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Journal of No. 118

May 24th, 2005

Political Metaphors, Mad Dogs and Englishmen @ 09:33 am

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I had a late-night epiphany that seems less amazing in the cold light of day (how often I have that feeling!).
I was thinking of political metaphors, starting with Teddy Roosevelt who advised one to "speak softly but carry a big stick".
Reagan modified this to "speak crazy and carry a board with a nail in it large enough to destroy us all".
W has moved on to "speak stupid, and when stung by a bee, swing your big stick at every beehive and anthill you come across, even if it's not on your property."

I watched The Dam Busters last night. A British WWII film about their ludicrous plan of blowing up German dams by dropping, at night, exactly 425 yards from the target and at 220 mph and an altitude of 60 feet(!), 5-ton backspun spherical bombs on the water and letting them skip off the surface until they knocked against the dam and sank until the pressure fuse set them off.
The insane thing is that some of them actually worked, and two dams were destroyed. A further horrifying detail is that to pull off this insane stunt, they called in the best British and Canadian bomber flyers (most with more than 60 bomber raids under their belts) to form the squadron. Almost half of them never made it back from this one mission.
The movie's a bit creaky with age and British-production values, but it's a good movie apart from a rather overlong second act. There are a number of interesting things about it.
#1: It was made soon enough after the war that when the filmmakers want to show some Lancaster bombers flying 60 feet above hilly ground, they got some Lancaster bombers and filmed them flying 60 feet above hilly ground. The best special effect is no special effect; just seeing those planes in flight looks great.
#2: It's neat to see Michael Redgrave about halfway between "The Lady Vanishes" and "Mr. Chips". He does a great job as the befuddled inventor responsible for the scheme.
#3: This, as I suspected, is the film used in Pink Floyd's The Wall where you see occasional scenes relating to the black labrador, Nigger.
#4: The night raid on the dams is the obvious inspiration for the X-wing raid on the Death Star. Just substitute a British "Steady" for "Stay on target". Even their method of crossed spotlights to get the right altitude is reminiscent of the targeting computer. Credit for all of that can be laid to Gil Taylor, who not only worked behind the camera on both films, but was himself a bomber cameraman for the RAF during the war.
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Date:May 24th, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC)
I saw a History Channel documentary on the dam bombings, but not the original film you saw. Still pretty amazing/insane.

Journal of No. 118