Eastwood Nearly Goes for a Burton
Unlike some war movies which were made during the 50s and 60s "Where Eagles Dare" is purely a work of fiction, written and made for one reason and that is to entertain through exciting action and daring do. As such it has elements of Boy' Own about it as we watch the heroic acts of lead duo Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood as they take us on an adventure and basically sticking it to the Germans. Whilst entertaining "Where Eagles Dare" is by no means a great movie or even a great war movie, but it does what it sets out to do and that is to entertain through both action and a storyline which twists and turns through various double crosses.
When a plane goes down near a German military strong hold, the American General on board is helf prisoner by the Germans and taken to their mountain fortress. In fear that the General will spill the beans, the British put together an elite team to parachute into Bavaria to penetrating the fortress and rescue the general before he breaks. But not all is as it seems as during the parachute drop one of the team is murdered and team leader Major John Smith (Richard Burton - Sea Wife) seems to have ulterior plans.
One of the best things about "Where Eagles Dare" is that it starts of as one thing, a simple tale of a rescue mission during the war. But as it progresses we become aware that all is not as it seems and we are lead to suspect that Major Smith maybe hiding something, that he maybe the traitor in the team. And then just as we are doubting him we go through a series of twists and turns as well as countless double crosses before it all makes sense. It all becomes clear during the movie scene in the heart of the German stronghold as Smith works his way through more twists and turns to the point it feels contrived but somehow makes it clear exactly what is happening. But despite bordering on the over the top when it comes to double crosses it's entertaining to boot, exciting as you try to work out who the bad guys are.
And when "Where Eagles Dare" is not trying to seduce you into thinking one thing then another it is plying you with action and adventure. From the opening scenes which feature the parachute drop into the Bavarian mountains to the dangerous assault on the German castle right through to the daring action packed escape. It's the stuff of young boys dreams, or use to be as they acted out the adventures they watched on the screen and as such delivers scene after scene of excitement. From gun fights, explosions, riding on top of cable cars it has it all in bucket loads.
Thankfully unlike many war movies which try to deliver excitement through action and adventure it restrains itself from going to far. It would be so easy to go over the top and edge towards being comical with so much action but it doesn't. Yes there are scenes where people die in less than believable ways as they throw themselves theatrically to the ground but it never ends up being comical or either trying to be comical.
It also helps that the lead duo of Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood are on fine form together. Burton delivers that sense of mystery perfectly in the early scenes where we doubt who he really is and despite being no spring chicken still looked credible playing the action hero. And then there is Clint Eastwood who plays the almost strong, silent one yet doesn't hold back in his various action scenes. In fact the balance of the two works well as whilst Burton gets the lion's share of the dialogue, Eastwood gets to deliver the more exciting action scenes.
So commanding are the performances of Burton and Eastwood that no one else really makes any impact, not Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark or Michael Hordern as whilst no one puts in an inferior performance "Where Eagles Dare" is all about the machismo of Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
What this all boils down to is that "Where Eagles Dare" is by no means a great movie but it achieves what it sets out to do and that is to deliver action, adventure and excitement in a Boy's Own kind of way. With good performances from Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood there is rarely a dull moment and it the action isn't getting you the twisting storyline will.