633 SQUADRON lifts off with with a super-thrilling Main Title theme from Ron Goodwin: that rousing music, complementing some exciting flying scenes using vintage Mosquito fighter-bombers is the films strongest attribute.
Cliched story concerns an RAF squadron undertaking a suicidal mission up a Norwegian fjord to get at a factory that will ‘imperil D-Day’—that sort of wicket. Scotland doubles for Norway and the air action and up-a-fjord piloting inspired George Lucas in his famous ‘Death Star run’ at the conclusion of Star Wars. Lucas’ movie was years (yes, light years) ahead in terms of special effects, as too many of those used in this 1964 effort are laughably obvious models.
Cliff Robertson leads the raid, in his typical stoic fashion. Aviation enthusiast Robertson did as much WW2 movie war-winning as John Wayne, appearing in nine pictures about the conflict (Robertson did serve in the Merchant Marine during the war). Co-star George Chakiris, still trying to gain some traction after West Side Story (no luck with either Kings of the Sun or Flight From Ashiya ) is wooden here, and his jet-black Greek hair doesn’t exactly scream ‘Scandinavia’, especially next to his ‘sister’, played by Austrian blond bombshell Maria Perschy. She’s pleasing to look at, but her delivery has even less zip than her ‘brother’ George.
In stalwart support is a standard gallery of stiff-upper-lip Brits—Harry Andrews, Michael Goodlife, Donald Houston, Angus Lennie, John Meillon: these guys could crew this mission in their sleep.
Directed by Walter Grauman (bomber pilot in the war), with James Clavell doing script-duty, the 102-minute saga has more appeal to aviation buffs than for the average viewer. Made for $1,300,000, this do-or-die mission returned $1,700,000 in the States, where it landed at #59 for the year, and was quite popular in Britain.
The movies final line, supposed to be inspiring— “You can’t kill a squadron“—especially one that’s just been wiped out. Anyway, that theme music is sensational.