Mosquito Squadron Review

They certainly don't make films like this one anymore; and I suspect they didn't in 1968 either. A brief look at British films either in production or on release that years reveals the likes of If...., Women in Love, Witchfinder General, The Devil Rides Out, Performance and 2001 : A Space Odyssey, hardly films one would consider as peers to the strikingly old-fashioned Mosquito Squadron.

The plot testifies to this: WWII RAF pilot Quint (McCallum) is commanded to destroy a chateau in France where the enemy is creating a new destructive rocket. He has only ten days to train his men and complete the mission, whilst juggling a romantic sub-plot with the wife (Neve) of a crewman ("practically my best friend") whom they both believe to be dead.

Of course, in this type of yarn, the Nazis are always despicably (and two-dimensionally) evil, and so they have the aforementioned crewman (Bruce) held prisoner in the chateau, complicating the once straightforward bombing mission.

There isn't really a lot that can be said of films of this ilk; stockful of enough cliches to fuel an entire series of 'Allo 'Allo, the film is also so straight-laced that it doesn't even offer what would be best described as "guilty pleasures".

Boris Sagal doesn't help the situation; directing Mosquito Squadron in workman like fashion, there is little inspiration on offer. Relying primarily on the aerial sequences for anything approaching thrills (though they offer no improvement on William A. Wellman's 1929 Oscar-winner Wings), Sagal reduces the rest of the plot to soap-operatics, magnifying even the tiniest gestures with abrupt zooms and overwrought close-ups.

The cast (with one exception) prove equally uninspired, amongst the non-descript RAF men, as well as numerous Germans and members of the French underground - who seem to be there primarily as something to aim the bullets at, McCallum comes across as exceptionally flat. Supposedly playing a man as cold as steel, he simply underplays the part hoping this will give his character some integrity; instead, he becomes virtually non-existent. Always best in supporting roles (The Great Escape being the prime example), it would appear that McCallum only gained the role owing to his The Man From U.N.C.L.E. connections, rather than someone better suited, a John Mills or Kenneth More, for example. This situation becomes ever more apparent when one realises that Sagal directed McCallum in a number as U.N.C.L.E. episodes, as well as spin-off movie The Helicoptor Spies.

The one exception I mentioned is Charles Gray, who works wonders with such limited material. As the air commodore who cares more about the mission than his men, Gray spits out each line as if he were still playing the Bond villain. A larger than life performer, he shows himself to be the only redeeming feature that Mosquito Squadron has to offer.

The Disc

Picture and Sound

Presented in the original ratio of 1.66:1 (non-anamorphic, though that is never a problem with this aspect), the picture veers wildy between clean and scratchy-as-hell. The problem mainly resides in the second unit work and stock footage, but as the film uses this for a fair percentage of the running time, the constant change in quality proves distracting.

Audio on the other hand is the original two-channel mono and offers no discernible problems. Both the dialogue and explosions come through just fine.

Special Features

Limited, as many MGM back catalogue titles are, to just the original theatrical trailer, this does at least serve to show how clean the main picture's image is in the non-action scenes.

Conclusion

A simple film on a simple disc, and one I suspect purely for the war film completist. Although there is, admittedly, a slight fascination to be found in a film made around the time of The Dirty Dozen and MASH, yet harks back to the more innocent days of The Dambusters and The Colditz Story. Whether this fascination extends to a purchase however is hardly debatable.

Film
3 out of 10
Video
5 out of 10
Audio
5 out of 10
Extras
1 out of 10
Overall

3

out of 10

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