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    The Eagle Has Landed Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Shout Factory

    Oct 18 2013 11:52 AM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    The Eagle Has Landed is a thrilling, action-packed World War II story based upon the best-selling novel by Jack Higgins (real name: Harry Patterson). It was the last film ever directed by John Sturges and features an outstanding cast led by Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Donald Sutherland. This new Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory delivers outstanding picture and sound, and it restores eight minutes of footage which was cut for the U.S. theatrical release in 1976. Also included are some interesting extra features and a DVD.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Shout! Factory
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English
    • Rating: PG
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 11 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD
    • Case Type: Standard Blu-ray Keep Case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 10/15/2013
    • MSRP: $24.97

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    The year is 1943 and the tide of World War II has turned against Nazi Germany. Benito Mussolini, the Fascist Prime Minister and de facto dictator of Italy, had been deposed and placed under arrest at a remote mountain resort. Two months after his arrest Mussolini was rescued by German parachute troops who raided the resort. The success of the rescue mission provided Adolf Hitler with the inspiration for an even more audacious idea - the kidnapping of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

    German Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Anthony Quayle) is ordered to conduct a feasibility study. Canaris believes that it is a waste of time and he knows that Hitler will forget about it in a few days, but Heinrich Himmler (Donald Pleasance), the head of the S.S., has endorsed the idea and Canaris knows that Himmler will not forget. Canaris calls in one of his subordinates, Oberst Max Radl (Robert Duvall, wearing a patch over one eye), and orders him to conduct the study, which both me believe is hopeless. However, Radl's aide then advises him that they have received an interesting bit of intelligence from an agent in England whose code name is "Starling." It seems that Churchill is planning on spending a few days at a country house near the village of Studley Constable on the east coast of England. Radl reasons that it could be possible to drop a team of parachute commandos into England and kidnap Churchill. Admiral Canaris continues to believe that the project is hopeless and he orders Radl to kill it, but Himmler calls Radl into his office and gives him authorization from Hitler to carry out the plan.

    Radl needs someone to lead the mission, and he decides upon Oberst Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine), who has conducted several successful commando raids and who was educated in England. The problem is that Steiner is a maverick who was court-martialed after helping a young Jewish girl who was trying to avoid being sent to a concentration camp in Poland. Radl also needs an advance man on the ground in England, and he selects Liam Devlin (Donald Sutherland), an Irishman and member of the IRA. Devin is not particularly fond of the Nazis but he hates the British, so he willingly signs up. In the meantime, Radl learns that Steiner and his men were sent to a penal colony on the island of Alderney in the Channel Islands, were they were ordered to conduct high-risk raids against British convoys. Steiner and his men agree that trying to capture Churchill is preferable to remaining on Alderney.

    Devlin is the first to arrive in Studley Constable, where "Starling" has arranged for him to have a job as marsh warden on a large estate. There he meets Joanna Grey (Jean Marsh) and Molly Prior (Jenny Agutter), both of whom are to play pivotal roles in what is to come. Against his better judgment, Devlin find himself attracted to Molly and she reciprocates. This causes trouble between Devlin and a local man who has had his eye on Molly. Devlin also finds time to do his part of the mission, and he scouts the area and finds an area on the beach which is suitable for a paratroop landing.

    The Eagle Has Landed also has some other interesting actors in supporting roles. Among them are Larry Hagman and Treat Williams as U.S. Army officers who command a small company of soldiers near Studley Constable. Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Donald Sutherland are all excellent and totally convincing in their roles. It has been reported that Caine was originally offered the role of Devlin, but he apparently did not want to play an IRA operative. Consideration was given to hiring Richard Harris, but he was a supporter of the IRA in real life so the producers turned to Donald Sutherland. The relationship between Devlin and Molly is not as well-developed in the film as it is in the novel, but Jenny Agutter is appealing as the English girl who tells Devlin that she will never fall in love with him.

    To some extent The Eagle Has Landed is similar to the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal. Both movies involve plots against famous historical characters (Charles de Gaulle being the target in The Day of the Jackal), and in both cases we know that the plots will not succeed. The suspense comes not from wondering about what happens to the targets, but from seeing how the plots unfold and caring about the individual characters on both sides who are involved. Director Sturges is careful to avoid the usual stereotypes about German soldiers. We are introduced to one particularly callous German officer early in the film, but Radl and Steiner are portrayed as decent and even honorable men. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz produced a wonderful script which contains many instances of sharp and sometimes witty dialogue.

