Where Eagles Dare at 50…

3 Stars

If any title is screaming out for a freshly scanned 4K transfer, it’s Steven Spielberg’s favourite war movie…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5222111/Night-Liz-Taylor-saved-Richard-Burton-maniac-gunman.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/eagles-dare-50-burton-eastwood-plus-lot-vodka-made-worlds/

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Kevin Collins

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35 Comments

  1. Oh yes, a great film until the shooting starts, & then it gets very silly (or sillier than before), & the Blu-ray doesn't look much cop (it looks more SD than HD to me). Time to pry open those old film cans & scan the actual OCNs.

  2. A really great “Boy’s Own” kinda of movie that always enjoy watching with a story that goes on until the final moments that it truly deserves. Would happily buy again any worthy new release. 4K please 🙂

    Regards,

  3. Billy Batson

    Oh yes, a great film until the shooting starts, & then it gets very silly (or sillier than before), & the Blu-ray doesn't look much cop (it looks more SD than HD to me). Time to pry open those old film cans & scan the actual OCNs.

    How dare you.;) God, I ate that action up when I first viewed this film at my local Merritt theater.

  4. Robert Crawford

    How dare you.;) God, I ate that action up when I first viewed this film at my local Merritt theater.

    Ha, thank god the Germans seemed to be firing blanks or our plucky bunch would never have made it out alive. 🙂

  5. I do not think that Where Eagles Dare has the potential to look that much better than it currently does, too dark and therefore not that much detail for most of the running time of the movie and the current Blu-ray is not that bad.

    Warner has a bunch of movies that are much more removed from their best so I would rather see them revisited. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) comes to mind or to name another war movie Battle of the Bulge. I would also hope that Rio Bravo could improve quite a bit more.

    That being said maybe somebody at Warner has a soft spot for this one, it surely seems to have its loyal fans!

  6. I'd certainly agree on Mutiny On The Bounty ('62) & Rio Bravo, & to them I'd add The Searchers & The Wild Bunch & that's the problem Warner has, a lot of films to redo, & a mountain of movies awaiting a first time Blu-ray release.

  7. Hard to believe that it is 50 years since I first saw this cracking “boys own” adventure. I have watched the movie multiple times and though preposterous is a great adventure.
    I have the current Blu which is okay but not special and would happily purchase a better copy but my recollection of cinema screenings is that it was dark and a little muddy in appearance in a number of scenes.

  8. Robert Crawford

    How dare you.;) God, I ate that action up when I first viewed this film at my local Merritt theater.

    Well, the whole thing is really pretty damn implausible if you start thinking too hard about it. This is one of those films, like TERMINATOR 2, where you just have to let go of logic and enjoy the thrill ride.

  9. My all-time favorite movie. Grew up watching this in two parts on ABC (part 1 on Sunday night, part 2 on Monday night), when a network TV premiere was a huge event. Then, prior to home video, had to wait until Turner/TNT's annual Memorial Day war movie marathon. Now I watch my blu-ray 2-3 times a year.

    Implausible, yes. But no more than any Star Wars or Marvel movie. And, IMO, way more entertaining. No backstory angst, just a good old-fashioned adventure.

    I'd pay $50 for a remastered 4k release.

  10. It's screened regularly down here in Australia on my projector screen. My wife, who generally doesn't like war movies, really enjoys this one … though that's because it is really so unbelievable! And packed with great actors .. not least Patrick Wymark, who many people will remember from the cracking good British corporate drama tv series The Power Game.

  11. atcolomb

    Great film score by Ron Goodwin. One of the best WWII films.

    so very true and the film would not have been as popular as it was then and also today without his music. The opening credits with his music will never be repeated in the history of cinema . Quite simply mind-blowing. The man himself was a true gentleman .

  12. Thomas T

    IF and when Warners decides to do a fresh transfer, I hope they include the intermission and entr'acte which was on the laser disc but not on the DVD or blu ray.

