Dam Busters, The (1955)

The Dam Busters (1955), directed by Michael Anderson.

Based on a true story: the development and use of bouncing bombs that skimmed across the water to breach hydroelectric dams on the Ruhr River. It was -- astonishingly -- a successful mission, although with heavy losses for the air crews.

Largely a tale of two men: the boffin who conceives, designs and builds the bomb, and the Wing Commander who trains and leads the crews on the mission.

Almost a documentary in the first half, it builds to intense excitement. The attack on the Deathstar in Star Wars (1977) is a quote of the bombing runs on the dams.

It is an old-style war film. All stout fellows, eager to get to the mission, without second thoughts. The regrets come afterward when they count the losses.

WW2 was rich with these techno-adventures. Both Churchill and Hitler were enthusiastic for super-weapons of the future. In movies, the scientist-soldier would evolve into Quatermass characters after the war.

The wikipedia article has notes on the rather good historical accuracy. Lots of real aircraft and gear in use. Some of the bad special effects were required because the unmodified film footage was still classified!

Early glimpses of Robert Shaw and Patrick McGoohan.

The commander's dog was a black Labrador called "Nigger". The name causes heads to explode these days, but the dog was loved by everyone on base and was apparently a common name for black dogs in England then. The dog was hit by a car and killed just before the mission: his funeral became a bit of juju for their success.

At one time Peter Jackson was interested in a remake; I don't know if that is still on.

Finally: those going on a mission can have bacon and eggs. All others get toast and jam.