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DVD SAVANT

Mosquito Squadron


Mosquito Squadron
MGM Home Entertainment
1968-70 / color / 1:66 letterboxed flat / 90 min. / Street Date May 20, 2003 / 14.95
Starring David McCallum, Suzanne Neve, Charles Gray, David Buck, David Dundas, Dinsdale Landen, Nicky Henson, Vladek Sheybal, Robert Urquhart
Cinematography Paul Beeson
Art Direction Bill Andrews
Special Effects Les Bowie
Film Editor John S. Smith
Original Music Frank Cordell
Written by Joyce Perry and Donald S. Sanford
Produced by Lewis J. Rachmil
Directed by Boris Sagal

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

A colorless aerial combat movie that plays like a television show, Mosquito Squadron is a hackneyed combo of The Dam Busters and The Great Escape. In this case one of them is presumed dead, so the remaining flier is free to romance his widow ... the same triangle that's been repeated in 4 out of 5 shows about pilots and their women since 1918. Naturally, the 'dead' pilot turns out to be alive and kicking.

Synopsis:

Squadron Leader David Scott (David Buck) is shot down and presumed killed while bombing V-1 launchers over France. His best friend Quint Munroe (David McCallum) takes over the Squadron and gets to know David's widow, Mrs. Beth Scott (Suzanne Neve) better. Air Commodore Hufford (Charles Gray) assigns Quint's group to attack a chateau supposedly being used to develop a V-3 or V-4 super-rocket. The men are eager to go on the dangerous mission, until the Germans drop a film on their base during an air raid. The film shows captured R.A.F. aircrews being held prisoner right on the site - including David Scott, the husband of the woman Quint is romancing!

More of a fast deal than a movie, Mosquito Squadron bundles washed-up TV star / wasted quality actor David McCallum with a trite script and some inadequate production values for a foolish retread of aviation clichés. Everyone from the director on down seems to be going through the motions, especially McCallum, who responds to every over-stated plot turn by refusing to change his facial expression. With the exception of Charles Gray, McCallum is the only name on the bill.

The best trouping comes from Suzanne Neve, who scored in British TV hits Dracula (1968; as Mina) and The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968; by Nigel Kneale) but didn't do much more than this film and 1970's Scrooge. She's somewhat remindful of Juliet Mills, and makes the best of scripting that requires her to make lovey-eyes at McCallum right after she's lost her husband. Boris Sagal's direction, which always focuses on the obvious with zooms and meaningful cutaways, is no help.

This is the kind of WW2 action movie where the commanders confide all their stragegy secrets to anyone who will listen, where captured German film is screened for more than just intelligence people, and officers question their orders while suggesting lame alternate battle plans based on their emotional responses. McCallum's squadron also feels entitled to apply standards of fairness and morality to their missions. It's pretty dreadful, as naive as what one would expect to find in a children's film, or a silent aviation melodrama.

The show appears to use some real test footage of Mosquito planes dropping pill-shaped 'bouncing bombs' on land, the same way that Avro Lancaster bombers dropped bouncing bombs on water to rupture strategic dams. Besides that, there are some shots of real Mosquito planes on the ground, but much of the flying footage seems to be recycled from 1964's 633 Squadron.  1

Even more shocking is the opening - an entire, easily-spotted three minutes from 1965's Operation Crossbow is spliced in practically un-altered for a pre-credits sequence. Maybe the film came up short, and the sequence was needed to pad it out.

Les Bowie's effects depicting a chateau being blown up are okay, but other moments are badly muffed. One miniature plane crash happens in front of a photo blow-up, and immediately betrays itself when the plane throws a big, inescapable shadow on the fake backdrop. It's an embarassment, the kind of thing done by a pro like Bowie only when he's given elaborate shots to do, with zero funding.

The big finale is one of those unlikely events that crop up in films of this kind: the planes attack their tunnel objective, holding a bomb in reserve to blow up a prison wall so that a horde of French resistance fighters can free the imprisoned fliers, who have already taken over the prison chapel, etc. It's all blocked, filmed and acted in fine TV-movie non-style. Could this have been a TV movie that got promoted to the screen? It's rated G, was completed in 1968 and released in 1970.


MGM's DVD of Mosquito Squadron is nicely transferred and encoded and looks very colorful, no matter how foolish things get. It's not been given 16:9 enhancement, even though it's in color and from 1968, again proving that there are no consistent criteria for DVD formats at MGM. An okay trailer (recycling mucho stock footage, getting grainier by the minute) is the only extra.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Mosquito Squadron rates:
Movie: Fair
Video: Good
Sound: Good
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 29, 2003


Footnote:

1. I chose this title to review because I've already seen 633 Squadron, which was actually harder to sit through. Cliff Robertson and George Chakiris are also Mosquito pilots with romantic problems, and endure a script just as silly as this one, with lots of terrible special miniature effects. It came out on DVD on May 20 alongside this retread.
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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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