Where Eagles Dare

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Where Eagles Dare
Where Eagles Dare poster.jpg
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Elliott Kastner
Jerry Gershwin
Screenplay by Alistair MacLean
Based on Where Eagles Dare  
by Alistair MacLean
Starring Richard Burton
Clint Eastwood
Mary Ure
Music by Ron Goodwin
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson
Editing by John Jympson
Studio Winkast Film Productions
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 4 December 1968 (1968-12-04) (UK)
  • 12 March 1969 (1969-03-12) (US)
Running time 155 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $21,000,000[1]

Where Eagles Dare is a 1968 World War II action film starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood and Mary Ure. It was directed by Brian G. Hutton and shot on location in Austria and Bavaria. Alistair MacLean wrote the novel and the screenplay at the same time. It was his first screenplay; both film and book became commercial successes.

The film involved some of the top moviemaking professionals of the time and is considered a classic.[2] Major contributors included Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt, who, as second-unit director, shot most of the action scenes; British stuntman Alf Joint, who doubled for Burton in such sequences as the fight on top of the cable car; award-winning conductor and composer Ron Goodwin, who wrote the film score, and future Oscar-nominee Arthur Ibbetson, who worked on its cinematography.

Plot[edit]

In the winter of 1943-44, U.S. Army Brigadier General George Carnaby (Robert Beatty), a chief planner of the second front, is captured by the Germans when his aircraft is shot down en route to Crete. He is taken for interrogation to the Schloss Adler, a fortress high in the Alps of southern Bavaria. A team of commandos, led by Major John Smith (Richard Burton) and U.S. Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood), is briefed by Colonel Turner (Patrick Wymark) and Admiral Rolland (Michael Hordern) of MI6. Their mission is to parachute in, infiltrate the castle, and rescue General Carnaby before the Germans can interrogate him. MI6 Agent Mary Elison (Mary Ure) accompanies the mission in secret, her presence known only to Major Smith.

Early in the mission, two of the sergeants, MacPherson (Neil McCarthy) and radio operator Harrod (Brook Williams), are mysteriously killed; but Major Smith is unperturbed, keeping Lt. Schaffer as a close ally and secretly updating Rolland and Turner on developments by radio. After seeming to give up and allowing themselves to be captured, Maj. Smith and Schaffer, being officers, are separated from the three remaining NCOs—Thomas (William Squire), Berkeley (Peter Barkworth) and Christiansen (Donald Houston). Smith and Schaffer kill their captors; blow up a supply depot, and prepare an escape route for later use before hitching a ride on a cable car—the only approach to the castle. Mary, posing as a maid, had been brought into the castle by Heidi (Ingrid Pitt), a deep-cover MI6 agent working as a barmaid in the nearby village; Major von Hapen (Derren Nesbitt), a Gestapo officer whom Heidi has been cultivating, becomes infatuated with her. Mary helps Schaffer and Smith to climb up a rope and in through a window overlooking the castle's cableway station.

Carnaby's interrogation, carried out by General Rosemeyer (Ferdy Mayne) and Colonel Kramer (Anton Diffring), is underway when the three NCOs arrive and reveal themselves to be German double agents. Smith and Schaffer intrude, but Smith then forces Schaffer to disarm and establishes himself as Major Johann Schmidt of the SD, the intelligence branch of the SS. He exposes the true identity of "General Carnaby" — that of Cartwright Jones, an American Corporal. He also claims that Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen are British impostors. To test them, Smith/Schmidt proposes they write down the names of their fellow agents/conspirators in Britain, to be compared to the personal list in his pocket (having discreetly divulged the name of Germany's top agent in Britain to Kramer, who silently affirms it). After the three finish their lists, Smith reveals his own to Kramer, which is in fact blank. When Kramer realises he has been bluffed, Smith and Schaffer re-secure the room, the former finally revealing the mission's true objective: to uncover the identities of German spies operating in Britain.

Meanwhile, Mary, while preparing the explosives, is visited by von Hapen. He takes her to the castle's cafe and persuades her to recite the tale of her assumed identity. Finding faults in her story, he investigates and happens upon the meeting over Carnaby's interrogation just as Smith finishes his explanation. Von Hapen puts the room under arrest, but is distracted by Smith crossing between himself and Schaffer, enabling Schaffer to draw his side weapon and kill him and the other German officers. The group then escapes with Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen as prisoners. Schaffer sets explosives to create diversions around the compound, while Smith leads the group to the radio room, where he informs Rolland of their success. They then battle their way to the cable car station, sacrificing Thomas as a decoy. Berkeley and Christiansen attempt their own escape in a cable car, but Smith, after a roof-top fight with its passengers, destroys the car with an explosive, hurling himself onto a returning cable car and subsequently riding back down with the others. They abandon the car mid-descent to avoid a party of armed Germans and to reunite with Heidi, boarding the bus they had prepared earlier as their escape vehicle. With enemy soldiers in hot pursuit, they wreak havoc by exploding booby traps on the road to thwart the pursuers and finally escape on a disguised extraction plane, where Col. Turner is waiting for them.

Smith briefs Turner on the mission and confirms a suspicion he and Rolland had shared since before the start: that Turner is the Nazi's top agent in Britain, whose name the late Colonel Kramer had agreed to before. Turner had been lured into participating so MI6 could expose him, with Smith's trusted partner Mary and the American Schaffer, who had no connection to MI6, specially assigned to the team to ensure the mission's success. Turner intends to shoot Smith with a STEN Gun given to him by Rolland, only to be told by Smith that the firing pin had been previously removed. Deciding to save face, Turner is permitted by Smith to commit suicide by jumping out of the plane without a parachute.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Burton approached producer Elliott Kastner for ideas, who consulted MacLean. Most of MacLean's novels had been made into films or were being filmed. Kastner persuaded MacLean to write a new story; six weeks later, he delivered the script of Where Eagles Dare. The title, chosen by Kastner himself,[3] is from Act I, Scene III in William Shakespeare's Richard III: "The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch". Like virtually all of MacLean's works, Where Eagles Dare features his trademark "secret traitor," who must be unmasked by the end.

