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The Dam Busters: Special Anniversary Edition [UK Release] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English Mono PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Region: B
  • Classification: U
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Optimum Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 14, 2010
  • RRP: £19.99

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

Films about World War II make up one of the most popular genres on the big screen. That time in our history continues to fascinate filmmakers to this day, from the recent Tarantino remake of Inglorious Basterds to HBO network’s current mini-series The Pacific, the popularity of the stories covering that violent and bloody war never seem to wane.

The quantity of these films seemed to have peeked in the 1940’s and 50’s and that is exactly when this British film was made. The Dam Busters is a 1955 film based on the true story of the RAF 617 Squadron and their top-secret mission to blow up the Möhne dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.

The mission required the invention of an entirely new weapon, the famous “bouncing bomb,” that needed to be dropped over water from 60feet. It was invented by Barnes Wallis, who fought a lot of resistance to his plan within the military and British government before getting the final go ahead to develop the weapon.

A new multinational allied squadron of highly skilled pilots had to be assembled to carry out the mission, to be led by the young Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

The film follows the invention and testing of the weapon by Barnes Wallis, played charmingly by Michael Redgrave, the training of 617 Squadron and lastly the dangerous mission into the Ruhr Valley. Richard Todd portrays Wing Commander Guy Gibson and imparts much courage, authority, and maturity to the character.

As an aside to those who have never seen The Dam Busters before, this film was produced long before the age of political correctness and as such there is a black dog with a particularly offensive name. The name is left very much intact, so be warned.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The Dam Busters arrives with a wonderful 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoding of its original black and white 1.37:1 aspect ratio from Optimum that looks amazingly detailed, clear and clean for its age. Noise and film grain seem to have been somewhat tempered, but there’s enough grain there for a good, film-like presentation. Shadow delineation is nicely extended and blacks are obsidian and stable throughout the film. There are of course still instances of source damage that can be seen, but that is to be expected and they do not harm the overall presentation in anyway.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The sound is presented in its original monaural soundtrack in a 2.0 configuration, presented here as a PCM (48kHz/24-bit) track. Dialogue is sufficiently clear and intelligible and there’s a surprising amount of rumble when the airplane engines start to rev.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

The Dam Busters was previously released on Blu-ray in a barebones package that contained no extras whatsoever. This Anniversary Edition could hardly be considered a windfall of supplements as it adds only one special feature, presented by renowned historian Max Arthur, author of The Dam Busters: An Oral History, the documentary Dambusters: 617 Squadron Remember (1.78:1; 1080i/50) wherein surviving members of the 617 Squadron reminisce on their famous mission.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

The Dam Busters is one of the classic war films and it documents a true event in the history of the Second World War. It has been brought to life again in a brilliant remaster from Optimum on Blu-ray. This Anniversary Edition isn’t exactly loaded with extras, but it is nice to have the companion documentary to go along with the film nonetheless.

Additional Screen Captures:

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