Last night we sat down to watch 'The Battle of Britain' (which is, in my opinion, one of the last truly great British WW2 films). If buying this it is worth getting hold of the 2 disc special edition DVD as the second disc comes packed with documentaries about the difficulty of filming the thing (which were vast), as well as interviews with people who were in the battle. The film has a huge big name cast, it's on a par with 'The Longest Day' and 'A Bridge too Far' for the number of 'A list' people in there. From a different era, but the 'Ocean's 11' and Ocean's 12' films pails in comparison when it comes to the cast.
It has Harry Andrews (of Ice Cold in Alex, possibly my favourite film), Michael Caine, Trevor Howard (from among other things, Brief Encounter), Curd JÃ¼rgens (who would later be in 'The Spy who Loved Me'), Ian 'Lovejoy/Deadwood' McShane, Kenneth 'Bader' More and Laurence Olivier. It had Robert Shaw (Jaws), Christopher Plummer (recently in Syriana, as well as providing a voice for San Andreas), Susannah York and Edward Fox . All the actors appeared for a flat day rate, as they really wanted to do this film.
The difficulties in the film were legion, they had their own fleet of spitfires, hurricanes, messerschmidts and the like, and filming a squadron of spitfires isn't easy. They used models from time to time when a plane blew up, or when planes no llonger existed (e.g. the Stukas). The film was made at a time where film technology allowed some tricks (a shot of the germans preparing for operation Sea Lion in a north French port, this was a matte painting), but it didn't allow too many, so what we're looking at is the 'real thing', or as near as can be done. In addition, there were still places which had not been repaired since World War 2, so the shots of London after a bombing actually showed London (they got in just before the area was bulldozed).
It had finance from Hollywood. Amusingly, this was acquired before the Hollywood execs realised that the Battle of Britain took place before the Americans joined the war - and this caused some difficulties!
If this film were made now, it'd be with computer graphics instead of real planes, and it would lose something for it, even as good as the graphics are now, there would be an unreality about it - a temptation to do impossible shots (e.g. going from a wide panorama in a dogfight down to a tight zoom on the eye of an actor) - and it would be the worse for it.