Two examples of British Second World War films, We Dive at Dawn (1943) and Reach for the Sky (1956), are here stylishly packaged as a World War II Classics pack. We Dive at Dawn tells of the encounter between a British submarine and a German warship in the Baltic Sea. John Mills gives a dependable performance as the submarine commander, with Eric Portman the pick of a strong supporting cast. Director Anthony Asquith finds the balance between action sequences and "in situ" dialogue, and there's an evocative score from Louis Levy. The movie was an underrated film that... deserves reappraisal, whereas Reach for the Sky (1956) was a box-office hit and remains a fondly regarded classic. Kenneth More is ideally cast as Douglas Bader, the gifted pilot who loses both legs in a pre-war air crash, only to play a major role in the Battle of Britain, rise to the rank of Group Captain and become a war hero. Based on Paul Brickhill's biography, this is an "official" history maybe, but Lewis Gilbert's screenplay and direction are historically accurate and informed by that very British humour of which More was a natural. The film is graced by a decent supporting cast, and a typically "widescreen" score from John Addison. On the DVD: The black and white prints look and sound excellent. Whereas We Dive at Dawn has 4:3 video aspect ratio, 15 chapter points and no subtitles, the later Reach for the Sky has vivid 16:9 anamorphic reproduction, 20 chapter points, subtitles and detailed biographies of More, Gilbert and Barder. The original theatrical trailer is included, but it would also have made sense to include an interview or documentary footage of Bader himself. Even so, this is an excellent starting-point for investigating a key area of British cinema.--Richard Whitehouse [show more]
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