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Guy Hamilton
Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier, Harry Andrews, Trevor Howard, Curd Jürgens, Ian McShane, Kenneth More, Nigel Patrick, Christopher Plummer, Michael Redgrave
Writing Credits:
Wilfred Greatorex, James Kennaway

Featuring a "big stellar cast!" (Variety), including Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Susannah York and Edward Fox, Battle of Britain is a spectacular retelling of a true story that shows courage at its inspiring best. Few defining moments can change theioutcome of a war, but when the outnumbered Royal Air Force defied insurmountable odds in engaging the German Luftwaffe, they may well have altered the course of history!

Box Office:
$12 million.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English/German DTS-HD MA 5.1
English/German Monaural
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 6/3/2008

• Alternate Score


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Battle Of Britain [Blu-Ray] (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 22, 2015)

According to the old DVD case for Battle of Britain, “when the outnumbered Royal Air Force defied insurmountable odds in engaging the German Luftwaffe, they may well have altered the course of history!” That may sound like marketing hyperbole, but in truth, it strikes pretty close to the mark.

After running rampant over continental Europe, the Nazis wanted to soften Britain and take them out of the fight. They attempted this via their aircraft, and that topic provides the focus of 1969’s Battle.

Battle starts with the struggles of pilots who fight the Nazis in continental Europe. However, they quickly find that their cause there is essentially lost, so as requested by Air Chief Marshal Dowding (Laurence Olivier), the Brits decide to reserve their air forces at home in preparation for an anticipated assault by the Germans.

Soon Churchill declares the end of the fight in France and the start of the Battle of Britain. Baron von Richter (Curt Jurgens) officially states to Sir David Kelly (Ralph Richardson) that the Germans will stay away from England if the Brits grant them free reign in Europe, but given the cowardly nature of such a choice – and the worthlessness of Nazi promises – the Brits refuse. Von Richter declares that they’ll have their way anyway, and this sets the stage for a fight.

The rest of the movie follows those actions. Short on pilots, we see training exercises meant to get any warm bodies the RAF can find into the air.

Eventually we reach “Eagle Day”, the occasion designated by the Nazis to smash the RAF on the ground. They bomb the airfields, and at one point, some German pilots accidentally attack London. This leads to Brit reprisals in Berlin, and that inflames Hitler. He increases the intensity of the war and plans to raze the British capital to the ground.

As the movie points out, this was a big mistake. In fact, along with the timing of the German assault on the Soviet Union, the attack on London stands as one of Hitler’s biggest gaffes. The war in London overextended the German air force and made them easier picking for the Brits. It also solidified the resolve of the already steely Brits.

There’s a great story to be found in the actions of 1940, but Battle isn’t it. A lot of this stems from a bad case of “big movie-itis”. Battle tosses out an enormous roster of famous actors. In addition to those already mentioned, it includes folks like Robert Shaw, Christopher Plummer, Laurence Olivier, Susannah York and Michael Caine. One after another, it almost totally wastes them.

That’s because director Guy Hamilton can’t quite figure out how to develop the personal stories. Hamilton remains best known as the leader of Bond flicks like Goldfinger, and within its world of fantasy, he proved successful.

Unfortunately, Battle requires depth in its characters and the treatment of them as real people. The film flits so abruptly from one role to another that we never get a sense of any personalities. They come and go without much rhyme or reason, and they never develop into genuine people.

The relationship between Plummer and York gets the most focus, and that makes it the least satisfying. Their interaction always remains trite and superficial. A movie like this needs to have some sort of human element, but Battle fails to bring off those areas in any satisfying way.

The segments that show the German perspective don’t fare any better. These really don’t make a lot of sense. They don’t elaborate on the Nazi side well, but they appear frequently enough that they bog down the story. Perhaps if Hamilton more heavily ignored the German viewpoint – which adds nothing to the film anyway – he’d have had more time to develop his British characters. As it stands, neither section becomes satisfying.

