26th Sep2017

‘Dunkirk (1958)’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Lee, Robert Urquhart, Ray Jackson, Ronald Hines, Sean Barrett, Roland Curram, Meredith Edwards, Michael Bates, Maxine Audley, Lionel Jeffries | Written by David Divine, W.P. Lipscomb | Directed by Leslie Norman


While this year’s Dunkirk brought an intensity to the screen conveying the horrors of what was experienced by the soldiers at Dunkirk, there was a version of that same story that was released back in 1958. Now digitally restored and available on DVD and Blu-ray, this Dunkirk is an interesting look at how the true events affected many people.

When Nazi Germany invaded France, the British army found themselves in retreat. Making their way to Dunkirk which was the only means of escape, Operation Dynamo was put into action to get the soldiers out of France and home.

What is interesting about this version of Dunkirk is the fact it is a darker look at the events than you would expect. Not only do we see the evacuation attempts themselves, but the events leading up to the British being forced to take the action.

From the British army not believing France would fall, to the normal person on the street thinking that the war would not last, what we see in Dunkirk isn’t a jingoistic celebration of the Allied Powers winning the war. This is a look at the kind of events that pushed the British to take action, that led to the resigning of Chamberlain, and led to the using of any boat available to get the soldiers home.

For the audience to get a feeling of the situation, we are provided different viewpoints. There is Charles Foreman (Bernard Lee) a reporter who gains information about the war, and knows the government are not revealing enough details. There is also John Holden (Richard Attenborough) a man who profits off the war but doesn’t believe in the true danger. Most importantly we have Corporal ‘Tubb’ Binns (John Mills) who with his group of soldiers have to make their way through the French countryside till they finally make it to Dunkirk.

Watching Foreman and Holden realising the seriousness of the war, and taking part in the evacuation of the soldiers shows the scale of Dunkirk. Attenborough especially is very good in showing the changes in his character, who battles his own reluctance to go into battle to save the soldiers who needed help. The fact he is called a “soldier” in the end is symbolic of what the people on the boats had to do to get to the soldiers.

While this version of Dunkirk doesn’t have the modern-day tricks to create the full horrors of war, it still does a very good job in what it used. Real army footage, and the use of actual army soldiers gave the film a feeling of authenticity. There is no attempt to hide the reluctance of the British navy too to send their boats to save the soldiers, when they were seen to have more important jobs.

Ealing Studios created a film with Dunkirk that both managed to be uplifting, but also eye-opening in the truths of Dunkirk and the way World War 2 was handled. This is what makes the film interesting to watch, because of the time it was made. It is also a film that highlights what the French went through too, and the fight they made to help the British escape.

For people who love classical movies, Dunkirk is one to watch. It also remains relevant for those who see the new movie and want to see a more fleshed out version of events. With a level of authenticity that is surprisingly truthful, even about the mishandling of events by the British, Dunkirk is a classic that is well worth revisiting.

****½  4.5/5

Dunkirk is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

Comments are closed.