During WW2 a British aircraft is shot down and crashes in Nazi held territory. The Germans capture the only survivor, an American General, and take him to the nearest SS headquarters. Unknown to the Germans the General has full knowledge of the D-Day operation. The British decide that the General must not be allowed to divulge any details of the Normandy landing at all cost and order Major John Smith to lead a crack commando team to rescue him. Amongst the team is an American Ranger, Lieutenant Schaffer, who is puzzled by his inclusion in an all British operation. When one of the team dies after the parachute drop, Schaffer suspects that Smith's mission has a much more secret objective.
Allied agents stage a daring raid on a castle where the Nazis are holding an American General prisoner... but that's not all that's really going on.
It seems a lot of people liked this movie well enough to count it better (by 1/10 percentage point) than "The Guns Of Navarone." That's hard for me to believe. "Guns" was an early story in Alastair MacLean's books, and includes lots more invention than "Eagles." By the time he got around to this story, his whole shtick was well-established. If you had read enough of his books ("Breakhart Pass" included) you knew going in the hero was the most evil-seeming character (Richard Burton), and all the heroics would prove him the one who wins. I read the book long before the movie came out, and the movie didn't do anything to change my opinion of the story. The acting by the lead characters did make the movie worth watching, but the story made it difficult to stay with.
RELEASED IN 1968 and directed by Brian G. Hutton, "Where Eagles Dare" is a World War II adventure about handful of commandos parachuting into the wilderness surrounding a German castle-fortress high in the Bavarian Alps. Their mission is to rescue a captive general before the Germans can interrogate him. However, not everything is as it first appears.
The film is not a conventional World War II flick. Alistair Maclean wrote the script based on his novel and thus the movie is, unsurprisingly, a spy thriller just as much as it is a war picture. Keep in mind that spy flicks were super-hot when the film was released (e.g. James Bond). Are 60's spy films plausible? Realistic? No, they only have the veneer of plausibility and realism; underneath it's all escapist fantasy. So it is with "Where Eagles Dare."
The opening with the breathtaking Alps and Ron Goodwin's exhilerating score is one of the greatest cinematic openings in history. From there you get intrigue, thrilling action scenes, a magnificent castle, Richard Burton at his charismatic best, two beautiful women (Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt), surprising plot twists, cable cars, a suspenseful escape and a don't-see-it-coming ending, not to mention Clint Eastwood.
Speaking of Eastwood, he plays a taciturn American lieutenant, second fiddle to Richard Burton, the British leader of the operation. Believe it or not, Burton's charisma is so out of the ball park that Eastwood pales by comparison. Of course, this has a lot to do with the way their roles were written, but you still have to give Burton credit for blowing Eastwood, who's no slouch, out of the water.
Some complain about the utter ruthlessness of the Allied commandos, particularly the characters played by Burton and Eastwood, but they're Special Forces on a secret mission, not conventional soldiers in infantry combat. They're professional killing machines, which is why they were given the job. There was no room for mercy in this operation at this stage in the war.
In any case, it's exciting to see Burton & Eastwood and their team mow down scores of Germans. The film's so well-done and compelling that you sorta don't realize how unbelievable it is while watching. This is because it lacks the cartoonish-ness of, say, "Rambo 2" and "Rambo 3" and maintains an air of realism throughout (which is different than saying it's realistic).
FINAL WORD: "Where Eagles Dare" is one of the greatest action/adventure films of all time and is as-good-or-better than any war flick you care to name. The exhilarating score itself is worth the price of admission, as is the opening. If you're in the mood for a World War II flick, "Where Eagles Dare" is at the top of the list.
THE FILM RUNS 2 hours, 35 minutes and was shot on location in Austria with studio work done in England.
GRADE: A Presumably the trio of double agents killed them because they were suspicious of them and had seen or heard something that betrayed their treason. Yes, the Germans used a small number of early helicopters in late World War 2 for tasks such as transport and artillery spotting in addition to numerous experimental prototypes. Two Fa 223 Drache ('Dragon') aircraft were actually assigned to the German Army's Mountain Warfare School at Innsbruck so the prescence of a helicopter in the film is surprisingly plausible. a5c7b9f00b
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