“A remote air base in the Alps, a vintage WW2 aircraft is coming in from the distance, it comes onto screen, and takes off. The background score hitherto subdued, booms out, and the stirring
score plays, with the titles displayed on the screen “.
When I first saw this shot as a kid way back in 1980 in a theater in my home town, I was just blow away by this. I was already used to Hollywood by then, but I was 11 years old when I watched this and the scene just caught me.
I have watched this movie again and again, but every time I find myself on the edge, though I know what the outcome is.
The movie I am speaking about is Where Eagles Dare the 1968 WW 2 movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood .
Right from the opening scene to the climax, the viewer never gets a chance to relax, as he is drawn into a maze of conspiracy, action, intrigue and twists.
Based on Alistair Maclean’s novel of the same name, the movie centers around a British General George Carnaby who has been captured by the Nazis and held in their impregnable Schloss Adler , their SS HQ located in the Austrian Alps.
The Allies hit upon a plan where seven agents are picked to infiltrate the castle and get the General out from there. These 7 men will be headed by Major John Smith (played by Richard Burton ) and assisted by Lt Morris Schaeffer ( Clint Eastwood) . Only the mission is not an easy one, as the only means to reach the castle is by cable car, and the entire area is swarming with Germans. They enlist the help of a local German girl Heidi Schmidt and John Smith’s lover, an Allied fighter herself, Mary Ellison( Mary Ure).
And the worse is yet to come as they discover that the mission is sabotaged from the beginning with some one playing a double game with them. Is George Carnaby a double agent himself? Who is the traitor in the group? Is Major Smith playing a double game ? Well just watch this movie to know what happens. I don’t want to reveal a major part of the story.
Get it straight Where Eagles Dare is no Saving Private Ryan or The Bridge on the River Kwai . It’s a straight forward action thriller set against a WW2 backdrop and should be seen in that way. Don’t go expecting for some profound statement here, it’s a thriller and action yarn and should be seen that way.
Right from the word go, the movie just keeps you totally hooked and doesn’t let your attention flag. A movie is said to hold the audience attention when the viewer starts to ask “What Next?”. Where Eagles Dare succeeds a lot on that count. The movie has a lot of twists, just when you feel you have figured out the plot, comes another twist in the story. And you are really left wondering what next.
Where Eagles Dare also has some great action sequences :
1. The fight in the cable car
2. The scenes where the team enters into the Schloss Adler
3. The scenes where the Schaffer mows down the Nazis and where he sets up the booby traps.
4. The pulse pounding climax, where the team is chased by the Nazis.
Apart from the action, Where Eagles Dare also has some great dramatic sequences.
1. The scene where Smith plays a double game in the Nazi’s castle.
2. The scenes where the team discusses it’s strategies.
Though Where Eagles Dare has a huge cast, the best performances come from the two lead actors. In that respect my other favorite Guns of Navaronne had better performances too.
Richard Burton usually known for his serious dramatic roles, is brilliant as Major John Smith. His best acting is in the scene where he plays a double mind game with the Nazis at their meeting room.
Clint Eastwood as the cool, ruthless killer is smashing. When most of us were kids, Clint was our favorite, and along with his Westerns , Where Eagles Dare, made him a cult icon for us. All of us aspired to be like him.
Where Eagles Dare has some great pieces of dialogue, but this has to be my favorite.
Major John Smith: Lieutenant, in the next 15 minutes we have to create enough confusion to get out of here alive.
Lt. Morris Schaffer: Major, right now you got me about as confused as I ever hope to be.
Lt. Morris Schaffer:’’Second rate punk,’’ eh?
Major John Smith: Sorry. All I could think of on the spur of the moment.
Lt. Morris Schaffer: Thanks; that makes it even worse.