Where Eagles Dare
U.K. - U.S.A. / 1968
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Starring
Richard Burton
Clint Eastwood
Mary Ure
Color / 158 Minutes / PG
Format: DVD / R1 - NTSC
Warner Home Video
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Guest Review by Troy Howarth
A team of Allied commandos infiltrate a Nazi-occupied castle in order to spring a captured American general...
    Adapted by Alistair MacLean from his own novel, Where Eagles Dare is a fantastic mixture of action and suspense. A rare World War II adventure that maintains a solid momentum from beginning to end while also succeeding in making the audience feel for the characters, it never lets up and keeps the surprises coming until the very last scene.
    The film benefits from the unusual pairing of Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. In many respects, the two men are polar opposites Burton is short, beefy, introspective and somewhat theatrical, whereas Eastwood is tall, lanky, laconic and very natural in his approach to acting. The two men have a wonderful chemistry on screen, however, that gives the film a special punch. From an acting standpoint, it's really Burton's show he's the center of attention and gets all the good lines. Eastwood, to a degree, is relegated to the background, but he never wilts when Burton is on screen. He more than holds his own, which is saying a great deal for an actor who, up until that point, had seldom acted alongside actors of Burton's caliber and reputation.
    The supporting cast includes a number of familiar faces: Patrick Wymark (The Skull, Blood on Satan's Claw), Ferdy Mayne (The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Vampire Lovers), Michael Hordern (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Theater of Blood), Ingrid Pitt (Countess Dracula, The Wicker Man), Anton Diffring (Faceless, The Blue Max), and many others. Pitt and Mary Ure provide the film with some eye candy, but they also make for credible contacts for the Burton character and get to play an active role in the finale indeed the sight of Ure holding her own with a submachine gun must have been quite novel for audiences in 1968! Diffring, a gifted actor who fled Germany to escape the Nazis, ironically ended up playing Nazis in British films on many occasions Where Eagles Dare is no exception, though he actually evokes more sympathy here than usual, probably because the role of the real evil Nazi is left to smug Derren Nesbitt. There's not a single bad performance in the film, which, considering its size and scope, is rather remarkable.
    Director Brian G. Hutton does a terrific job with the material. Granted he had the advantage of an unusually good action screenplay by MacLean, but he still manages to do ample justice to what's on the page and deliver some fabulous action sequences. The material on the cable cars, with Burton fighting off would-be assassins while clambering to stay on the slippery rooftop, is absolutely wonderful. Hutton also makes good use of crosscutting to help sustain the suspense in various sequences, notably towards the end when everyone appears to be double crossing everybody else. Hutton, who would later re-team with Eastwood for the massively entertaining WWII caper Kelly's Heroes (1970), is something of an unsung master of this type of film and Where Eagles Dare is a fantastic demonstration of his abilities.

Warner Bros.' release of Where Eagles Dare, as part of their Clint Eastwood Collection, is more than satisfactory. The 2.35/16x9 image looks fabulous. Arthur Ibbetson's stylish cinematography fares very well in this transfer, with dirt and grain kept to a bare minimum. There is no distracting print damage to report. Audio quality is also good, though WB have sadly opted to include only the newly mixed 5.1 track, and not the original mono mix. The 5.1 track sounds very good, however, and does a particularly nice job of serving up Ron Goodwin's excellent music score.
    Extras include a mildly interesting behind-the-scenes piece, shot as the film was being made (no retrospective stuff), a talent bio for Eastwood (why not Burton?), and a theatrical trailer.
7/17/05
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