    Anyone who enjoys a suspenseful and action-packed war film will want to pick up The Eagle Has Landed. Completists should be aware that there also is a two-disc Region 2 version released by Carlton in 2004 which includes a 145-minute version that contains footage which was never shown in theaters.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The 1080p 2.35:1 image is delivered via the AVC codec. It is mostly outstanding and it shows off the beautiful on-location filming (in various parts of England and Europe) by cinematographer Anthony Richmond to great advantage. The picture is generally sharp and well-detailed, although there are a few soft images which appear to be the way those scenes were shot. Colors are strong and accurate and the framing appears to be correct. An appropriate lever of film grain has been retained to give The Eagle Has Landed a satisfying, film-like appearance.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English soundtrack is the only available option and it delivers the goods. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, and Lalo Schifrin's score is delivered as cleanly as possible. Although there is no surround activity here, the audio really comes to life during the extended fighting scenes in the last 45 minutes or so of the film. There is excellent stereo separation and the viewer will hear bullets whizzing by in both directions.

    Special Features: 4/5

    This Blu-ray release includes a number of interesting and informative extras.

    "The Eagle Has Landed Revisited: Invading Mapledurham" is a featurette which is hosted by the film's production designer, Peter Murton. Mapledurham doubled as the fictitious village of Studley Constable, and we are taken on a tour of how the village looked in 2006, and in fact it has changed very little over the years. This featurette is shown in widescreen a looks fine except for a few tracking shots which have some unusual motion artifacts. The running time is approximately 15 minutes.

    "Tom Mankiewicz: Looking Back" gives the screenwriter an opportunity to reminisce about the challenges involved in adapting Jack Higgins' book. This featurette was filmed in 2007 and has a running time of 10 1/2 minutes.

    "ATV Today Location Report" is a promotional film about the location shooting in Mapledurham It is shown in 4:3 standard definition. This featurette includes interview footage with John Sturges, Michael Caine and Larry Hagman. It has a running time of approximately 9 minutes.

    "Film Night Location Report" is another promotional film which gives John Sturges, Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter and Michael Caine an opportunity to expound upon the making of the film. It has a running time of approximately 5 minutes and is shown in 4:3 standard definition.

    "On Location in Norfolk" is a brief short which features John Sturges talking about the cooperation he received from the locals who lived in the areas of England where much of the film was shot. It also is shown in standard definition 4:3 and runs for about 3 1/2 minutes

    "On Location Interviews" includes very informative interviews with Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, and John Sturges which cover not only The Eagle Had Landed but also their entire film careers. The featurette is shown in 4:3 standard definition and has a running time of approximately 26 minutes.

    The film's original theatrical trailer is shown in 2.35:1. It contains a fair amount of dirt and debris but otherwise is watchable.

    As noted, the set contains both a Blu-ray disc and a DVD.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5


    The Eagle Has Landed is a handsomely produced and exciting suspense film about a fictitious but seemingly plausible German plot to kidnap Winston Churchill. The acting is superb, the cinematography is outstanding, and the suspense is palpable.

    Equipment used for this review:

    Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
    Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
    Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
    BIC Acoustech speakers
    Interconnects: Monster Cable

    Reviewed by: Richard Gallagher
    Support HTF when you buy this title:



    16 Comments

    Great review! I've enjoyed this film since I saw it in the theater on its initial release. One of the rare times a movie version of thriller was darned near as good as the book. I'll be getting this one.

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Oct 18 2013 01:46 PM

    Great review! I've enjoyed this film since I saw it in the theater on its initial release. One of the rare times a movie version of thriller was darned near as good as the book. I'll be getting this one.

     

    Thanks! You'll enjoy the interview with Tom Mankiewicz where he talks about choosing what to leave out from the book. I remember that the book went into more detail about the relationship between Devlin and Molly.

    What comprises the 14 minutes of film in the Carlton version that this one does not have?

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English soundtrack is the only available option and it delivers the goods. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, and Lalo Schifrin's score is delivered as cleanly as possible. Although there is no surround activity here, the audio really comes to life during the extended fighting scenes in the last 45 minutes or so of the film. There is excellent stereo separation and the viewer will hear bullets whizzing by in both directions.