Eastwood and Burton reportedly dubbed the film 'Where Doubles Dare' due to the time stand-ins doubled in action sequences.[2] Filming began on January 2, 1968 in Austria and did not conclude until July 1968.[4] Eastwood received a salary of $800,000 while Burton received $1,200,000.[4][5] This is one of the first films to use front projection effect.[6] Specifically, this technology enabled filming of the scenes where the actors are on top of the cable car.

Filming[edit]

Historical inaccuracies[edit]

Although Where Eagles Dare is considered to be one of the finest war films of all time,[8] its cinematography and Maclean's screenplay include many historical errors, plot holes and anachronisms. For instance, a helicopter (actually an American Bell 47 that entered U.S. military service in 1946)[9][10] is seen at the start of the film. The Luftwaffe never possessed horizontal-rotor craft able to fly a high ranking General from Berlin to Bavaria, as is evidenced by the dialogue in the film.[11] At the beginning of the film a meeting of Allies in Crete is mentioned, although historically Crete was captured by the Germans in 1941.

Gestapo Major von Hapen is seen throughout the film wearing a pre-1939 black SS Allgemeine-SS uniform.[12] However, by World War II all SS personnel wore the field grey tunic (which all the other SS characters in the film wear).[13] Besides the uniform, Von Hapen's medals include the German Cross, the Iron Cross and the Close Combat Clasp in gold. All are front-line combat decorations that could not have been earned by a uniformed Gestapo agent assigned to Bavaria. The Close Combat Clasp in gold was such a rare decoration (of the 18–20 million soldiers in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS only 631 received Gold Class) that fighting troops regarded it with higher esteem than the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.[14]

The film also reinvents German military protocol, when the Wehrmacht general addresses the SS commander (colonel) as if he were part of the German Army.[15] The script makes reference to keeping things "within the Army", the major plot point being to avoid Gestapo involvement. But the Waffen-SS and the Gestapo were both agencies of the SS; neither owed any allegiance to the Heer (German Army).

At the film's conclusion, the Allied agents are extricated in a Luftwaffe Ju-52 aircraft, which had an operational range of about 810 miles (1,300 km);[16] a round trip from the UK to Bavaria is at least 1,200 miles (1,900 km).

Reception[edit]

The film earned $6,560,000 in rentals at the North American box office during its first year of release.[17] It was the 13th most popular movie at the US box office and 7th most popular at the UK box office in 1969.[18]

Soundtrack[edit]

Where Eagles Dare
Soundtrack album by Ron Goodwin
Released January 4, 2005
Genre Soundtracks
Film music
Length 74:07
Label Film Score Monthly
Producer Lukas Kendall

The score was composed by Ron Goodwin. A soundtrack was released on Compact Disc in 2005 by Film Score Monthly, of the Silver Age Classics series, in association with Turner Entertainment. It was a two disc release, the first CD being the film music, the second the film music for Operation Crossbow and source music for Where Eagles Dare. The release has been limited to 3000 pressings.

Track listing:

Novel[edit]

The principal difference is that the novel is less violent and, in particular, one scene, during the escape from the castle, where Smith saves a German guard from burning to death, presaged the non-lethal thriller vein MacLean explored in his later career. In the novel, the characters are more clearly defined, and slightly more humorous than the fast pace of the film and the grim acting of Burton and Eastwood portrayed. Two characters are differently named in the novel: Ted Berkeley is called Edward Carraciola and Major von Hapen is instead Captain von Brauchitsch. A budding love story between Schaffer and Heidi was also cut.

In the book, the group are flown into Germany on board an RAF Avro Lancaster, whereas in the film they are transported in a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 52. While in the film, Kramer, Rosemeyer, and Von Hapen are shot to death by Schaffer and Smith, in the novel they are just given high doses of nembutal. In the book all three of Thomas, Carraciola, and Christiansen escape in the cable car with Smith on the roof, whereas in the film one of them is killed by Germans.

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Hughes, p.194
  2. ^ a b "Where Eagles Dare". TCM. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  3. ^ "BROADSWORD CALLING DANNY-BOY … the making of WHERE EAGLES DARE". Film Review 1998: republished in The Cellulord is Watching. Retrieved 2013-10-01. 
  4. ^ a b Hughes, pp.191-192
  5. ^ Munn, p. 79
  6. ^ http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/sk/2001a/page2.html
  7. ^ Where Eagles Dare.com (Trivia)
  8. ^ "Where Eagles Dare: No 24 best action and war film of all time". The Guardian. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Bell Helicopters". Helicopter History Site.
  10. ^ "Biography of ARTHUR MIDDLETON YOUNG".
  11. ^ Coates, Steve (2002). Helicopters of the Third Reich. Crowborough, UK: Classic Publications Ltd. ISBN 1-903223-24-5. 
  12. ^ Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, pp 80–84.
  13. ^ Shirer, William (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72868-7. 
  14. ^ Florian Berger (2004), Ritterkreuzträger mit Nahkampfspange in Gold, p.6 ISBN 3-9501307-3-X
  15. ^ Himmler, Heinrich (1937), "Organization and Obligations of the SS and the Police (from National Political Course for the Armed Forces)", in IMT document 1992-A-P, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Washington, DC 1946: USGPO 
  16. ^ Jane 1946, pp. 170–171.
  17. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
  18. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, England] 27 Sept. 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 Apr. 2014

Bibliography

External links[edit]