The Eagle Has Landed (film)
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|The Eagle Has Landed|
|Directed by||John Sturges|
|Produced by||David Niven, Jr.
|Written by||Jack Higgins (novel)
|Narrated by||Patrick Allen|
and Larry Hagman
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Editing by||Anne V. Coates|
|Distributed by||CIC (UK)
Columbia Pictures (US)
|Release date(s)||25 December 1976 (Sweden & Finland)
31 March 1977 (UK)
2 April 1977 (US)
|Running time||134 min (Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom)
123 min (United States)
131 min (US NTSC DVD version)
130 min (regular PAL DVD version)
145 min (extended PAL DVD 2 disc version)
The Eagle Has Landed is a 1976 film version of the novel The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins. It was directed by John Sturges and starred Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall. It was Sturges' final film, and despite tension between Caine and Sturges, the film was quite successful upon its release and retained a cult following.
Plot summary 
The film begins with captured World War II film footage of the rescue from Italy of Mussolini by German paratroopers. Inspired by the rescue of Hitler's ally Benito Mussolini by Otto Skorzeny, a similar idea is considered by Hitler, with the support of Himmler (Donald Pleasence). Admiral Canaris (Anthony Quayle), head of the Abwehr (German military intelligence), is ordered to make a feasibility study of the seemingly impossible task of capturing the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and bringing him to Germany.
Canaris considers the idea a joke, but realizes that although Hitler will soon forget the matter, Himmler will not. Fearing Himmler may try to discredit him, Canaris orders one of his officers, Oberst Radl (Robert Duvall) to undertake the study, despite feeling that it is a waste of time.
An Unteroffizier on Radl's staff, Karl, finds that one of their spies, code named Starling, has provided tantalizing intelligence - Winston Churchill is to visit an airfield near the village of Studley Constable in Norfolk, where Joanna Grey (Jean Marsh), a German sleeper agent lives. Radl comes up with a scheme that could work, called 'Eagle', where the kidnapping will proceed with German troops leading the action. He also is convinced that 'synchronicity' is behind it all, where actions and conditions merge at the proper moment, at the proper time. Himmler summons Radl and unofficially tells him to proceed, without notifying Canaris but with Hitler's knowledge, providing Radl with an 'authorizing' letter signed by Hitler himself. Radl recruits Liam Devlin (Donald Sutherland), a member of the IRA lecturing at a Berlin university, to the mission.
Radl looks for a suitable officer to lead the mission and chances upon the highly decorated and experienced, but conflicted and anti-Nazi, Fallschirmjäger officer Oberst Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine). While returning from the Eastern Front, Steiner intervened when SS soldiers rounded up Jews at a railway station in Poland, and attempted to save the life of a teenage girl who was shot while trying to escape. For this, he was court-martialled, along with a platoon of his men. Rather than face the firing squad, the men were allowed to transfer to a penal unit on the Channel Island of Alderney, where they made high risk attacks with Neger Manned Torpedoes against British channel convoys.
Radl travels to Alderney and, with the help of Devlin, recruits Steiner and his surviving men. The team will parachute into England from a captured C-47 with Allied markings. The commandos outfit themselves as Polish paratroopers, as few of them speak English. The plan is to infiltrate Studley Constable, complete their mission, rendezvous with an E-boat on the nearby coast and escape. The paratroopers land and the operation proceeds.
Radl visits Himmler to announce, "The eagle has landed.", but then Himmler destroys the authorizing document he'd given Radl, and Radl then knows the plan must succeed or he is in serious trouble.
As the Germans take up positions in the town, the plan is foiled when a paratrooper rescues a local girl from certain death by a water wheel. He instead is killed in the process and his German uniform (worn under the Polish uniforms at the prior insistence of Steiner) is revealed to the onlooking villagers. The locals are rounded up but Pamela Vereker (Judy Geeson), the sister of the village priest Father Vereker (John Standing), escapes to alert a unit of the United States Army Rangers stationed nearby. Inexperienced, glory-seeking Colonel Pitt (Larry Hagman) tries to foil the German plan almost single-handed but is killed by treasonous Nazi sympathizer Joanna Grey in her house, while his poorly-planned assault on the church fails with heavy casualties. Pitt's young deputy, Captain Clark (Treat Williams) then organizes a second, successful attack.
Steiner's men sacrifice themselves to delay the Americans while Devlin, Steiner and his wounded second-in-command Neustadt (Sven-Bertil Taube) escape, with the aid of local girl Molly Prior (Jenny Agutter) who was romantically involved with Devlin. Instead of boarding the escape boat, Steiner vows to make one last attempt at Churchill.
Receiving radioed-news of the apparent failure of the operation, Radl orders his assistant Karl to leave Alderney immediately and return home to Germany, in order to avoid the fate Radl knows is forthcoming. Radl is then arrested and summarily executed by firing squad, under the pretext that he "Gave orders beyond his control to a point of treason". In this way Himmler distances himself from the failed mission.
Steiner does manage to infiltrate the country house and apparently succeeds in killing Churchill before being shot and killed himself. Captain Clark, on scene, is stunned by Churchill's death, but is then informed by security personnel that "Churchill" was actually an impersonator - the real Prime Minister is at the Tehran Conference. Clark and a superior officer are also advised that, "No one will ever know about his. This never happened. It did not occur."
