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.