World War II is raging, and an American general has been captured and is being held hostage in the Schloss Adler, a Bavarian castle that's nearly impossible to breach. It's up to a group of skilled Allied soldiers to liberate the general before it's too late.
Major, right now you got me about as confused as I ever hope to be. Directed by Brian G. Hutton and adapted to the screen from his own novel by Alistair MacLean, Where Eagles Dare stars Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Music is scored by Ron Goodwin and cinematography is by Arthur Ibbetson. A small group of allied agents are sent on a mission to rescue a Allied General from a Nazi castle stronghold. But there is more than what meets the eye here... Boys own men on a mission in grandiose strokes, MacLean's complex story makes for riveting and exciting entertainment. The story twists and turns like a Python on acid, thus requiring full attention to conversational details is very much advised. And yet joyously it's the fun and kinetic action that holds the most attention, especially for what is quite an explosive and thrilling last third of picture. There are stunts galore amongst the Austrian Alps (beautifully photographed by Ibbetson), and as the espionage hokum reaches its crescendo status, so does the kinetic carnage, with the makers wasting no opportunity to blow everything up. Burton is classy and enjoying himself, Eastwood laconic and cool, while good support comes from Mary Ure (great to have a well written spunky female lead), Patrick Wymark, Michael Hordern and Donald Houston. The running time is a touch too long as MacLean's prose is given weighty treatment for extended chatter, and some back projection work feels unnecessarily cheap for such a grand production, but this is good old machismo fuelled classic cinema regardless. 9/10
One of the greatest action/adventure films ever made 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