Sunday, March 13, 2011

Where Eagles Dare

 This movie is out of order as I watched it in early January. I'm trying to review each film as I watch it and throw a back dated one from past years as I get the chance. Well since One Missed Call was the last film I watched and I can't get near the DVD player until tonight and I have plenty of time on my hands I thought I go back a few months.
 I have an ulterior motive in reviewing Where Eagles Dare in that tonight I have the brilliant Das Boot to watch and I can sandwich it in between this and Memphis Belle. I wanted to do this for both Belle and Boot are two of the best historical dramas ever made...OK war films if you want to get really genre technical! Eagles is not an historical drama and really can't be classed solely as a war film. To me it is more an action/adventure movie.
 Alistair McClean wrote both the book and screenplay with very few differences between both. McClean was one of the most prolific and very best writers of action/thrillers of his era. I  read many of this books when much younger and can remember his last book River of Gold. Of course I have read Where Eagles Dare as well! His books have some what slid off the radar and he is almost forgotten about within a more modern audience even though his books spawned some memorable movies, Guns of Navorone for example.
 It is a shame a wrtier of such top quality thrillers has been forgotten. To be sure his books have dated somewhat but films do to and yet the quality always stays at the top. It is testament to him that his books also made good action movies. Where Eagles Dare is one such example. It of course stars Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood who had only just moved on from 'the man with no name' after having just turned down the lead role in Sergio Leone's masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West.
 To me Eagles isn't a straight war film. It is more an action/adventure story which is based during WW2 and has some war fighting type scenes. It is also high bollocks!!! Historical accuracy there is none!! Helicopters weren't invented until just after the war for god's sake, so what is doing here?! Many of the medals on the German uniforms weren't awarded to Gestapo members and so on. Some scenes would make a professional soldier cringe as what is portrayed defies basic military principles. But it isn't meant to be based on history and just uses the war as a back drop for the story. 
 And it is a good story! This is one of McClean's books that hasn't dated too much. It is somewhat complex and the viewer has to be on their toes as there is cross and double cross, and then triple cross before all is untangled. When you think you have it figured out it fools you and you have to start again. It may be dated special effects wise but there is no way the plot has as it is still as good today as it was forty years ago. This makes it still a very good watch and as entertaining as any thriller ever made.
 The effects would have spectacular in their day. The cable car scenes are magnificent and conjure up all that is great about action movies. For me it is one of the most iconic action movie sequences ever filmed and still takes my breath away today. Watching two guys fighting it out on top of an icey cable car hundreds of metres off the ground is thrilling. You just know the bad guy is going to fall off!
 Surprisingly Eagle is quite a long movie. For all the plot twists and turns there is alot of shooting within the schloss and as the good guys escape and try to make their way to the airfield to be picked up. The final chase scene is drawn out with lots of shooting, explosions etc, and even though all great fun maybe drew the movie out a bit too much. The core of the movie is the plot and the action is secondary. While all great stuff in many respects it was a bit unnecessary.
 But it is never boring. For a long movie if you saw this in theatres back in 1969 then you certainly got your moneys worth. As an actioner it has plenty and will not disappoint. As stated it is all crap though militarily!! It is Hollywood with no concern of historical accuracy so it must be viewed in that light.
 This is why I wanted to sandwich Eagles between Memphis Belle and Das Boot. Both are attempts to show historical events wihin their true light, and both do it excedingly well. Eagles was made in an era where historical accuracy wasn't demanded from audiences and not given them. Sure Eagles is all fiction but even movies based on real battles etc were given historical license too the point of absudity. Patton was probably an exception even though the 'German' tanks were actually American with German markings painted on.
 In many respects the war genre like the western has gone out of favour and film makers today must be more careful in their portrayels. Historical accuracy and realism is demanded within the modern war film. This to me is a good thing as we have seen some good movies made in the last thirty years, Memphis Belle, Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, etc.
 Where Eagles Dare is the old school of war depiction within cinema. It can't be critisised for that. After forty one years it is still a fine action/adventure film and well worth watching. It has dated somewhat but it is still very good. The plot is excellent and that should be reason enough to watch it as that really is the heart of the movie and not the action. I enjoyed watching this again as it is nearly thirty years since I last saw it! I highly recommend it as it was one of the real block busters of its era and still stands up well today.
Soar to great heights here:
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  1. Great review, Brent. I've always loved 'Where Eagles Dare'. I remember my dad letting me stay up late to watch it on the TV, then owning a VHS copy which I just about wore out, then buying the remastered DVD in the the proper aspect ratio with the magnificent score sounding better than ever and the action sequences still worthy of today's blockbusters.

  2. Yes I must say that it still stacks up against its more modern counterparts. I suppose with an older film like this then that is the way to judge it.
    I loved revisiting it as I had forgotten how good an action adventure flick it is.

  3. Great review. It's definitely a good one if you can avoid nitpicking over the details as you mention. Just sit back, enjoy the show and it won't disappoint!

  4. That's exactly right! It is such a good actioner that you just go along with it.