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
Edited by John Jympson
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
Budget $7.7 million[1]
Box office $21,000,000[2]

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.[3] 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. The film is noted for the phrase Broadsword calling Danny Boy, used by Richard Burton several times throughout.


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, the two NCOs, 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 members of the group — 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 cable car 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 silenced side arm 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.



Burton later said, "I decided to do the picture because Elizabeth's two sons said they were fed up with me making films they weren't allowed to see, or in which I get killed. They wanted me to kill a few people instead."[4] Burton approached producer Elliott Kastner "and asked him if he had some super-hero stuff for me where I don't get killed in the end."[5] The producer consulted MacLean and requested an adventure film filled with mystery, suspense and action. 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,[6] 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.

Kastner and coproducer Jerry Gershwin announced in July 1966 that they had purchased five MacLean scripts, starting with Where Eagles Dare and When Eight Bells Toll.[7]

Brian Hutton had just made Sol Madrid for the producers and was signed to direct.[8]

Eastwood and Burton reportedly dubbed the film 'Where Doubles Dare' due to the time stand-ins doubled in action sequences.[3] Filming began on 2 January 1968 in Austria and concluded July 1968.[9] Eastwood received a salary of $800,000 while Burton received $1,200,000.[9][10] This is one of the first films to use front projection effect.[11] Specifically, this technology enabled filming of the scenes where the actors are on top of the cable car.

Eastwood initially expressed that the script written by MacLean was "terrible" and was "all exposition and complications" and according to Derren Nesbitt, requested he be given less dialogue. Most of Schaffer's lines were given to Burton, whilst Eastwood handled most of the action scenes.[12] Director Hutton played to his actor's strengths, allowing for Burton's theatrical background to help the character of Smith and Eastwood's quiet demeanour to establish Schaffer.

Derren Nesbitt was keen to be as factual as possible with his character Von Hapen. Whilst on location, he requested to meet a former member of the Gestapo to better understand how to play the character and to get the military regalia correct. He was injured on set filming the scene in which Schaffer kills Von Hapen. The blood squib attached to Nesbitt exploded with such force that he was temporarily blinded. Fortunately, he made a quick recovery.[13] [14]

The production was delayed while filming due to weather in Austria. Shooting took place in winter and early spring of 1968 and the crew had to contend with blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and potential avalanches. Further delays were incurred when Richard Burton, well known for his drinking habits, disappeared for several days with his friends Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris.[15] As part of his deal with MGM, Clint Eastwood took delivery of a Norton P11 motorcycle, which he 'tested' at Brands Hatch racetrack, accompanied by Ingrid Pitt, something that he had been forbidden from doing by Kastner for insurance purposes in case of injury or worse.[16]

Famed stuntman Alf Joint, who had played Capungo, the man who 007 electrocuted in the bathtub in Goldfinger doubled and was stand-in for Richard Burton, and performed the famous cable car jump sequence, in which he lost three teeth performing the stunt. [17]

Visitors to the set included Elizabeth Taylor, who was married to Burton at the time, and Robert Shaw, who was married to Mary Ure at the time.[18]

The Junkers Ju-52 used to fly Smith and Schaffer's team into Austria and then make their escape at the end of the film was a Swiss Air Force Ju-52/3m, registration A-702. [19]


Historical inaccuracies[edit]

Although Where Eagles Dare is considered to be one of the best war films of all time,[22] 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)[23][24] is seen at the start of the film. The Luftwaffe did not have an abundance of helicopters able to fly the high ranking General from Berlin to Bavaria, as is evidenced by the dialogue in the film.[25]

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.[26] However, by World War II all SS personnel wore the field grey tunic (which all the other SS characters in the film wear).[27]


The film earned $6,560,000 in rentals at the North American box office during its first year of release.[28] It was the 13th most popular movie at the US box office and 7th most popular at the UK box office in 1969.[29] The film was particularly lucrative for Richard Burton, who earned a considerable sum in royalties through television repeats and video sales.[30] In 2009, Cinema Retro magazine released a special issue dedicated to Where Eagles Dare which detailed the production and filming of the movie.[31]


Where Eagles Dare
Soundtrack album by Ron Goodwin
Released 4 January 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:


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.



  1. ^ Metro-Goldwyn Omits Dividend; O' Brien Resigns: Board Cites Possible Loss Of Up to $19 Million in The Current Fiscal Year Bronfman Named Chairman Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 May 1969: 2.
  2. ^ Hughes, p.194
  3. ^ a b "Where Eagles Dare". TCM. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  4. ^ 3 Companies Offer to Bankroll Burton Film Exclusive to The Times from the London Sunday Times. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 Feb 1968: d16.
  5. ^ The Burtons... 'Just Another Working Couple' ABA, MARIKA. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 21 July 1968: c18.
  6. ^ "BROADSWORD CALLING DANNY-BOY … the making of WHERE EAGLES DARE". Film Review 1998: republished in The Cellulord is Watching. Retrieved 2013-10-01. 
  7. ^ Gene Kelly to Do 'Married' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 30 July 1966: 18.
  8. ^ 'Isadora' Shooting Under Way Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 07 Sep 1967: d20.
  9. ^ a b Hughes, pp.191-192
  10. ^ Munn, p. 79
  11. ^ http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/sk/2001a/page2.html
  12. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0P0HUgC_1M
  13. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0P0HUgC_1M
  14. ^ Actor Injured as Burton Fires 'Shot' Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 25 Apr 1968: b30.
  15. ^ http://cellulord.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/where-eagles-dare_31.html
  16. ^ http://www.ingridpitt.net/anecdotes/if-only.html
  17. ^ http://cellulord.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/where-eagles-dare_31.html
  18. ^ http://cellulord.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/where-eagles-dare_31.html
  19. ^ http://www.impdb.org/index.php?title=Where_Eagles_Dare
  20. ^ Where Eagles Dare.com (Trivia)
  21. ^ http://mitteleuropa.x10.mx/filmlocations_where_eagles_dare.html
  22. ^ "Where Eagles Dare: No 24 best action and war film of all time". The Guardian. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  23. ^ "Bell Helicopters". Helicopter History Site.
  24. ^ "Biography of ARTHUR MIDDLETON YOUNG".
  25. ^ Coates, Steve (2002). Helicopters of the Third Reich. Crowborough, UK: Classic Publications Ltd. ISBN 1-903223-24-5. 
  26. ^ Lumsden, Robin. A Collector's Guide To: The Allgemeine – SS, pp 80–84.
  27. ^ Shirer, William (1960). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-72868-7. 
  28. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
  29. ^ "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, England] 27 Sept. 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 Apr. 2014
  30. ^ http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/showbiz/richard-burton-classic-eagles-dare-2023177
  31. ^ http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/6775-WHERE-EAGLES-DARE-THE-UPDATED-AND-REVISED-CINEMA-RETRO-SPECIAL-TRIBUTE-ISSUE.html


External links[edit]