     


     

    You are listening with Dolby pro-logic engaged, right? The original soundtrack was in 4-track for some 35mm prints and 6-track for 70mm, so this should have been a mix-down into matrix-surround. I can't for the life of me figure out why so many soundtracks are mixed-down to 2 channels instead of presented discretely on Blu-ray.

    What comprises the 14 minutes of film in the Carlton version that this one does not have?

     

    Yeah, too bad that the "extended version" is not included (I still have to keep another DVD). Info: http://www.movie-cen...ort.php?ID=2160

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    Richard Gallagher
    Oct 21 2013 07:05 PM

    What comprises the 14 minutes of film in the Carlton version that this one does not have?

     

    I'll just refer you to the Wikipedia article about the film, which describes the extended version but contains spoilers.

     

    The Eagle Has Landed Wikipedia

    While it's not the full European extended version this cut is longer than the old Artisan DVD release and all other previous VHS releases that were missing about five-six minutes of scenes mostly involving Larry Hagman's gross ineptitude (including a scene where he confronts a German soldier who mocks him by answering "Yes" to every question of his).   

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    theonemacduff
    Oct 25 2013 10:46 AM

    Spoiler

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    Richard Gallagher
    Oct 25 2013 02:50 PM

    More is not always better!

      • ROclockCK likes this

    ^ I think it would be in this case. The beginning stuff could have been cut I guess, interesting but not necessary to the story, it's covered enough later on. Most of the other cuts are very poorly made. The whole story of Devlin and Molly that intertwines the whole film doesn't even make sense the way it's been cut. Would have been pretty tough to cut all of it though, but the way it is just seems stupid to me. I know it's just a story, but if you follow it closely the reactions and behavior of Devlin re Molly don't even make sense...until you've seen the cuts.

     

    How about when Devlin is putting the vehicles in the garage/barn? Watch that part. All of a sudden we have a bunch of German-speaking people and vehicles appearing out of absolutely nowhere...a very jarring cut, no background explanation.

     

    That's an opinion of the film and the cuts. I don't like that in Blu-ray reviews lol, I want to know about the disc, the movie I can decide for myself. In that regard, I found this to be a very satisfying presentation, I'm happy. Actually, overall, this is one of the better presentations of a 70s WW2 movie on BD that I've seen (Patton is better, and though it counts for'70, the film itself says '69 lol).

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Oct 26 2013 04:54 PM

    ^ I think it would be in this case.

     

    It depends upon what the "more" is. I agree with you that the Devlin-Molly relationship is not well-developed in the film. They meet in town, have a brief encounter on the beach, he has a fight with her local suitor, and suddenly she is in love with him. You have to fill in the blanks yourself.

     

    Of course, that is the dilemma any time a screenwriter has to adapt a novel to a screenplay - what to put in, what to leave out.

    Thanks for steering me toward this one Richard...I'd never seen it and was waffling. But it was w-a-y more interesting than imagined, especially the characters, especially given the wartime setting...I was expecting something more dead seriously gung-ho. And you're right, that Tom Mankiewicz piece was very insightful regarding the adaptation process.

     

    Overall, just a superb movie, superbly presented.

    The biggest change they made though was the ending regarding what Steiner does in his final action.   And while the film version is more dramatic from a cinematic standpoint, IMO it undermines the character of Steiner completely and IMO undermines the whole premise of Steiner representing a more noble type of character.     This is IMO the film's biggest failure in adaptaing the novel because Steiner and his men don't come across as the anti-Nazi figures that they were in the novel.

     

    Also, one bad edit totally muddles the matter of what happens to Lieutenant Neustadt.    In the final version, if you blink you will miss the one clue they leave in as to his fate.     I know I missed it all these years because it goes by too fast but there was I believe a longer scene in the other cut.

    I got the impression from the film that ALL the military people, on both sides and of all nationalities, were very noble. Except the senior Nazis. The film is very pro-military, in an honorable way. Counter that to some of the treatment of military personnel going on at the time this film was made (or now...). But that's me...

     

    As soon as I watched this disc (hadn't seen the movie since new in theaters), I just had to check if Higgins' SS-GB had ever been made into a film. Big disappointment it hadn't. Maybe an even goofier premise if you consider this movie that, but hey it's a cool story (I like Red Dawn too).

    Actually, I think Len Deighton wrote SS-GB.

    ^ That sounds right, I couldn't find the book here. I wonder where on earth I could have found the proper author's title...? :)