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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Where Eagles Dare (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)



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#1 of 21 Herb Kane

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Posted September 05 2003 - 03:49 AM

Posted Image

Where Eagles Dare





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1968
Rated: PG
Film Length: 155 Mins.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish






The Feature:
Do you remember what I said in my last review of Little Women - that I would be making up the month of September with Clint Eastwood – in spades…? Well, I was serious. So much so, that if you’re not a fan of Clint (and I can’t imagine there are many who are not), then proceed directly to your User Control Panel and add me to your ignore list…. cause you’re going to see a lot of Clint over the next month or so. And, in case you can’t tell, I’m ecstatic about that!

A few months back there was a thread questioning who the most represented actors were on our beloved format. A lot of names were mentioned but with the September release of eight WB titles, Clint Eastwood surely has to be one of, if not the, most represented actor on DVD. Other than a dozen or so low budget movies (most of which are uncredited appearances) and the popular western series Rawhide (1959-1966), the only other Eastwood movie that remains in the vault is the 1968 classic, Coogan’s Bluff. Considering Eastwood’s bankability, I suspect we won’t have to wait long for this title. Unfortunately a few of the earlier WB titles are MAR releases, we can only hope they’ll be released in their proper format in due time.

Of the group of September Eastwood releases, I’m guessing Where Eagles Dare is the most anticipated release of the bunch. This long awaited DVD is the story of a British military search and rescue operation headed by Major Smith (Richard Burton) and Lt. Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) who is an American soldier specifically recruited for the operation.

Their mission is to rescue an American General who has been captured by the Germans after the plane he was in crashed behind enemy lines. He is held captive at an impenetrable fortress (Castle of the Eagles) in the Austrian Alps. Or, is there an ulterior reason for this seemingly impossible mission…?

Get the popcorn, dim the lights and get ready to be entertained. Where Eagles Dare is the precursor movie which highlights Clint Eastwood as the cool, likeable tough guy which has become his legendary trademark.



Video:
Let me start by saying that this movie is dark. Clearly much of what we see was filmed at dusk and many of the inside shots were shot somewhat darker than usual. To add to that, it appears as though many of the outdoor snow and mountain shots appear to have been shot with a bluish filter (or so it seems). Suffice it to say, the film has a unique look to it.

Having said that, I went into it with expectations lower than perhaps I should have. I was wrong. I have never seen the movie look better. Let me start with the bad… I could detect slight edge enhancement during the credits as well as a couple of other scenes where there was a contrast of the dark uniforms against the brighter sky. I did not find it to be overly bothersome. There was grain present, however it was minimal.

Now the good news. Aside from a few of the flaws I have mentioned, I was thoroughly impressed with the video presentation. The black levels were extremely dark and contrast was very good. As for white levels, as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to say if a filter process changed the look during the original filming… but the snow had a somewhat blue tint to it and the white snow uniforms had (at times) a slight yellow tint to them. I project with a Sharp XV-Z9000u projector which handles colors very well and it appears as though the whites were troublesome. As for the other colors, I was very impressed. Saturation was perfect and skin tones seemed very accurate. I could detect no dirt, scratches or any signs of compression artificating.

Finally, the clarity was most impressive. Many of the scenes were filmed in close quarters and facial detail was outstanding.

Although it would appear that I’ve highlighted many video flaws (or points of inimitability), I have done so merely to point out a few matters that should be mentioned. Overall, I truly am happy with the video presentation.



Audio:
This is a track that is certainly up front. Needless to say, this movie contains a ton of action scenes, explosions, shootouts etc. The audio portion has been handled very well. Many of the explosions are quite full and will surely be pleasing to most. There was also a relatively decent amount of LFE as well with many of the action scenes. There was a good sense of directionality with the passing of trains and explosions etc. There was also a nice sense of spaciousness with the often dramatic score which accompanied much of the film. Clarity and dialogue was perhaps better than expected – very nice, very clear. Conversation was intelligible all of the time. Surround use was minimal and consisted mostly of slight rumbling and music filler (scoring).

There were one or two occasions where there was a slight lip synch problem. In particular, approximately 28 minutes in, where Eastwood and Burton were hidden in the woods overlooking the castle. It only seemed to last a few seconds and was not a recurring problem.

A very nice audio presentation.



Special Features:
Included is a short documentary; Where Eagles Dare – On Location. This is a short but informative documentary which features extensive behind the scenes footage and describes the challenges of filming in such a secluded location. Also discussed are many of the special effects used during filming. There is a short commentary from both Eastwood and Burton. The feature is dated but is rather informative. Duration 12:38 mins.

