Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton Battle Nazis in the Snow

Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton trudge through real snow. Image: Falcon at the Movies

Alas, Dear Reader, it turns out we (as in, yours truly) may be a philistine.

We realized this when we screened the 1968 action thriller Where Eagles Dare, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Some regard this film as one of the greatest WWII movies ever made; look at the rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

We don’t get it.

Now, we consider ourselves to be fairly tolerant when it comes to film. We overlook plot holes, mediocre performances and cheesy special effects.

But we can’t buy into this film for, admittedly, some pretty shallow reasons.

First, there’s the looping or ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement). This is when an actor re-records his lines, usually in a studio, because the sound quality wasn’t usable on the original shoot. In Where Eagles Dare, there is a tinny echo in the looping, which is distracting because it reminds us this is Only A Movie.

Secondly, we have the cliché-ridden script, e.g. “We’ve got company,” and “It seems I have no cards left to play.” It makes a person weep, a little, hearing Richard Burton deliver this drivel.

Then there is the matter of Clint Eastwood’s hair. Eastwood sports a beautifully sculpted, 1960’s hairdo throughout the film, despite several near-death adventures. How on earth does one maintain such coiffure while dodging angry Nazis?

Finally: The film is Too Long. When filmmakers pile on the explosions and gunfights, they’re only prolonging the inevitable conclusion. In our unprofessional opinion, this would be a much better film if it were trimmed by several minutes. Where are the Warner Bros. of the 1930s when you need ’em?

Burton delivers a long speech. Image: Man Cave Movie Review

You may think we’re being unfair, and perhaps we are. Some of Hollywood’s top filmmakers were involved in this production, and it Paid Off handsomely. With a budget of an estimated $7.7 million, the film grossed $21 million in 1968 (approx. $152 million in today’s dollars).

Where Eagles Dare is about a Daring Rescue Mission – as though there were any other kind. A team of sneaky Allies is sent to the Bavarian Alps to free an American Bigwig who is being held by Nazis in an impregnable mountain fortress.

The premise is Very Similar to another war/action flick, namely The Guns of Navarone (1961), based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, who also wrote this film + novel combo. This time, though, the enterprising MacLean wrote the novel and the screenplay at the same time, and, apparently, it all started with Richard Burton.

True or not, legend has it the sons of Burton’s then-wife, Elizabeth Taylor, wanted him to make an action film. Burton, being a Movie Star, asked a Hollywood producer if such a script were lurking about. Our man MacLean was commissioned to create a New Adventure, so he replaced the Mediterranean cliffs of Navarone with snowy mountains in the Alps. Ta-dah!

Clint Eastwood was cast as Burton’s sidekick. At first, Eastwood reportedly didn’t like the script, and almost turned it down. His agent persuaded him to take it – one of those “Baby, it’ll make you a Star” moments – so he signed on, requested fewer lines for his character, and became a Star.

Although Eastwood and Burton have very different acting styles, they make a good Nazi-Busting Team. Burton delivers the speeches while Eastwood handles the explosions. Also, we (the audience) sense genuine camaraderie between the two men.

Sneaking a ride on top of a cable car. Image: OpticsTalk

Where Eagles Dare was filmed in Austria and Germany during the winter and early spring of 1968. While that alone would present its own set of challenges, Wikipedia says the crew also had to contend with freezing temperatures, blizzards and avalanches.

Now that we think about it, maybe we have been a bit harsh with this film. It is not without thrills or surprise and, like Navarone, it asks: Who is the traitor on our team of agents?

Personally, we can’t wholeheartedly recommend Where Eagles Dare. But if you like WWII action yarns with lots of shooting and explosions, then this is for you.

This post is part of the WINTER IN JULY BLOGATHON hosted by Moon in Gemini.

Where Eagles Dare: starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure. Directed by Brian G. Hutton. Written by Alistair MacLean. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968, Metrocolor, 158 mins.

