Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1968 - WHERE EAGLES DARE, still entertaining Alistair Maclean war film

The producers of Breakheart Pass hired Alistair MacLean to write an original story and screenplay.  Where Eagles Dare a typical Alistair MacLean mix of action and improbable if clever plots.  This film had a larger budget than Breakheart Pass, a better cast and managed to balance the tone between seriousness and improbability pretty well.

Yakima Canutt, the famous stunt man was responsible for the action scenes, particularly the unnerving cable car scenes with stunt men actually dangling around in mid air, rear screen projection for the actors of course.  Most of the film was shot in the "day for night" process with filters being used to fake the night scenes, pretty understandable considering all of the complex action and explosions throughout the film.  

The composer Ron Goodwin was hired to write one of his "typical" British war movie scores.  Goodwin always seemed to have a knack for this kind of war music, his score adds a lot to the film.

Where Eagles Dare has a very good cast, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure and resident Hammer horror chick Ingrid Pitt.  Burton's good and does most of the acting work playing it serious and at times not very serious.  Clint Eastwood doesn't say much but he gets to shoot a lot of Germans,   which was one of the major criticisms of the film when it came out, the high body count.

 Mary Ure had worked with Burton on the classy British drama Look Back in Anger, about the British working class, this film had a little different theme.  Alistair  MacLean never knew what to do with women in his books, so Mary Ure doesn't do much, although she does seem to know what end of the machine gun she should hold before slaughtering Germans.

The end of the film has a clever twist to it after all the action.  You have to give Alistair MacLean credit.  What ever his worth as a writer, he was certainly very good at putting together a story like this.

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