Devlin, evading capture, leaves a love letter for Molly, and disappears to live in obscurity.
- Michael Caine as Oberst Kurt Steiner
- Donald Sutherland as Liam Devlin
- Robert Duvall as Oberst Max Radl
- Jenny Agutter as Molly Prior
- Donald Pleasence as Heinrich Himmler
- Anthony Quayle as Adm. Wilhelm Canaris
- Jean Marsh as Joanna Grey
- Sven-Bertil Taube as Hauptmann (Hans) Ritter von Neustadt
- Siegfried Rauch as Sergeant Major Otto Brandt
- John Standing as Father Philip Verecker
- Judy Geeson as Pamela Verecker
- Treat Williams as Capt. Harry Clark
- Larry Hagman as Col. Clarence E. Pitts
- Michael Byrne as Karl
- Joachim Hansen as SS-Obergruppenführer (unnamed Jürgen Stroop)
- Terry Plummer as Arthur Seymour
- Tim Barlow as George Wilde (publican)
- Maurice Roëves as Maj. Corcoran (as Maurice Roeves)
- Jeff Conaway as Frazier
- Richard Wren as Sgt. Hans Altmann
- Alexei Jawdokimov as Cpl. Werner Briegel
- Steve Ubels as German paratrooper
- Leonie Thelen as Prana
- Leigh Dilley as Winston Churchill / George Fowler (uncredited)
- Kent Williams as Mallory (uncredited)
- Roy Marsden as Sturmbannführer Toberg (uncredited)
- Wolf Kahler as Hauptsturmführer Fleischer (uncredited)
- Ferdy Mayne as Radl's doctor (uncredited - extended version)
- Harry Fielder as Motorbike outrider (uncredited)
- Denis Lill
- Jack McCulloch
- Keith Buckley
Caine was originally offered the part of Devlin but did not want to play an IRA man so asked if he could have the role of Steiner. Richard Harris stepped into the part of Devlin but then it was felt he was too associated with financing the real IRA so Donald Sutherland was given then role. Tom Mankiewicz thought the script was the best he had ever written "but John Sturges, for some reason, had given up" and did a poor job. He said editor Anne Cotes was the one who saved the movie and made it watchable.
Extended version 
The original running time for the film was 134 minutes in Europe, while 11 minutes were cut by the producers before the film was released in the US. The US 131 minutes NTSC DVD version is close to the original European cinema version, and most European PAL DVD versions also have that length (130 minutes). However, in 2004 Carlton Visual Entertainment released a two-disc PAL version which contains two versions of the film: the regular DVD version as well as an extended 145 minute version. This 15 minutes longer version contains a number of scenes that had been deleted even before the European cinema release:
- An alternative opening: originally the film was intended to start with Heinrich Himmler (Donald Pleasence) arriving at Schloss Hohenschwangau for a conference with Hitler, Canaris, Bormann and Goebbels. This deleted opening would have preceded the scenes under the opening credits which are a long aerial shot of a staff car leaving the castle in question. The deleted scene explains why Schloss Hohenschwangau appears in the credits but does not appear in the film.
- Extended scene when Radl arrives at Abwehr headquarters, he discusses his health with a German Army doctor (played by Ferdy Mayne).
- Scene at a Berlin University where Liam Devlin is a teacher.
- Scene in Landsvoort where Steiner and von Neustadt discuss the mission and its merits and consequences.
- Devlin's arrival at Studley Constable is now extended where he and Joanna Grey discuss their part in the mission.
- Devlin drives his motorbike through the centre of the village and on to the cottage, where he inspects the barn before returning to the village.
- Scene where Devlin reads poetry to Molly Prior.
- Extended scene in which Molly interrupts Devlin shortly after he receives the army vehicles.
- Scene on the boat at the end that shows the fate of von Neustadt. (This scene is visible in one of the special edition DVDs extras, in the action photo gallery)
Filming locations 
The majority of the film, set in the fictional village of Studley Constable, was filmed at Mapledurham in Oxfordshire and features the village church, Mapledurham Watermill and Mapledurham House. Mock buildings such as shops and a pub were constructed on site in Mapledurham while interiors were filmed at Twickenham Studios. The airfield scenes were filmed at Blackbushe Airport near Yateley in Hampshire.
The sequence set in Alderney was filmed in Charlestown, near St Austell in Cornwall. Some of the filming took place at RAF St. Mawgan, near Newquay, and at Rock, both in Cornwall. The railway station sequence where Steiner and his men make their first appearance was filmed in Rovaniemi, Finland.
The parachuting scenes were carried out by members of the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) Parachute Display Team.
See also 
- Swedish Film Database fact sheet The Eagle Has Landed Retrieved 2012-01-02
- IMDb: Release dates The Eagle Has Landed Retrieved 2012-01-02
- IMDb: Main details The Eagle Has Landed Retrieved 2012-01-02
- Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 p284-288
- Tom Mankiewicz and Robert Crane, My Life as a Mankiewicz, University Press of Kentucky 2012 p 179
- The Eagle Has Landed at the Internet Movie Database
- The Eagle Has Landed (film) at the TCM Movie Database
- The Eagle Has Landed at AllRovi
- The Eagle Has Landed - Photos