MOSQUITO SQUADRON (1970)
DIRECTOR: Boris Sagal
David McCallum, Suzanne Neve, David Buck, David Dundas, Dinsdale Landen, Robert Urquhart, Charles Gray, and Vladek Sheybal.
The always-overrated David McCallum is one of the few good things in this low-budget World War II adventure piece, yet another quickie from Oakmont Films.
Sometime prior to D-Day – probably early ’44 or ’43 – a Mosquito Squadron is sent to bomb a V-1 rocket installation in France, when Squadron Leader Scott (David Buck) is shot down and presumed dead. His second-in-command, Quint Munroe (who just happens to be like a life-long brother to him) has to return to England and tell his beautiful blonde wife (Suzanne Neve) the sad news. As one would expect, Munroe and Mrs. Scott slowly fall in love. But when Munroe is chosen to lead a mission to bomb a new V-3 development center, things will chance quite a bit – because Scott is a prisoner held at the target fortress!
From start to finish, “Mosquito Squadron” is a total hack-job – literally. The story is filled with enough contrivances and clichés to drive any mildly serious critic mad. Let us take a brief look at a 1964 film entitled “633 Squadron”. In said film, a squadron commander has a best friend shot down over Norway, and falls in love with his sister. Later on, he is assigned to bomb the fortress where his friend is being held. Sound familiar? And that’s not all our title film steals! Virtually all of the aerial battle footage is directly lifted from “633 Squadron”, while the new footage is comprised almost entirely of horrible-looking miniatures hanging from far-too-visible wires.
The writers have also directly copied another classic war film, “The Dam Busters”. The feasibility of Munroe’s mission revolves around a bouncing bomb, which will skip along the ground and roll into an open tunnel leading to the V-3 rockets. (I won’t even mention how convenient it was to leave a big open tunnel to drop a bomb into). The real bouncing bomb (made famous in 1954’s “The Dam Busters”) was designed to skip on water to destroy Nazi dams – not the ground as is seen here! The idea of dropping a bouncing bomb on the ground is, simply, ludicrous and impossible. Introduction of this concept kills the storyline immediately.
The low budget shows up in every action sequence: the French resistance force is comprised of a half-dozen men in berets carrying Sten guns, and only a handful of German guards enforce security at the “fortress”. The forests are obviously cheaply furnished soundstages, and a face-off with an imitation German “tank” is ludicrously shot. We never really see much of the German-held Chateau, and when we do it never looks as though we’re inside some high-tech development center a la “Operation Crossbow”. The scenes set in England fare somewhat better, with some excellent scenes set at airfields and a rather rowdy officer’s club.
David McCallum and the cast of little-known English actors do a fair job, even though the no-frills script doesn’t give them much to do. McCallum is a fair actor, nowhere near as great as his fans hail him to be, though. He was better suited for television than cinema, and that comes out in every scene. He often looks uncomfortable and awkward, but delivers his often banal dialog convincingly and with conviction. His scenes with Neve are often touching, even though audiences have seen this dozens of times before. There aren’t any other actors worth mention among the ensemble, besides perhaps Charles Gray who would go on to play Blofeld in the James Bond film “Diamonds are Forever” a few years later.
Oakmont Productions financed a number of cheap British war films in the late 1960s and early 1970s: “Attack on the Iron Coast”, “Hell Boats”, “The Last Escape” and “The One Thousand Plane Raid” among them. These quickies were best suited for TV viewing instead of theatrical release, but United Artists picked them all up and put them on the big screen. Anyone expecting a classic here – or in any of the aforementioned pieces for that matter – is in for a big disappointment. Check out “633 Squadron” instead.
SGT. SLAUGHTER'S RATING:
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