BFI shows off Dam Buster stills

The British Film Institute has revamped its stills website, so that it now displays many more items from its collection. The first thing I searched for was, of course, The Dam Busters, where there are 24 items including most of the well known film stills and posters.

What is still missing, however, are those extra unused stills from cinematographer Erwin Hillier’s personal collection which turned up a couple of years ago, on which I reported at the time.


Unseen stills from ‘The Dam Busters’ film

Over on the Classic British Flight Sim forum (yes, there is such a thing!) member Trevor Clark has posted a wonderful find:

Whilst installing an internet connection at a friend’s house this morning, she asked if I was interested in seeing ‘aircraft photos’ she came across in a box of old photos.
What she showed me, will all be scanned and put up on the internet!!!
Her uncle was Erwin Hillier, the director of photography on the 1954 Dambusters film (as well as many other famous films).
The photographs are wonderful 8×10 B/W production stills, about 20 odd of them… I am not sure if they have ever been in the public domain before??

Calypsos is right. He has now posted all the pictures and I don’t think some have been seen since the 1950s, as they don’t appear to be in the BFI’s collection.

The picture above is particularly fascinating to me, as it shows the ‘crew’ of aircraft AJ-J (played by unnamed extras, who may have been real life RAF servicemen) standing behind actor George Baker, in the role of Flt Lt David Maltby, my uncle. This scene doesn’t appear in the final cut of the film. It would be fascinating to know if any unseen sequences of film remain — no special extras kept for the DVD release in those days!

Erwin Hillier is a giant in 20th century British cinematography, although his name is largely unknown to the general public, and it was his skill, along with that of director Michael Anderson and writer R C Sherriff, which made The Dam Busters such an iconic piece of cinema. I will be writing more about him another time.

UPDATE November 2014: Link to pictures updated. Click here.