    When I saw it in a theater in 1969, there was no intermission or entr'acte.

    Also, it opened in January 1969 in the U.K. and March 1969 in the U.S., so the 50th is some months away.

  13. Vic Pardo

    When I saw it in a theater in 1969, there was no intermission or entr'acte.

    Also, it opened in January 1969 in the U.K. and March 1969 in the U.S., so the 50th is some months away.

    I don't know if these anniversary editions add any sales, I mean if you want it you'll buy it.

  14. Stephen PI

    Below is a link to an account of my involvement on the film:

    Great stuff, Stephen! I think I also speak for others when I say that you should post the text in a normal post, would be a shame if somebody missed it because you only attached it as a file.

  15. Brent Avery

    Makes you wonder how many rounds they went through and how quickly they were able to reload!

    From the back of that bus, Mary Ure firing that machine gun along side Clint always leaves me with a big smile.

  16. Man I'm enjoying this thread for the "love" that is being expressed for this classic -didn't think there were many of us left in this day and age of "modern" cinema! Last watched maybe 6 weeks ago on TCM around midnight with Kelly's Heroes (which is growing on me).

    Regards,

  17. OK….trying to not be annoying on this thread. BUT….I love this movie. WWII, Alistair Maclean, snow, Nazis, intrigue, action. What's not to love?

    Genuinely, this is just MY movie. Everyone has one… that movie you can watch repeatedly, over and over, never bored. People can criticize the implausibilities, etc and you just say " F$#% off…this is MY Movie…just shut up and let me enjoy it".

    $75 for a remastered 4k release. My daughter can go to community college!

  18. Everyone loves Where Eagles Dare! I saw it first when I was a small, irritating, schoolboy at the age of ten, when our headmaster at primary school (who was obviously a huge fan) set up an extra showing for children from the fourth grade up. We weren't allowed to see the first reel, because it was deemed to be too violent, so we only got to see 85 Nazis being killed, instead of 89. For weeks afterward, every child at that school went around pretending to be Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, shooting Nazis round every corner.

    I still enjoy the film just as much 40 years later, but am now allowed to see it from the beginning.

  19. OliverK

    Great stuff, Stephen! I think I also speak for others when I say that you should post the text in a normal post, would be a shame if somebody missed it because you only attached it as a file.

    Thanks OliverK, as you requested………

    I was working as a projectionist at the Odeon, Elephant and Castle and I got a call, in March/April 1968, from the NATKE projectionist's union to attend an interview with Tom Howard at the MGM British Studios in Borehamwood, Elstree, Herts. There was a vacancy for a trainee in the Process Projection Department which was part of MGM's Special Photographic Effects Department of which Tom Howard was in charge. As a lot of you know Tom Howard's career goes back to the days of Alexander Korda and he worked on many British-based MGM films in the forties, fifties and sixties. "Village of the Damned", "The Haunting", "Gorgo", "2001" to name just a few. (MGM moved into the lot after the war and remained there until 1969. Besides MGM, Fox and the Mirisch Corporation shot some British productions there. Before the war MGM used Denham Studios where they made such productions as "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "The Citadel". They were known as the 'MGM Unit').
    >>I got the job and re-located to Borehamwood. MGM was the first studio I worked for and it was overwhelming. At every opporunity, I walked around the studio. On the backlot there were the remains of exterior sets of "Quatermass and the Pit", and "The Dirty Dozen", and a satellite dish – which was part of the Discovery in "2001" – sat rotting away. I met many veterans of MGM who had worked there for many years. One person in particular was Reg a carpenter (they are knicknamed 'chippies') and he described to me how he achieved and executed the effect of the 'bending door' in "The Haunting". I also recall visitng the property department and sitting high on a shelf at the back was Gorgo's head! (I regret not claiming it when I left, as it probably finished up in the trash when the studio closed).

    At this time there was little work for us, but within a week or two Tom Howard came to us with some news that we would be starting on a production in June, which was "Where Eagles Dare".

