Along with A Bridge Too Far, Guy Hamilton's 1969 WWII classic Battle Of Britain gets the Special Edition treatment, timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. With a stellar cast including Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier, and Christopher Plummer, this classic film tells the story of how, in the summer of 1940, the RAF overcame the might of the Luftwaffe in the skies over Britain.
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Produced in the late 60s, Battle For The Battle Of Britain blends a history lesson with behind-the-scenes footage, and your host is none other than Michael Caine - mutton chop sideburns and all! Given the sombre subject matter, this documentary can feel inappropriately kitsch, especially when Caine strolls down Carnaby Street and snaps at the camera: "Nowadays they talk about swinging London, but it wouldn't be very swinging, and there wouldn't be much London either, if it had'nah been for the courage of a few young pilots." Quite...
Then there's director Guy Hamilton. While on location, he talks about wanting to "make it fun" for his large cast of extras, but the plan works rather too well. In trying to capture the sheer terror of the Blitz, he's forced to issue a warning: "Anyone I see laughing will be sent home without pay!"
A Film For The Few is another 'making of' featurette, but this time a retrospective one in which Hamilton struggles to make an interesting point - a problem magnified by very loose editing.
Authenticity In The Air is a thin but engaging look at how Hamilton filmed those memorable airborne sequences. That is to say, Hamilton was on the ground most of the time, while his aerial unit director Garth Thomas and production manager Bernard Williams took to the skies with nary a care for health and safety. Williams recalls how, after getting his planes in formation, a squadron of bombers came shooting up through the clouds unexpectedly, prompting a "change of underwear" for everyone involved. Meanwhile, assistant director Paul Annett claims to have been nearly decapitated by low flying planes on two occasions.
Annett, Thomas, Williams, and Hamilton expand upon such tales of derring-do in a shared audio commentary, but you can also hear from a genuine war hero in Recollections Of An RAF Squadron Leader. It's not the tearjerker you'd expect, perhaps because flying a bomber affords a comfortable distance from ground-level horrors. Indeed, Squadron Leader Basil Stapleton admits his most vivid memories are of his nights off in London, clubbing and drinking - oh, and a Turkish bath and "massage before bedtime". War is hell...
The one feature that elevates this package of extras from the pits of the terminally average is the inclusion of Sir William Walton's original score, presented as an optional audio track. Rejected by studio bods in favour of Ron Goodwin's conventionally brassy fanfare, Walton's music boasts a uniquely spine-tingling mix of strings and trumpets. For fans of the film, that alone makes this Special Edition worth blowing your horn about.EXTRA FEATURES