Also included is the Theatrical Trailer. Unfortunately, little or no work was done to the trailer as it appears to be in rather poor shape.

Not much in terms of quantity, but as I’ve said before, I’ll take a 12 minute feature with substance over a two hour commentary of fluff… any day of the week.



Final Thoughts:
While I don’t think Where Eagles Dare will ever go down in the annals as a WWII historical piece, it is however, a highly entertaining film with much to offer in the way of action, chases and suspense. The movie should be enjoyed and appreciated for what it is – entertainment. And it does a great job at that!

Warner’s have offered a solid disc with a most impressive audio and video presentation. Combine that with a two and a half hour movie that’s sure to entertain, and your decision should be an easy one! Highly Recommended!




Released: September 2nd, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 21 John Hodson

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Posted September 05 2003 - 04:13 AM

Nice review Herb - and a great piece of nonsense Where Eagles Dare is. My only complaint is that this is part of The Clint Eastwood Collection, when it is clearly Richard Burton's film. However, that aside (altogether now, and I'll get in first with this in this thread) 'Broadsword calling Danny Boy..'

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#3 of 21 Jeff_HR

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Posted September 05 2003 - 04:55 AM

I watched my DVD a couple of days ago. It looked really good to me. I can now retire my LD. Good review.
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#4 of 21 Rob Willey

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Posted September 05 2003 - 06:35 AM

I too was pleased with the results of Warner's long(!) restoration efforts on Where Eagles Dare and highly recommend it as well.

I'm glad I read your review, Herb. I've seen this movie many times but had no idea Schaffer's first name was Morris. A tough guy named Morris!? Posted Image

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#5 of 21 Matt Stryker

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Posted September 05 2003 - 06:36 AM

Just to echo, I'm very impressed with the video. I had only seen this on TBS in MAR and once on TCM in OAR, but the DVD transfer is a revelation. Posted Image

I wasn't bothered as much by the "day-for-night" bluish scenes by themselves, but on some of them (especially the cable car) it really made some of the SFX look terrible. Guess thats the price of clarity though.

#6 of 21 Robert Crawford

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Posted September 05 2003 - 07:16 AM

Great transfer in my opinion and did any of you noticed the cables used to crash the German vehicles in the film?





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#7 of 21 John Madia

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Posted September 13 2003 - 03:37 PM

This was actually sold out locally so I didn't get to see it until today. Really fun movie (though not quite as fun as Guns of navarone) and a good all around DVD. Someone was actually paying attention as one of the chapter names is "Fistfuls of Dynamite" with a picture of Clint. Hopefully we'll get Ice Station Zebra out on DVD soon.

#8 of 21 Garrett Adams

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Posted September 14 2003 - 10:36 AM

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Hopefully we'll get Ice Station Zebra out on DVD soon.


You and Howard Hughes. Posted Image

#9 of 21 Kristoffer

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Posted September 14 2003 - 07:14 PM

I just got this. The english 5.1 sound is ok. But when switching to the french I noticed that when the germans speak, they speak german! And are not dubbed in french! Are the germans dubbed in the American version? I seem to remember watching I version where the germans did speak german and not english...

#10 of 21 RickardL

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Posted September 15 2003 - 02:40 AM

I don't know about the "original" language of the Germans
but it is always distracting when just imposing a
so called German accent instead of actually speaking
German.
But I guess it is for those poor souls
who can't read (subtitles). Maybe the R2 version coming
later this year will have proper German for the Germans?

Anyway, what do you all think of the cover?
Personally, I think it is very lame.
This is (almost) how my VHS cover looks:
http://www.whereeagl...._5_no_64_b.jpg
which I think is a lot better.

#11 of 21 John Hodson

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Posted September 15 2003 - 04:47 AM

Got mine yesterday and watched it last night; I was very impressed with both the transfer and the sound Posted Image

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#12 of 21 Douglas R

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Posted September 15 2003 - 05:35 AM

Quote:
I just got this. The english 5.1 sound is ok. But when switching to the french I noticed that when the germans speak, they speak german! And are not dubbed in french! Are the germans dubbed in the American version? I seem to remember watching I version where the germans did speak german and not english...


Kristoffer - Yes that's interesting, I just checked the French track myself which, as you say, has the German players dubbed into German. At least it makes it more authentic. On the English track the Germans (Anton Diffring and all the English actors playing Germans)are definitely all speaking their own lines in English. I've never seen any other English language version with the Germans speaking German. Where Eagles Dare is probably one of the last war films which maintained the Hollywood convention that absolutely everyone speaks English!

