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.
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 2 Hr. 11 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVDStandard Blu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/15/2013
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.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
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.
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.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
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.
Audio Rating: 4/5
This Blu-ray release includes a number of interesting and informative extras.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
"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
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