Archive for the ‘Clint Eastwood’ Tag

Where Eagles Dare (1968): Broadsword to Danny Boy   14 comments

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Chock full of action, surprising plot twists, and World War II intrigue, Where Eagles Dare ticks all the adventure film boxes while adding the element of cool spy stuff to the mix. It may seem like the standard mission flick in which the brass assembles a crack team for some essential mission, but there’s a lot more to it. Major Smith (Richard Burton) leads a handful of British troops and one American (Clint Eastwood) behind enemy lines to retrieve American General Carnaby (Robert Beatty). The Germans shoot down the general’s plane and hold him prisoner in a castle high in the Bavarian mountains. The team must hurry because the general knows the plans for the allied command’s second front and, if tortured, could spill the beans. For some films, that scenario would suffice, but for Where Eagles Dare that idea serves as a mere jumping off point for a far more complex story.
After a brief introduction to the men assigned to the mission and the officers in charge, Major Smith and company board the plane for Bavaria and the Schloss Adler. They jump at night to avoid detection and hold up in a mountain cabin. There we get a look at their objective, the Schloss Adler. Accessible only by cable car, the fortress sets the scene for our heroes’ daring rescue. The team first heads into the nearby town to establish their German military identities. After all, the Alpen Corps would hardly allow a gang of British soldiers to gain access to their remote stronghold. We meet a couple new characters here too. Mary Ure, British agent and Smith’s lover, gets a job as a maid at the castle and Ingrid Pitt, long in deep cover as a bawdy bar maid, poses as Ure’s cousin and vouches for her. On the German side, we meet Major von Hapen (Derren Nesbitt) of the Gestapo. With the introductions taken care of for the most part, the main story can begin.
I won’t give a blow by blow here because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say the story and screenplay, both written by novelist Alistair MacLean (The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra), combines flag waving action, red herrings, and dry wit to make for an entertaining film. Even at two and a half hours, the time flies thanks to the performances of Burton and Eastwood and the fabulous stunts choreographed and shot by Hollywood veteran Yakima Canutt and performed by Alf Joint. Burton and Eastwood have a nice rapport and make the most of the spare dialogue.

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Burton’s weary and unflappable Smith runs the show and has seen it all. Eastwood’s Schaffer is sharp and proficient even though he’s not quite sure about this mission.

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Canutt’s fights atop cable cars make for some of the most exciting action sequences I’ve seen. Similar scenes show up later in Bond films, but even 007 doesn’t do them as well as our team. I also love the use of explosives in Where Eagles Dare. Burton and Eastwood carry backpacks full of fun little bundles of dynamite attached to timers which end up all over the place and to put it mildly, stuff blows up good. They also have cool reversible uniforms so they can blend in the snow and look like official Nazis. The plot twists keep you guessing and the film abounds with double agents and moments of suspense.

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Any description of Where Eagles Dare would be remiss if it left out the dynamic score by Ron Goodwin (Murder She Said, Village of the Damned). Catchy and memorable, you’ll find yourself humming it without even thinking. Brian G. Hutton (Kelly’s Heroes, Gunfight at the OK Corral) directed Where Eagles Dare as an action film with a spy story at its center. The film succeeds as both because Hutton, MacLean, Canutt, and the stellar cast elevate this film from a shoot ‘em up bang bang to a war film with spies and brains. I recommend it highly.

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Tarantula (1955)   Leave a comment

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A horribly disfigured man in pajamas stumbles through the desert, collapses, and dies. When local doctor, Matt Hastings (John Agar) sees the body, he doubts Professor Deemer’s (Leo G. Carroll) diagnosis of acromegaly (gigantism) and suspects the professor might be complicit in his colleague’s death. While he ponders this, Steve (Mara Corday) arrives in town, in a stunning white travel ensemble, to work in the lab for the pajama-clad dead guy. Since he’s not hiring, Steve begins working for Deemer instead, but not before igniting a little romantic fire under Dr. Hastings.

He has little time to plan his love life though because something attacks the livestock in their sleepy little community and leaves nothing but bones and a big puddle of white liquid. Testing proves the white stuff comes from a tarantula so we’re treated to a filmstrip on them right out of the substitute teacher collection. Soon Dr. Hero Guy discovers Professor Deemer in an advanced state of acromegaly and the truth comes out.

Deemer, fresh from his work on the Manhattan Project, opened his lab in the desert to work on a nutritional supplement designed to rid the world of hunger. His experiments on rabbits and guinea pigs showed great promise and Deemer fed the animals the formula exclusively. They matured at an advanced rate and grew much larger than their usual size. A couple of his colleagues figured if the serum made a guinea pig grow to the size of a police dog it must be great for humans, so they injected each other with the stuff. Oddly enough, the two men suffered tremendously when the radioactive isotopes clashed with their body chemistry. One wandered into the desert in his pjs and the other, miffed about his impending demise, wrecked the lab and shot the professor up with the serum. The lab animals either died in the ensuing blaze or scurried off to roam the countryside.

Since this film is called Tarantula and not Guinea Pig, I’m sure you can figure out who made it out alive.


“Pssst, it was me.”

As to why they used tarantulas in lab tests I’ll never know. I guess the profs just liked having them around. Since they have a humungous radioactive spider snacking on the locals, the sheriff (Nestor Paiva) calls the state police, who in turn call the Air Force. Napalm encrusted hijinks ensue and we see the requisite fighter squadron stock footage. Director, Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man) does an admirable job and uses decent effects and appropriate music to create suspense. A few of the scenes made me jump. The cast of B/A- actors deliver solid performances and the natural dialogue moves along nicely. There’s some real chemistry between Corday and Agar and we care what happens to these characters. I love big bug movies and Tarantula is a fun one. Oh, and look for Clint Eastwood in one of his first movie roles.

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