Castles in the Sky

Synopsis: It is the mid-1930s and the storm clouds of WWII are forming in Germany. This film charts the work of Robert Watson Watt, the pioneer of Radar, and his hand-picked team of eccentric yet brilliant meteorologists as they struggle to turn the concept of Radar into a workable reality. Hamstrung by a tiny budget, seemingly insurmountable technical problems and even a spy in the camp, Watson Watt also has to deal with marital problems as he chases his dream. By 1939, Watson Watt and his team have developed the world's first Radar system along the south east coast of England - a system that, in 1940, will prove pivotal in winning the Battle of Britain.
Director(s): Gillies MacKinnon
  2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
90 min


One, two, three.


Ah, that's equal!

One, two, three.

That's you! Ah, that's good.

What's this here?

Uncle Robert!

Making the invisible visible!

Lunch is ready.

Ah! Perfect!

Thank you, Auntie Margaret.

Ah. What's going on here?

Making invisible things appear.

And then disappear, like sandwiches.

No-one comes in,

even if the building's on fire.


This shows the Germans are working

night and day,

so if tensions should rise

and if conflict...

As I have been saying for some time,

it's not a question of if,

Mr Tizard, it's a question of when.

I don't think that necessarily...

We have to work night and day to

build up our reserves and weapons.

Even if we had enough money,

we'd still never catch up.

We have to overtake them.

We have to build a death ray.

A death ray?

A ground-based weapons system

that focuses radio waves

on enemy aircraft

and boils pilots to death in their

cockpits in a matter of seconds.

Is such a thing possible?

I think these things, you pick the

right people, then they build it,

we can make anything happen.

Let's see who's got some ideas, Sir.

I'll put out some feelers.

We'll have to disguise it somehow,

keep a lid on it.

No need to alarm anyone.

And I will continue to put pressure

on the director

to let me set up a new committee

for aerial-weapon development.

As we know, there is a limited pot

of money available.

If pacifists in the cabinet

continue to...

Sorry, Professor Lindemann,

I'm afraid that committee

already exists.

Excuse me? I'm sorry.

Who is chairing this committee?

I see.

I rather wished I'd done

the washing now.

I was told it was going to rain.

It does look like there's

change in the air.

How can you tell?

Studying the clouds,

watching how they're moving.

Barometric pressure.

Excuse me? Hello, Skip! Hi.

Sorry to disturb on your day off

an' all.

We've had a telegram.

You asked the impossible.

By using radio waves only,

could we raise the temperature

of eight pint glasses of water

to 105-degrees Fahrenheit?

You did it? Indeed.

We were forced to make slight

alterations to the test conditions.

Very slight alterations.

Such as?

To achieve the desired outcome,

we reduced the distance

originally proposed.

And neither did you use radio waves.

Forgive me for being

a little...reductive here,

but would it be fair to say

that in your experiment,

you essentially...boiled a kettle?

We failed in our objective,

but we stumbled across

something altogether different.

By transmitting high-energy waves,

we think it may be possible

to deafen laboratory rats.

Hello. Yes, right,

I know what you are up to.

You're worried about the Germans.

Eight pints of water

equals eight pints of blood.

The distance and height specified,

an aeroplane.

Ergo, you're wanting

some kind of weapon

that will vaporise pilots

in their cockpits, aren't you?


I-I haven't slept since I received

your telegram.

Barely stopped work. Goodness knows

what my wife must think.

I'm Robert Watson-Watt.

You told your wife about this?

Should I have?

Will you begin your presentation,


The thing you propose doesn't work.

It never will work.

No-one will ever get it to work.

Probably cause more damage

to the operator than the enemy.

So, you're here to...?

Offer you something that will.

Now, I have an idea

for a listening device...

Listening devices don't work.

We've already built sound mirrors.

This isn't a sound mirror.

As Baldwin said, the bomber

will always get through.

How exciting would it

prove him wrong?

It is night-time.

You're in the woods.

The enemy is out there somewhere,

but you don't know exactly where.

So you tie a length

of fishing line...

between two trees...

..and then you hang a bell off it.

Enemy comes along, touches the line,

which rings the bell

and we know where he is.

So we use fishing line and bells

to enable us to hear our enemies.

Jolly good(!)

Good. Thank you for your time, Mr...

But instead of trees...we

have antennae.

And if I may... Thank you very much.

So we have radio antennae.

Now, they send out pulses...

..which are like our fishing line.

Then, if something...comes along,

then the waves bounce off.

And that rings a bell here

and then we can see them.

Thank you.


He's an idiot. Perhaps.

But out of all the ideas

we've heard today...

His is the...least idiotic?

Well, we have to do something.

Get him to give you

a field demonstration.

I thought you said it was going

to be a clear day.

That's weather for you.

Indeed. We're going again!

It's not budging!

This... This is fine.

Come on, let's get the equipment.

We've got 40 minutes!

Who are you?

I'm his chief assistant.

So we're tuned in

on the 50-metre wavelength,

waiting for a six megahertz

transmission from Daventry

with at least 10 kilowatts of power.

This man appears to be living

in cloud cuckoo land.

You have absolutely no faith in him,

have you?

He's building a washing line... the rain.

That's going to terrify

the Luftwaffe(!)

We have two aerials -

one in front, one behind.

We have a BBC transmitter

sending out -

Where's the transmitter?

Over there, in Daventry.

That's sending out pulses, which get

reflected down off an aircraft.

These pulses are, in effect,

like our trap.

The fishing line in the woods.


So, now we wait for something

to hit it and...

..ring the bell, so to speak? Yes!


The receiver is tuned

to Daventry, isn't it?

What are you doing?! Well, if...

Just leave it, will you?! Come on!

It's there!

It's actually there!

We saw you!!

I need to get out of this field

and find a telephone.

We didn't see it till it

was right on top of us.

But we saw it. We saw a plane.

Unfortunately, we can't prove it.

The trace recorder failed. Oh, no!

Well, we'll just have to do

it all over again

and hope it records next time.

It did work, didn't it?

I mean, we didn't imagine that,

did we?

We'll have to build

our own transmitter.

This was just a test.

There are a million and one things

against us.

And we will overcome them all.

Despite your lack of appropriate


I've spoken with the Ministry

and we have recognised

the success of the test

and we would like to proceed

to the next stage of development.

In order to move forward,

we require you to sign

the Official Secrets Act.

Thank you.

I trust the idiot boy is still

in the dark about all this?

He's not an idiot.

He doesn't know what you're doing,

though, does he?

No. Good.

The fewer the better.

You only need to read that the

penalty for even the slightest

deviation from secrecy is...

'To be hanged by the neck

until life is extinct'.


Rather a nice pen.

Keep it...


I get no kick

from champagne

Mere alcohol doesn't

thrill me at all

So tell me

why should it be true?

Someone's cheery.

That I get a kick out of you.

Why, thank you.

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Ian Kershaw

Sir Ian Kershaw, FBA (born 29 April 1943) is an English historian and author whose work has chiefly focused on the social history of 20th-century Germany. He is regarded by many as one of the world's leading experts on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and is particularly noted for his biographies of Hitler.He was the leading disciple of the late German historian Martin Broszat, and (until his retirement) professor at the University of Sheffield. Kershaw has called Broszat an "inspirational mentor" who did much to shape his understanding of National Socialist Germany. Kershaw served as historical adviser on numerous BBC documentaries, notably The Nazis: A Warning from History and War of the Century. He taught a module titled 'Germans against Hitler'. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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