If you’re in the mood for a rollicking adventure story, ‘Where Eagles Dare’ has to be up there with the best of them.
With its combination of a Second World War setting, espionage storyline and daredevil stunt work it’s a winning formula - and it’s always satisfying to see the Nazis thrashed by a hugely outnumbered force.
Produced as an original story by best-selling author Alistair MacLean, the film was a huge commercial hit at the time of its release in 1968 and is now widely regarded as one of the best war films ever.
After the capture of U.S. Brigadier General George Carnaby, who has been involved in the planning of the second front, a team of commandos led by MI6 officer Major John Smith (Richard Burton) and Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood), a U.S. Army Ranger, parachutes into Bavaria. Their mission, set by Colonel Turner (Patrick Wymark) and Admiral Rolland (Michael Hordern) of MI6, is to infiltrate the mountain fortress Schloss Adler where the general’s being held before he’s interrogated about the allies’ plans.
After landing, two members of Smith’s team are killed by persons unknown but, aided by agents Mary Elison (Mary Ure) and Heidi Schmidt (Ingrid Pitt), Smith pushes on relentlessly with the plan but it becomes apparent that there’s more to the mission than the team has been told.
If you’re watching it for the first time you have to keep your wits about you as, typical of MacLean’s work, there are double-crosses and double-double crosses with Smith lying his way through the picture with gyroscopic skill and speed. Even if you’ve seen it before, it still pays to take heed.
The stunt work is impressive, particularly fight scenes on the castle’s cable car, the location is authentic and there’s a sufficient amount of gunfire and explosions to keep action fans more than happy.