Commodore with a steely, determined glint to his eye. 

Mosquito Squadron might be a bit cheap, it might be derivative, but it still has enough stirring drama to keep you mildly entertained whenever it pops up in the TV schedules as it did this weekend. Worth a watch, but by no means a classic of the genre. McCallum would go on to wear the RAF uniform more convincingly and with greater success in TV's Colditz just three years later.

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