#13 of 21 RickardL

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Posted September 15 2003 - 11:53 AM

I agree that Germans speaking German adds more
"realism" but having the English speak French at the same
time, very much removes it...Posted Image
But I switched back and forth while watching it today and
also noticed that Burton and Eastwood (and even Mary Ure)
were also dubbed into German when they were supposed to be
talking German; passing the guards on the bridge, ordering
beer in the bar and so on. Nice touch.

#14 of 21 John Madia

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Posted September 15 2003 - 04:57 PM

I think the trouble with having them speak German in the film is that the majority of the dialog in the film would have had to be in German. It wouldn't have bothered me but I doubt they would've been able to get financing if they had it subtitled.

#15 of 21 Paul_Scott

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Posted September 16 2003 - 09:49 PM

just finished watching it.
i'm in the middle of trying to calibrate a new projector, and thought i had everything down pretty well, but this isn't really the movie to put in to make sure Posted Image.
i was getting a distinct magenta cast to the faces in the day for night shots, otherwise colors and flesh tones looked appropriate.
black levels seemed to fluctuate, and the appearence of the print in spots could look very 'dupey' at times, and other times pristine (although the former is more common).
a little print damage but that area isn't a big deal.

i found the EE to be quite noticeable...but really only in the exterior shots.
it's very apparent in shots of figures against the snow.
not as bad as Giant, but its still disappointing to see.
i hope this isn't a sign of things to come from Warner, but i'm starting to notice this on more and more titles from them.

given that the title was said to be undergoing an extensive restoration, i'm kind of underwhelmed with the final result, but i'm glad to finally have it and it is , in the end, decent enough if unspectacular.

#16 of 21 Mike DB

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Posted September 17 2003 - 04:17 AM

MILD SPOILER AHEAD:
Near the beginning there is some clarification that all the main characters are fluent in German and from that point on you must assume that they are speaking in German when the situation requires it.
END OF SPOILER
My problem, and it's really the only one, with Where Eagles Dare is that since they always speak in English in the film. there is no indication at all as to when they are speaking German and when not. Some of the characters do use an accent but for example both Eastwood and Burton do not. I generally prefer to hear the language spoken as it would have been and deal with subtitles. It makes little sense to have them speak in a German accent to denote the German language especially when some characters do not even stay consistant with that rule. I only bring this up since others have mentioned it too. IMO it doesn't really matter a whole lot in a film like this once you get going.

With that little nit picked, I really enjoyed this film tremendously. You have to accept it for the time period it was made. Effects and makeup suffer a bit by today's standards but you get caught up in the action anyway. There are a few minor plot flaws which are not worth fussing about. The bottom line is that it's great fun to watch and the last hour has some suspense sequences that are so intense they are almost unbearable.

I must mention the terrific thundering orchestral score by Ron Goodwin, filled with militaristic snare drums and bold brassy fanfare type cues. It enhances the move many times over. The music is full and dynamic and well recorded. I love this time period, late 60's-early 70's, for the way stereo scores were recorded for movies. They used a relatively small orchestra in a studio with a very dry, up front in your face mix. This way the music would sound best in the theaters of that time. That type of sound for a good score like this one adds so much flavor and energy to the movie, it's wonderful to hear.

#17 of 21 Douglas R

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Posted September 17 2003 - 07:03 AM

Quote:
in London Warner put on a 70mmm presentation at the Empire Leicester Square to promote the film to the retail trade. I never knew there were blown up 70mm prints of this film?


When it first opened in the UK it was shown in 70mm in major cities across the UK but was not given a roadshow (hard ticket) presentation.

#18 of 21 DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 17 2003 - 07:49 AM

Never saw this film but I'll have to give it a go. Great review Herb!
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#19 of 21 TedD

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Posted September 17 2003 - 12:03 PM

Even if there is a 70mm print kicking around, it would be Eastman Color and would probably be badly faded by now.

Ted

#20 of 21 Peter Apruzzese

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Posted September 17 2003 - 02:12 PM

Quote:
in London Warner put on a 70mmm presentation at the Empire Leicester Square to promote the film to the retail trade. I never knew there were blown up 70mm prints of this film? Apparantly this master print was flown over from the US for the one off presentation and although I missed it ( annoyingly) it was spectacular by all accounts.
According to a posting on Film Score Monthly from an attendee of the London screening, the print they ran was from the Swedish Film Institute and had Swedish subtitles. The color is reported to be slightly fading to pink, but the mag tracks were supposed to sound great. The BFI's print is not runable and Warner in the US has no 70mm prints.
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