Where Eagles Dare

Where Eagles Dare always crops up here, the movie that is. It ranks swith Spinal Tap, Star Wars, Aliens and Jaws as a supplier of quotes for any situation needing one. But, I have to say I’d never read the book until now.
It’s a different knapsack of grenades altogether, for a start the body count is in single figures at the end, none of the MP40-fueled massacring in the Schloss Adler at all. In fact Smith, the Richard Burton character, goes out of his way later on in the story to the prevent the unnecessary deaths of German soldiers. This probably works better on the page that it would have done on screen, but is does make the movie’s casual slaughter seem just a little too much at times.
The story follows a similar path, although there’s a bunch of mountaineering at the start that isn’t in the movie, just as well given the special effects of the day, but there’s whole sections lifted word for word and you can’t help but hear the voices of the actors and see them on the sets of the film while you’re reading.
The casting was a work of genius, Eastwood was perfect, straight off the page, and the choice of Burton was inspired. He was too old for the role, too out-of-shape, but his presence on screen and his delivery of the lines work at a level that a younger actor cast to match the man in the book would have struggled to achieve.
There’s some daftness in there, repeated mopping of brows when disaster is averted and shaking of heads when regaining consciousness, but it was written 41 years ago, so maybe Alistair Maclean is to blame for those cliches?
It’s good fun, neither better nor worse than the movie, in places make more sense and less in others. The style is light and accessible, the detail enough to set a scene without bogging the pace down. I can see why Maclean’s books make for an easy movie.
Good camp reading I think. I’m going to get Ice Station Zebra for next weeks trip, Patrick McGoohan and Rock Hudson know the score when it comes to that sub zero nonsense.

18 thoughts on “Where Eagles Dare”

  1. Aye, Burton is pure class there. The Banter in the book is pretty close too.
    If the girls are out for the evening, that’s the DVD that goes on.

  2. Little lad back in hospital again so too tired and must get sleep – but I cannot pass up this opportunity – clearly the best war film ever. Burton and Eastwood are sublime contrasts. Love it. Have meant to read the book for years, so perhaps Amazon need my patronage again…

  3. Oh my god, that book was The Book that got me hooked on reading. With that said, I’m kind of surprised that you waited this long to read it (in fact, I thought it would be mandatory where you live).
    On movie vs book, I almost always choose book before movie, seeing the movie before reading the book screws up my imagination..

  4. A few years ago, myself and a couple of mates hunkered down with a few beers and a large supply of peanuts to spend an afternoon/evening watching ‘633 Squadron’ ‘A Bridge too Far’and ‘Where Eagles Dare’.

    Now that is how to spend a non-hill Sunday in Winter.

    (the good wife and I’s festive custom is now to watch the Band of Brothers box set over 2 or 3 nights).

    You just can’t beat a bit of WW2.

  5. I always liked ‘The Heroes of Telemark’ although it’s not really that close to the actual events. The best war movie though I’d say is possibly Blackhawk Down. Band of Brothers is very good but of the old stuff The Longest Day and Bridge too Far would probably my favourites.

    Watching them now reminds of Christmas Day when I was a kid, a new bit of gear for an Action Man and Guns of Navarone on the telly, can’t beat it.


  6. Ah, all grand stuff to while away some cold, wet outdoor time indoors…. :)

    I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched Band of Brothers so far. I’ve just got hold of the next series from that stable, ‘Pacific’, to get my teeth into :)

  7. Heroes of Telemark, another cracker. You can tell that bloke they meet on skis is a baddie, he’s wearing black and has a beard…

    Bit of trivia, the camo parkas the cast of Where Eagles Dare wore were re-used by Micheal Caine’s squad in The Eagle has Landed.

  8. I’ve skied to the hut they hid out in in The Heroes of Telemark*…. they didn’t leave it in very good shape!

    * the film, not the true story. I have also skied to a hut the true ‘Heroes of Telemark’ used later in the war – a fascinating place bult into a rockface, but the hardship must’ve been immense.

  9. Aye, the film makes it look like a quick operation, but those boys were out there in the horror for a long time.
    Ray Mears best ever show was about that.

  10. Bummer! I went to see the film when it first came out – God I feel old :-( Loved the book, loved the film and watch it just to hear Burton’s voice – gives me goosebumps. Do like a bit of gratuitous violence tho’. Went to see RED before it finished its run at the cinema. Apart from the fact that I want to be Helen Mirren but am too short and fat, if you like explosions and Malkovitch at his maddest – it’s worth looking out for the dvd when it comes out. Snow but no mountains in it tho – pity as that would’ve made it perfect. Unfortunately family now think RED – “retired and extremely dangerous” refers to me!!!!

  11. They may have lost the war but the Germans definitely had the best uniforms. Reversible cammo, The cool profile of the coal scuttle helmet and Panzer crew black with pink trim. Not forgetting the FW190 pilot leather jacket.

  12. I think I’ve been in the cinema twice since Holly was born, jeez I’m so out of the loop…

    That’s a reversible parka the book’s sitting on up top there :o)

  13. Probably very wise. I read Star Wars after seeing the film and kept wondering why the Luke Skywalker in there bore no resemblance to the one in the movie.

  14. Ice Station Zebra? The book is brilliant, far superior to the piece of shite they made it into as a movie. I read nearly everything Alistair MacLean wrote when I was about 13 (my dad got them all from the library) and that was one of the best.

    I think the Pacific’s on my Christmas list too (the boxed set, not the ocean), but I’m with RMacE on Blackhawk Down, a superb movie. I recommend all the students on my Roman army course watch Band of Brothers. Glory and Gettysburg are particular favourites of mine too. And the opening scenes of Gladiator, which I’ll happily trash til kingdom come ;-)

  15. We really are missing some proper British WW2 stuff getting made aren’t we? Band of Brothers quality but featuring our grandparents? The Battle of Britain with today’s CGI, yes please.

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