Does Battle at least deliver some compelling action? Occasionally, but much of the time, even those sections fall flat. That stems largely from the awkward pacing of the movie.

With all those badly developed character moments, the action sequences tend to lack urgency or commitment. Hamilton seems more interested in showing us extended shots of planes as they fall from the sky than in creating briskly paced action. He rarely demonstrates the scope or passion of the fight. We’re told how important all this is to the Brits, but we rarely feel it.

One exception occurs toward the end of the movie. The film’s climax effectively removes all audio elements except for the score. This could become melodramatic, but instead, the absence of dialogue and effects focuses the action. It makes the sequence fairly poignant and tight.

Unfortunately, that segment remains a rare shining moment in an otherwise fairly dull movie. The history of World War II fascinates me, and I hoped to find an exciting examination of Battle of Britain here. However, the result seems like little more than a plodding, big budget event movie with no passion behind it.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio A-/ Bonus D+

Battle of Britain appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer came with some prominent problems.

Sharpness mostly seemed solid. A few wide shots appeared slightly soft and ill defined, but these occurred infrequently. Most of the movie was pretty well defined and concise. I noticed no issues related to jagged edges or shimmering, but edge enhancement was a different matter. Moderate haloes showed up consistently throughout the movie, and these created some notable distractions.

Print flaws were infrequent. I noticed a few specks but otherwise found this to be a clean presentation.

Colors mainly came across well. The tones were natural and concise, though they occasionally looked a bit dense. Still, most of the hues appeared fairly accurate and well defined. I didn’t expect a broad palette for a movie that focused on wartime Britain, and the hues followed those lines.

Black levels were pretty deep and tight, while low-light shots seemed reasonably detailed and firm. Much of the image looked fairly good, but the persistent edge haloes knocked down my grade to a “C”.

In addition to the film’s original Dolby Digital monaural audio, the Blu-ray provided a modern DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. I regard these remixes with suspicion, as most of them don’t improve on their sources. That wasn’t the case here, though, as the new 5.1 track was excellent.

The audio opened up the spectrum well. Usually 5.1 remixes maintain a modest focus, but this one was notably more ambitious. All the flying and combat sequences were strong. The planes and bullets zipped around the room with surprising smoothness and believability, and they helped create an involving setting. Music also demonstrated excellent stereo definition.

Audio quality was positive. Speech came across as a bit thin but it remained consistently intelligible and lacked issues connected to edginess.

Effects appeared reasonably accurate. Except for the moderate rumble of plane engines, they didn’t present much range or heft, but they were clean and without prominent distortion. Low-end was very good during these louder sequences.

Speaking of solid audio, the score sounded terrific. The music was always bright and lively, as it boasted excellent clarity and dynamics. We don’t usually hear audio this fine for older flicks, but I felt impressed with this 5.1 remix and thought it earned an “A-“.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the Collector’s Edition DVD from 2006? The lossless audio seemed a bit peppier, while visuals showed improved definition.

Though not to the degree I’d hoped, unfortunately. I’d bet the Blu-ray came from the same transfer as the 2006 DVD – both showed similar strengths and weaknesses. The Blu-ray fared better solely due to the format’s superior potential, but the movie could use a new transfer – preferably one without all those awful edge haloes.

While the DVD linked above included copious extras, the Blu-ray brings back only one: an altenate soundtrack. This Dolby Digital 5.1 version presents William Walton’s original music for the flick as part of the movie soundtrack. This creates something of an alternate version of the film, since you can see how it would have worked with Walton’s score. The quality of the audio isn’t as good as during the main 5.1 mix, but this is still an interesting option.

Something like Battle of Britain should have been right up my alley. Unfortunately, the film skimped on excitement and concentrated too much on spectacle and thinly drawn characters. The Blu-ray provides strong audio but comes with erratic visuals and almost no supplements. Fans should stick with the 2006 Collector’s Edition DVD, as the Blu-ray’s minor upgrades don’t seem significant enough to compensate for the absence of so many bonus features.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of BATTLE OF BRITAIN