Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 26 August 2012
The Dam Busters
The bad weather and financial situation doesn't seem to be putting off tourists to Bath right now. This was the view from the window of our compact but adorable city apartment early yesterday afternoon.
About 20 minutes later, it bucketed down with rain. I don't think I have seen larger single rain drops fall out of the sky before. Oh all right, I'll come clean - this was the crowd that came to watch the carrying of the Paralympic Games flame, and the 'Rio' style carnival that followed close behind. Those drummers looked pretty wet by the end, and some head-dresses actually melted.
Last night, we watched the film, 'The Dam Busters' on DVD. It has been years since I saw it last, and was amazed at how good it was - so much better than many of the other 1940s and 50s propaganda films.
Since the very term 'Dam Busters' has become a nostalgic, British, patriotic feel-good phrase since 1945, and the very theme tune is always used to stir up the spirit of the Blitz, I wondered why the actual movie is not shown more often than it is, and why you almost never see it on the shelves of video stores.
For a start, Bomber Command have - because of the arbitrary nature of even their accurate raids - always been a bit of a necessary but guilt-ridden branch of the RAF. The Dresden and Hamburg fire bombs of 'Bomber Harris' and Churchill ethically split the post-war nation down the middle. This would not have happened in the USA, when the pilots of the plane which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima regularly went on TV to say that they would do the same thing all over again, should they be asked to do so.
It has taken Bomber Command about 70 years to get it's own memorial to honour the thousands of casualties, such was the general feeling of disgust at the inevitable effects of bombing raids, whether justified or not.
This portrayal of the two Dam Buster raids fails to mention the thousands of lives lost to drowning when the two dams were breached that night, and you cannot really blame them, since the picture was made in 1954, and Britain was still suffering from the after effects of all the German raids. The object of the dam-raids was to disable the German war-machine in any event, and the casualties were simply a by-product of their success.
Oh, and the other factor which makes this film almost unshowable in the modern world is that the Wing Commander who leads the raids has a black Labrador called 'Nigger' - a common name for black dogs in those days, and not a lot to do with an insulting term for human beings.
The dog gets run down by a car just before take off, so Winco code-names the two dam targets 'Nigger One' and 'Nigger Two', in memory of his beloved pooch. It would be simply unfeasible to over-dub the word with something more acceptable to modern ears, as well as being historically inaccurate, so I guess this was the final nail in the coffin of the film, until things calm down a bit and we can dig it up again without fear of offence.