    During the slow times we would have to service the projection equipment. Unlike regular cinema projectors, which were equipped with an intermittent sprocket beneath the picture gate, they were installed with a 'Mitchell movement'. The movement had a reputation for moving film through the gate at an extremely steady rate. It was designed by the Mitchell Corporation in the US and was the standard for motion picture cameras throughout the film industry for many years.

    The film we used, which was known as 'plates', was specially photographed by a unit on the production, or from a library of moving backgrounds. Photographed at various angles, they were projected behind actors in various set-ups, boats, planes, cars etc. These 35mm standard four-perf plates were specially color graded and utilised the complete negative area.

    When the main unit arrived from the Austrian location they immediately started filming on existing sets that were constructed on the various sound stages, of which MGM had many. One of the larger ones, Stage 10, housed the 'Gold Room' where Burton and Eastwood's characters confront the Germans during a meeting. On another stage there was the interior of the cable car station which was located at the top of the castle. The station itself was built high up on the stage as several feet were needed for an approach and departure for two 'practical' (which means operational) cable cars. The cables themselves ran several feet to the bottom of the stage.

    The scenes that we were to prepare for were backgrounds for the plane on it's approach and escape from the airfield, the bus, the motorcycle, the cable cars and for odd close ups of actors.

    Our very first set up was a shot of Richard Burton in the cable car unscrewing a light bulb while instructing on the timing of the explosives. On the many occasions where we utilised actors, we would have to wait, sometimes hours, to become available from the main unit.

    On the cable car scenes, we utilised a front projection rig system. (What I described previously, 'rear' projection, was a method that had been used throughout the industry for years).

    The front projection system was specifically designed for Stanley Kubrick's production "2001". It consisted of a method of projecting a static 10×8 positive/negative plate projected through a special 50/50 transmission/reflection glass plate mounted at 45 degrees onto a large glass-beaded coated screen (now widely used), developed by the 3M company. As a result the image brightness on the screen was amplified by many times. It was then reflected straight back into the mirror and reflected at a right angle into the lens of the camera which was attached to the same rig as the projector. The main benefit of this process was to pour more light onto the background image for a better exposure level resulting in a more realistic composite image. A problem which had beset rear-projection technology for many years.

    Kubrick was so sold on the technology and the 3M material, that he planned to use it extensively on his next project which was to be "Napoleon". On my many visits to Tom Howard's office, he showed be a rough plan of how he and Kubrick planned to utilize it.

    Tom Howard was a legend in the special effects field. He knew I was genuinely interested in what he did and was always eager to share it with me. The last time I saw him was at ABPC around 1977, almost eight years after MGM closed, and he told me of his plan to write a book called "From Korda To Kubrick" which I don't believe was ever published.

    The front projection rig was only used for background shots behind exteriors and interiors of the cable cars, when leading actors appear. I do not want to discredit the incredible work of the stuntmen headed by the legendary Yakima 'Yak' Canutt and his team. Unfortunately, I did not meet Canutt at the studio as he left for home in the US after the location work was completed. British stuntman Alf Joint headed the stunt team at the studio plus he doubled for Burton.

    The rear projection work on the bus was utilised by a method called 'triple head' projection.
    Looking toward the rear and the front of the bus three simultaneous images were projected, one facing at the center and one on each side. Three interlocked projectors were used. The shutters had to be phased with each other as well as with the camera shutter. Each image was projected on to individual translucent screens. (The motorcycle, airplane and car-crash sequences utilized the traditional single projector set-up). With the rear projector being located on the other side of the translucent screen, opposite to the camera and actors, you couldn't observe the action. All you could hear was the director shouting instructions to the actors.

    As I had mentioned previously, we would set-up the equipment and then sometimes sit around for a long time for the main unit to come over to the stage. If the set-ups involved using main actors, the main unit would come to the stage and had the opportunity to get to know most of the crew. Brian G. Hutton, the director, was very friendly. His background was as a Hollywood actor. He played supporting roles in "Gunfight at the OK Corral" and "King Creole". This was his second film as director, prior to this was "The Pad" (1966).

