The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mosquito Squadron

For four seasons in the mid 1960s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. aired on NBC, pairing Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as two secret agents solving everything espionage could offer. By 1968 though, the show had been cancelled, leaving both actors to pursue other endeavors. Besides The Great Escape (made before UNCLE) and his recent starring turn in N.C.I.S., I haven't seen much else with McCallum. Let's jump into 1969's Mosquito Squadron.

Flying on a dangerous mission to knock out German rocket emplacements, Lt. Quint Munroe (McCallum), sees his friend and squadron commander, David Scott (David Buck), shot down in helping accomplish the mission. As he himself struggles with the loss of his friend, Munroe must also tell Scott's wife, Beth (Suzanne Neve), about her husband's death. In telling her though, he realizes he's had feelings for his longtime friend's now-widow. Dealing with some inner turmoil as he decides what to do, Munroe is also tasked with a new, far more dangerous and even more important mission. The Germans' efforts to develop a more powerful rocket is far underway, and the French underground has discovered where the Germans are building the rockets. Using a bomb with specifications suited for the mission, Munroe must lead a small squadron to knock out the place. There's more though. Scotty isn't dead, and he and other Allied prisoners are being used as a human shield near the bombing site.

Made on the relative cheap in the late 1960s, this WWII flick from director Boris Sagal is made in the vein of similar flicks like Battle of Britain, 633 Squadron and plenty of other aerial combat stories. Check that, it's not just made in the vein of those movies. It actually borrows quite liberally from those, even using footage from '633' and Operation Crossbow rather extensively. The pre-credits sequence is almost entirely from 'Crossbow', and significant amounts of aerial footage sprinkled in throughout are from '633.' I've long said a cheap, low-budget isn't a dealbreaker by any means, but there's got to be something better (even a little distracting) to overcome the cheapness. Mosquito just doesn't have it in a dull 89-minute flick.

Aerial combat is a frequent, worthy and entertaining background for countless war movies. Unfortunately, that's not enough for this cheapie B-movie. In an already too slow story, far too much time is spent on the taboo relationship between McCallum's Quint and Neve's Beth. Oh no! He loves her, but he can't! His dead friend wouldn't stand for it! It's his widow! The tortured relationship is painful enough to watch in the right hands, but this one lacks any sort of chemistry, realism or sympathy. This is DULL to watch. How many times can we watch Quint and Beth riding around on bikes in the English countryside? Having a picnic? Looking tortured and adoringly into each others' eyes? I'll let you find out for yourself.

Playing the moody, emotional, troubled officer, McCallum is all right as long as the story focuses on his aerial combat involvement. At least then when we see he's struggling with the death of his friend, it seems legit. For a movie about a "Squadron," very little attention is paid to Quint's men, Nicky Henson playing his co-pilot Wiley, Michael McGovern and Michael Latimer as two other pilot specialists training. Charles Gray and Dinsdale Landen play RAF superiors, officers who must send men on dangerous missions where chances of survival is slim. Credit and/or kudos to the script because virtually none of the characters are sympathetic, interesting or even connect with us as an audience.

The only saving grace for 'Mosquito' is the final 30 minutes as Quint and Co. take part in their dangerous mission to slow down the German rocket development effort, hidden away at a heavily guarded French chateau. Quint and his pilots (just the 3 of them) will drop their special bouncing bombs, the RAF will fly cover, the French resistance will lead an attack, and the P.O.W.'s used as a human shield will attempt a dangerous escape, all of this happening at the same time. Schizo much? It's an ending that's all over the place, but relative to the rest of the movie's general boring-ness, it's a great ending. Not enough to save the movie on the whole, but enough to save it from the drecks of the one-star review.

Mosquito Squadron (1969): **/****

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