Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Opening Titles: Where Eagles Dare

Where Eagles Dare

There are films, whether they are the important classics of cinephiles or not, which leave a distinct impression. And if they occurred during your formative years, it meant those films would become the most lasting. Brian G. Hutton‘s war slash espionage slash adventure film, Where Eagle Dare, will forever have that quality for me.

Noted thriller novelist Alistair MacLean would pen the screenplay directly for this project in six weeks time. Primarily, because his other novels were by then all taken by studios. Richard Burton’s stepson was the driving force behind it, all to acquire an adventure for the fabled Welsh actor/stepdad. It lives to this day in the hearts of men who saw it as boys.

Steven Spielberg for one, and me being another.

It’s my firm belief the film’s key was it grabbed my hormonal, Y-chromosome attention from the very onset, and primarily due to its opening title sequence. One of the most cinematic and visually stunning of those from the 60s era, I think. And themed so stirringly by composer Ron Goodwin. The film just carried through from that moment on, as the Brit’s score echoed throughout.

The majesty of the snow-capped location, in epic live-action — no CGI need apply (nor was needed), matched wonderfully via Goodwin’s arrangement of the theme’s orchestral horns and strings. It filled the eyes and ears more than well. All of it built to a tremendous crescendo till it dropped you right into the plane, and the mission. Matched by some spectacular, daredevil piloting of vintage aircraft and camera work.

Editor’s note: my colleague Sergio offered this correction, “…I suspect the opening credit sequence was not in fact lensed by Ibbetson but by Douglas Adamsson under the supervision of second unit cinematographer Harold Thomson.

Certainly, it captured me and a friend right from the very start. The Junkers JU-52 aimed right at the audience, emerging out of the Austrian Alps, timed along with the splash of the distinctly red gothic lettering of the movie title, an impressive touch. DP Arthur Ibbetson captured the grandeur of the mountainous location, especially whenever the plane-mounted camera crested ridges and twisted up and through alpine passes. All the while as the engines whined right along with them.

It’s at that point a whole lot of us fans were more than ready to grab the hand mike and broadcast with all the excitement we could muster,

“Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Over.”


Having re-watched this on Blu-ray Disc last weekend with family, that being a step down in itself having seen this firsthand on the big screen in 1969, the video clip will be a poor substitution. Yet, if it gets you to see this fun flick, all the better.

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18 Responses to “Opening Titles: Where Eagles Dare”

  1. Colin

    I couldn’t agree more! That opening, the build up of the music and the snowy peaks instantly transports me back to childhood, when I first saw the movie.
    I don’t know how it plays with anyone who came to the film later in life but there’s a special kind of magic there for me.

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    • le0pard13

      I can tell you my son, the high school senior, LOVED this when I showed it to him. Great to hear you’re a fan of this film, Colin. I never tire of watching it. Many thanks.

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      • Colin

        Oh I adore the movie – it was one of my earliest blog entries as it happens – and for the same kind of reasons you outlined in your piece.
        It’s good to know your son appreciated it and that it still finds fans.

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  2. John DuMond

    Love, love LOVE this movie. The opening is fantastic and really sets the tone for the whole film. Director Brian Hutton helmed another of my favorites: KELLY’S HEROES.

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    • le0pard13

      You and me, John. And the Blu-ray I own has KELLY’S HEROES on it, too! Another truly enjoyable film. Thank you very much, my friend.

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  3. Cavershamragu

    Couldn’t agree more – great fun – small, teeny, weensy caveat as I suspect the opening credit sequence was not in fact lensed by Ibbetson but by Douglas Adamsson under the supervision of second unit cinematographer Harold Thomson.

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  4. jackdeth72

    Another great choice, Michael!

    A meticulously timed entrance heightened by the camouflage pattern of the Ju-52 (Germany’s DC-3, or C-47) actually working within the deep shadows of the Alps.

    Mac Lean’s a great writer. His best work for film being The Guns of Navarone . While in Where Eagles Dare , all the caches of weapons, radios, uniforms and explosives seem just a bit too neat and pre-planned.

    Should Peter Jackson get the bug to make a WWII film. I would suggest he go back to Mac Lean’s premiere novel, HMS Ulysses . Which was written to be made for the big screen. Though, sadly has never seen the light of day!

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    • le0pard13

      Oooooo… A MacLean novel not already adapted? I second the motion! I’d buy a ticket for that certainly. Yeah, I’d agree The Guns of Navarone remains his best work, but this was so much damn great fun. Many thanks, Kevin :-).

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  5. ruth

    Wow, that is quite a poster. Video clip isn’t working for me, even when I went on Youtube. I trust that it’s a great one Michael.

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    • le0pard13

      Sorry you’re having trouble watching this, Ruth. Yeah, I was going to suggest that workaround (clicking on the linked ‘Where Eagles Dare – Main Theme’ title near the top left of the video frame to open another window directly to YouTube’s page for the clip). I wonder what’s going on? It works here, but that’s not a real consolation.

      If you go to YouTube and search for Where Eagle Dare, you should get a number of videos on it. Hopefully you will get a chance to check out the opening title sequence soon. It’s a great one. Many thanks, Ruth.

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  6. chandlerswainreviews

    Your notation on the clip was well taken. This is the kind of film that, however still entertaining, looses immeasurably with the absence of the big screen. (I’m convinced of the commercial viability of a chain of film repertory theaters.) Hutton actually intended this to be a satiric riff on hard-nosed action adventures, but it emerged more seriously, whereas his subsequent feature “Kelly’s Heroes” was originally planned as a serious film and emerged as a comedy. Go figure.

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    • le0pard13

      That’s wonderful background for both of Brian G. Hutton’s films, chandler. Go figure, indeed. I can watch either and be thoroughly entertained. Many thanks for the read and comment, my friend :-).

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    • le0pard13

      It remains a wonderful and diverting film, Cindy. I know I’ve hooked my son with this flick, and the fans of this over four decade old actioner continue to grow. Many thanks :-).

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  7. 70srichard

    I am going to have that theme as an earworm for the rest of the day. This was a terrific piece of music and the opening is so well put together I want to sit and watch the whole thing tonight. I was all set to give you the call sign but you already included it so:

    “Danny Boy calling Broadsword, Danny Boy calling Broadsword, mission accomplished.”

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    • le0pard13

      I can understand that, Richard. I have the vinyl LP for its soundtrack, and I know I replay AND turn up the volume for this theme because it’s so catchy. Thank you very much 🙂

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