    Where the rear projection set-ups only used a portion of the stage, the art department built several smaller sets. I had the oppportunity often to watch filming on them. Among the scenes I recall was a brief scene shot between Ingrid Pitt and Mary Ure in her bedroom. The underside of the bridge was constructed for the scene of Eastwood and Burton rigging it with explosives. On this occasion Liz Taylor came to visit the set one early evening.

    We did do a front projection set up with Richard Burton retrieving his parachute. I recall the camera operator suggesting Burton's hood not be pulled too far forward over his face, immediately Burton snapped back that audiences would know who it was!

    There was a mock-up section of the snow covered roof of the cable car station. This was used for an insert of two gloved hands, where Burton reaches out to prevent Eastwood from sliding off the roof. The actual actors were not needed for this shot, just two stand-ins with jackets and gloves.

    After watching the first hour or so of the film recently, I was reminded of the contribution of the matte artist Douglas Adamson. I visited his department on one occasion where he and his lovely assistant Anne were painting on glass a long shot of the 'Castle of the Eagle' with the surrounding mountains. (A large miniature was also constructed on the back lot). The painting can be seen when Derren Nesbitt accompanies Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt in the cable car at night. The scene is a combination of location, (the ground cable car station) the POV's of the Castle, which are the matte painting and/or miniature and then interior studio when they reach the top cable car station. Similarly, the sequence where Eastwood and Burton travel on the roof of the cable car, is a mixture of location with stuntmen, studio with actors and front projection set-up.

    When filming was completed on the cable car station, the set was struck with the exception of the cables and the two cable cars. This was left for the shot where Burton leaps from one cable car to another after rigging it with explosives. The jump was done by Alf Joint. On the morning, I managed to go down to the stage to watch. Alf did it in one take successfully, but in the process he landed on the cable car and his caught his mouth on the rail, which ran around the rim on top of the car, and cut himself badly.

    During the filming of the interior of the plane sequences, the costume department asked if I would be willing to model Mary Ure's parachute, as at that age I was approximately her height, so they could check to see how it would fit and make necessary adjustments before she arrived on the stage.

    I also recall that day several actors, such as Patrick Wymark and Peter Barkworth who were relaxing and reading, sitting in special prop chairs. One of my supervisors was always grumbling and complaining and on that day he raised his voice to me and I will never forget Wymark's expression when he looked up and frowned at him!

    One morning when the crew were walking toward Stage 10 to film on the 'Gold Room' set, I noticed Derren Nesbitt in costume and a bandage over his eye. I did not realize until that evening or the next day, reading in the newspaper, that Nesbitt's eye was injured. Apparently a squid effect of him being shot misfired and part of it went into his eye.

    In late July early August 1968 filming was completed and, with no immediate work in sight, I decided to take a projectionist's position at Pinewood Studios. It was just a year later after the completion of productions such as "Captain Nemo", "Goodye, Mr. Chips" and "Alfred the Great" that MGM Studios were closed permanently. MGM continued to be represented in England for a few years, by name only when they collaborated with the Associated British Picture Corporation and became MGM/Elstree Studios. One victim of the closure of MGM was Fred Zinnemann's production of "A Man's Fate", of which much money had been spent including extensive exterior set construction on the back-lot.

    During the completion time of "Where Eagles Dare", the new James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" was readying to go into production. The climax to the new Bond Adventure was a fight between Bond and Blofeld on the roof of a cable car. When the Bond Producers heard of the fights aboard the cable car in "Eagles", they rewrote the end of their script to a fight on a toboggan run instead.

  20. Next time we watch the movie, I'll have to tell my wife Robyn that Burton didn't in fact make that leap from cable car to car. She'll be so disappointed. Please don't tell me that Danny Kaye didn't do his own stunts in 'The Court Jester' !
    But seriously .. a lovely look 'inside' the production. Thanks for sharing.

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