October 26, 2021

Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Grade: 50/100

Director: Brian G. Hutton
Stars: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure

How I felt about it. The utter absurdity of this movie is epitomized by one of Richard Burton's lines. He's a British agent posing as a German officer in Nazi Germany. He comments to a German officer, in English, with an English accent, "Rather cold, isn't it?" He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says "ARREST ME, I AM A BRITISH SPY!"

This moment of eye-rolling dialogue is preceded and followed by countless scenes of Burton and Eastwood (mostly) killing Germans by the score. Our heroes seem impervious to bullets, except for one bullet through Burton's hand that somehow doesn't seem to reduce its function.

It is said that every German character that delivers a line dies, but, as Barbossa from Pirates of the Carribean might say, that is more of a guideline than a rule. Some are stabbed, more are shot, and many are blown up. As a whole, they are as useless against the Burton-Eastwood tag team as orcs in a Lord of the Rings movie.

No use in trying to follow the plot, with its assortments of impersonators, double agents, triple agents, and hot blonde spies (Mary Ure, Ingrid Pitt) for Burton to make out with. All you need to know is that Burton, a Brit, Eastwood, an American, and several traitorous Redshirts are an Allied spy team who parachute into the German Alps to penetrate a huge remote castle stuffed with Nazis and one hapless American VIP prisoner of war.

The team is to rescue the VIP (Robert Beatty) and escape into Switzerland. This is indeed accomplished, after many feats of derring-do. Reportedly, it has the highest body count of any Clint Eastwood movie. Also reportedly, it is Steven Spielberg's favorite war movie, but you can't believe everything you read.

Clint Eastwood's quiet, rasping delivery and tough-guy demeanor was nothing new, even in 1968. He was more or less the same in his three Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, all of which are better than Where Eagles Dare, or as Eastwood called it, Where [stunt] Doubles Dare. The story goes that Eastwood was annoyed that he received second billing behind Burton, until he learned what his paycheck would be. Needless to say, it was higher than what he was paid to appear in a 1962 episode of "Mr. Ed", where he played (wait for it) a tough guy with a quiet, rasping voice.

How others will see it. Despite its completely ridiculous plot, Where Eagles Dare is surprisingly popular. At imdb.com, it has 56K user votes, or 54K more than Boom!, another Richard Burton movie from 1968. The user rating for Where Eagles Dare is also high (7.6 out of 10), and is consistent across all audience demographics. Every viewer knows, but few viewers care, that Richard and Burton would not have a snowball's chance in hell of successfully completing their mission (escorting the VIP to Switzerland) were they not in a movie.

It appears from the user reviews that the movie works best as a drinking game in which it is bottoms up whenever a German snuffs it. If you enjoy watching fiery explosions, machine guns blasting, hot blondes in winter clothing, and Eastwood deadpan deliveries, this movie is for you.