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41 comments

  1. I’m giving you “benefit of the doubt” points on this, as I actually love this movie! Cliches and all! 🙂

    I always thought it was hilarious that Col. Turner said during the briefing that they all spoke fluent German. Then, proceeded not to do so throughout the entire film! 🙂

    But I’m a big Burton and Eastwood fan. Plus, I love that Mary Ure got to mow down her share of Nazis! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Heh. I once got this confused with The Dirty Dozen in conversation with some fans of it and hooo-boy, you should have seen the looks I got. Granted, they liked that film as well, but for a minute it was as if I tossed a basket of kittens under a slow-moving bus.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Your misgivings are spot on but I have a great fondness for the film in spite of all that. It was part of my childhood and although I could see even then that it wasn’t the greatest of films and my watching of it was peppered by disparaging comments from my parents, I adored it. It still chimes with me. If I’m feeling miserable and need cheering up, it’s one of those films that wraps me in a warm blanket. I also love the fact that it has Ingrid Pitt not baring fangs of any sort! Mary Ure was a class apart and it was sad that she didn’t have a larger part and died too young.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Granted it’s not a masterpiece but I still find it fun. I have a bit of a fondness for war films from the 1960s – of which there were plenty. I admit that when ADRs are poorly done, its’ very frustrating. Interesting story about the reasons why Burton did the movie!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing review. I haven’t seen this film, but all your observations sound very fair. I think the only thing that will attract me to see it is the stars – Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. I am also relieved I am not the only one providing “slightly negative” reviews for this blogathon hehe 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I know I really shouldn’t but I absolutely love this one. Burton and Eastwood are great together: as you point out their contrasting styles as actors, and characters for that matter, works great for the film.
    You really can’t beat a lazy Saturday afternoon watching Where Eagles Dare; with a bacon sandwich and a couple of chocolate digestives. If you followed it up with a Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks wrestling match and an episode of the A-Team you would pretty much have a weekend with my Gran and Grandad and those were days to be cherished.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve seen this one a couple of times but had gone years between viewings. It’s no Dirty Dozen! The last time was about 5 years ago with two sons and I too just didn’t quite get it. I appreciate the efforts and love the two stars but it’s not all that memorable. It’s big and loud but no WW2 classic.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a soft spot for this film and for ‘The Guns of Navarone’ too. Watching Burton be an action hero and defeat Nazis is worth all the cheesiest dialogue in the world to me. Besides, with that voice he could have read the phone book aloud and I wouldn’t have minded.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love this review! (LOL at the Clint Eastwood hair reference!) I think maybe during the 1960s some war movies were too long because everyone wanted to be David Lean.

    Thanks so much for contributing to the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Secondly, we have the cliché-ridden script, e.g. “We’ve got company,” and “It seems I have no cards left to play.” It makes a person weep, a little, hearing Richard Burton deliver this drivel.”

    A couple things … One … RB didn’t deliver either of those lines – “We’ve got company” CE said, and “It seems I have no cards left to play” said by Col. Turner.

    Secondly … cliché-ridden perhaps … but apropos (inmo) definitely! Those lines were delivered perfectly – perfectly-timed and memorably-delivered (the fact I can still remember the sweat on the upper lip of Col. Turner is because of the “cards left to play” line.

    Also … (and this is purely my opinion) the length of the movie was long. There is no doubt about that … but … the movie moves! The tempo of the movie is brisk … it never stays in one place long. <– So, the length of the movie actually allowed for the many small scenes and sequences allowing the audience to see the many facets of pulling off an escape like rescuing a fake American general from a German-held castle on a mountain.

    I absolutely L-o-V-e Where Eagles Dare for all its cliché! Yet, I would have highlighted these points as critique: (just my pennies)
    – The non-use of German after we were told they all speak fluent German (said by another commenter).
    – We just assume the team sent in discussed their plans before they jumped behind enemy lines. The only person who seems to know what's going on beforehand is RB. The movie shows no planning scenes, instead, just revealing to us that RB "had planted" things beforehand.
    – A battalion of Germans were staring at the cable car, yet not one saw four people jump from it into the river about one-hundred yards away.

    And then, there's one of my favorite lines in any movie … not because of the substance, but because of how RB delivers it … "Broad Sword to Danny Boy …." Will never forget the delivery … even 50 years later.

    Brilliant!!

    Like

  11. I have to agree with you. I’ve loved Alistair MacLean’s books (they’re great fun), but find they don’t always translate well to film. Ice Station Zebra is another story where the film version just doesn’t hold my attention.

    Liked by 1 person

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