1943, The war is entering its final stages and Germany is teetering on the brink of defeat. An increasingly unhinged Hitler, orders a mission to have British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill kidnapped and brought to Germany. The plan seems ludicrous in the extreme, but a message sent from a German spy in the Norfolk countryside makes one German officer realize that such a mission may just feasible.Written by
In one of the church scenes, Corporal Jankowski/Sergeant Altmann plays Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C Major (BWV 553). See more »
In the original release, the automobile seen from the air during the opening is not the one in which Canaris arrives at HQ (different flag, different plates). A scene was deleted that shows that the first automobile is Himmler's. See more »
[WWII News Story]
September 12, 1943, German paratroopers snatched Mussolini from his mountaintop prison in Italy.
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The UK video version of this movie (once available on Channel 5/Spectrum sell thru) is missing roughly 12 minutes of footage. This material can be found in the version screened by the BBC, although the 'beeb' decided to censor two brief scenes of violence (after Grey shoots Pitts, there's a quick shot of blood covering his face and a U.S. soldier having his shoulder shot while a colleague pronounces "son of a bitch"; both of these are in the shorter video version). The following omissions occur in the video:
Radl and Karl walking to map room, putting map on wall (this follows Radl saying "where is Studley Barnett")
Liam walking into churchyard, then church, meeting Father Vereker and Pamela (following the pub scene)
Long, important dialogue scene with Liam, Grey and Steiner discussing their motives (following the manouvres scene)
Pitts telling his men to "put that windshield down, and give me some hand grenades" (following the war office disagreement)
Pitts looking through binoculars, putting white flag on jeep and negotiating with a nazi, whilst his men get into position (after Clark stops Churchill)
Brief shot of nazi playing theme music on church organ
Brief shot of above nazi, dead slumped over organ
Radl and Karl outside in Alderney (after Steiner and Devlin depart)
Two U.S. soldiers send dogs into a hut after Devlin, then Devlin using his dog whistle trick (after Steiner knocks soldier unconscious).
The movie is of course based on Jack Higgins' bestseller of the same name and like many debut books, is by far the best book he wrote - being written over a period of years as Higgins worked as a schoolteacher. It is meticulously researched and a fine read.
Now the film.
First, Of course an historically illiterate US teen would barely comprehend that history existed pre World War II or understand that the USA doesn't have a monopoly of the eagle as a national symbol. I read the book back in the mid-70's and never even thought about moon landings. For war movies/books, "eagles" are forever associated with Germany & that the USA also uses an eagle as a national symbol is purely coincidental.
Richard WA can relax in the knowledge that few outside his peer group experienced his confusion.
Second, By telling the story from the German perspective, we get a new appreciation of the German fighting man's view. Just as "Das Boot" gave us an insight into the German mind, so too does this. A similar experience can be had watching the WWII POW camp movie "The McKenzie Break" where German POW's try to escape from a British camp - quite interesting really. But I guess if you're only interested in rooting for the Red, White and Blue, this is not your thing.
Third, The accents are brilliantly done. It was decided for the movie that the comical Hollywood "German" accent would not be used. The "Ve haff vays of making you tork you schweinhund" is nowhere to be seen, instead the German characters use perfect accentless English to great effect.
Fourth, Sutherland's Irish character, Devlin, is not a Nazi sympathiser. He agrees to support the operation because the Germans offer to pay him a fortune to do so. Money for the cause etc.
Fifth, The pre-operation phase of the movie is actually too short - as the producers wanted more of an action flick than the book delivers. In the book, the planning of the operation is analysed to infinite detail, down to the uniform details and relative attributes of allied versus German parachutes. I guess if your experience is computer games, then exposure to any kind of pre-operation detail is not something you're used to.
Sixth, A newcomer in WWII Britain would certainly raise suspicion and Sutherland's character certainly does do that - not really a flaw of the book/movie but an operational problem that the Germans just had to accept given the timeframes involved.
Seventh, Jenny Agutter's character is completely unbelievable. Try to ignore that part of the movie - thankfully she's there for purely aesthetic purposes.
Eighth, The 5th columnist who already lives in the English village is actually a South African survivor of the British concentration camps - as explained in the movie. Perhaps Richard WA thought they were a German invention or more likely he's never heard of the Boer War and sleepwalked through that part of the movie.
Ninth, The "battle" scene is deliberately short to emphasise the gulf in class between German paratroops and National Guards. When the Germans are confronted by real soldiers, they're defeated in short order. Larry Hagman's character is a poor caricature and serves only to supply a comic element that's not needed - something the movie suffers from as if the producer was scared to make the movie too gritty. Richard WA's last point is most revealing. Why should Germans fight for Germany when everyone knew that they were going to lose and were on the wrong side anyway. Who ever heard of a brave German soldier fighting to the end anyway? Despite what many think, Americans don't have an monopoly on patriotism either - I doubt if he ever wonders why Steve McQueen never settled for a comfortable life in a German POW camp!
Tenth, Yeah, the tunnel is something of a contrived device...it's not in the book BTW.
Eleventh, The reason for not spiriting "Churchill" away after the attempt to kidnap him was precisely because the British wanted Germany to think he was there and not in Tehran! The whole point of a decoy is that it's visible and attracts the attention while the real principal is concealed.
In summery, the Eagle has Landed is a solid attempt to film a great book. I doubt, given the plot, that a universally appealing movie could've been made but the greatest movies ever are not universally appealing. Movies you love as children are not regarded in the same way in adulthood.
The Eagle has Landed is in many ways like "The Day of the Jackal". Most of the action goes on inside the principals' heads. Deception, mental thought processes and subterfuge don't make good cinema. However the movie has some very good points:
Great locations. Great actors doing good jobs (Jenny Agutter excepted) - especially Donald Pleasance doing the best ever spine-chilling portrayal of Himmler. Good twist at the end. Challenging portrayal of "the enemy".
I recommend it - it's not "A Bridge Too far" but it's pretty good.
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