Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

One of Our Aircraft is Missing

(UK, 1942)

I’ve always like British movies from WWII better than American ones. Ours are always relentlessly gung-ho, I guess because that’s how we built morale in 1940s America. The Brits always go the other way. They understate it all, with droll wit and “Do duck your head, old chap!” “Oh, I say, thanks, you old thing!” sang-froid. Here we have the story of a crew of six on a bombing mission to Stuttgart. Their plane is disabled and they have to bail out. The scenes on the plane are very tense and claustrophobic, extremely well done. Then they get on the ground in Holland and can relax a bit, with typical British calm. They are smuggled out of the country right under the noses of the damn Nazis, by the resourceful Dutch Resistance. My hat is off to undergrounds everywhere. It takes real nerve to sabotage the new rulers who are occupying your country, at least as much as it takes to be a soldier, maybe more.

The film is unusual as it has no musical score at all. It’s hardly needed, in my opinion. The directors were the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, both of whom had big careers later on, but it’s more remarkable to me because of names further down in the credits: edited by David Lean, cinematography by Ronald Neame, who just died in 2010, age 99! It is also the first film appearance of Peter Ustinov, who has a small part as a Dutch priest.