Mosquito Squadron
U.K. / 1970
Directed by Boris Sagal
Starring
David McCallum
Suzanne Neve
Charles Gray
Color / 90 Minutes / G
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
MGM Home Entertainment
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
2
    5   10 = Highest Rating  
A couple of times each year I review a war film for EC, even though according to conventional wisdom they're not truly cult movies. Why? Well, for one thing, as a history buff I like a good military drama. They typically appeal to your average action movie fan. Also (and more to the point), I believe that in some circumstances such films can be classified under the rubric of 'cult' if they deal with rarely explored subject matter, as with The Battle of El Alamein's focus on Italian troops in Rommel's North Africa campaign. 1970's Mosquito Squadron is not very good at all, nor does it cover untrodden ground, though it does have links to the broader cult universe by virtue of its director and a few of the actors.
    Mainly I just wanted to slam it after plunking down $11 at Best Buy — on impulse — only to find out I'd purchased a real turd.
    Spring 1944, shortly before the Normandy invasion... A flight of RAF Mosquito fighter-bombers makes a fast, low level strike against German V-1 "Flying Bomb" launching sites in the Pas de Calais. The aircraft piloted by squadron commander David "Scotty" Scott (David Buck) is jumped by Luftwaffe fighters and shot down. There was no time for anyone aboard to safely bail out. With Scott presumed killed in action, command of the squadron passes to his best buddy, Quint Munroe (The Man from UNCLE's David McCallum). Also falling to Munroe is the unpleasant duty of giving Scott's parents and wife Beth (Suzanne Neve) the grim news. Succumbing to one of the hoariest, most overused war movie clich้s possible, Munroe and Beth find mutual comfort in each other's arms and hesitantly fall in love. Meanwhile, the RAF brass has a tough new assignment for Munroe and his squadron. Intelligence has identified an estate in France, the Chateau de Charlon, as the site of a secret Nazi laboratory developing an improved, longer-range version of the deadly (and unstoppable) V-2 missile. The lab is buried deep underground and accessible only from a camouflaged bunker located near the main building. Munroe and his boys are given just ten days to perfect a technique for lobbing special "bouncing" bombs directly through the bunker's entrance; it's the only way the lab can be destroyed. The squadron is in the midst of rigorous training for the mission when a German fighter buzzes their airfield, dropping a canister of film. It is a warning. The film shows captured RAF flyers being moved to the chateau grounds and housed there as human shields. By bombing Charlon the British will kill scores of their own countrymen. Making things even worse for Munroe, his pal Scotty — whose widow he's been lovin' on — appears on the German film alive and well. Munroe is ordered by his superiors not to tell the men of the squadron about the POWs at the chateau. Air Commodore Hufford (Charles Gray of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Diamonds Are Forever) gives the green light for the mission regardless of friendly casualties. But what about Beth? How can he not tell her that her husband isn't dead?
    Zzzzzzzzzz....
    While the romantic subplot's done-to-death clichés are bad enough they're really not the worst of the film's sins. Produced very cheaply,
Mosquito Squadron relies heavily on footage taken from other movies for its best moments. The entire pre-titles sequence, detailing a V-1 attack on London, is lifted lock, stock and barrel from Operation Crossbow (1965). Aerial scenes involving actual WWII-era DeHavilland Mosquitos, as well as many of the special effects shots, are snipped straight from 1964's 633 Squadron (which, by the way, is also saddled with a real groaner of a love story). Ditto for clips of German flak batteries blazing away at the raiding "Mossies". The few FX sequences created specifically for Mosquito Squadron are downright terrible, with what looks like toy planes suspended from fishing poles and aircraft models that cast shadows on the sky just before they auger into the ground! The producers should've realized that when the best parts of a film actually come from other films, well... one might as well hang it up. (They obviously just didn't care.)
    Director Boris Sagal (The Omega Man) helms with all the verve and panache of your average TV movie of the week. David McCallum, who successfully transitioned from '60s teen idol to solid character actor (mostly in television productions), is a bland and uninvolving lead here, for the most part expressionless. The anachronistic haircuts don't help matters, either — McCallum sports his Ilya Kuryakin/Beatles 'do even though this is supposed to be WWII. French resistance fighters, who figure in the film's climax (Munroe devises a simultaneous ground assault by partisans to rescue the POWs), look even more 'Hollywood' than the purposefully clichéd maquis of the Airplane!-style comedy Top Secret. It's a wonder they aren't brandishing baguettes instead of Sten guns and Schmeissers.

This is your typical MGM budget release so you get a generally good-looking anamorphic transfer of the film, in its original aspect ratio (1.66:1), with a solid mono audio track. The original theatrical trailer — emphasizing explosions and aerial action while downplaying the sudsy romantic stuff — is included as an extra. 4/17/05

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