Why I Love... Where Eagles Dare


Where Eagles Dare is a Christ­mas movie, that isn’t actu­ally about Christ­mas, or even set at Christ­mas (like Die Hard, for example). But there’s some­thing very warm and com­fort­ing about its story in which thou­sands of Nazis die (they don’t like it up ‘em), that makes it per­fect for a lazy after­noon post Christ­mas tur­key. And here’s why…

1. The main theme by Ron Goodwin

Phew! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to march into the Fath­er­land. Is the war really over?

2. "Broadsword calling Danny boy!"

In an age where people walk around with bluetooth head­sets clamped to their ears, where emails whizz instantly through the ether, and smart­phones can track our every move from the car to our work­place to the bowel move­ment we enjoy after a par­tic­u­larly heavy lunch, there’s a refresh­ing sim­pli­city about Richard Bur­ton’s only method of communication.

Deep behind enemy lines, he has noth­ing but a radio the size of a breeze block in a ruck­sack. He con­tacts base with the words, “Broadsword call­ing Danny Boy!” in the hope that his two super­i­ors back home aren’t nap­ping or out back hav­ing a quick ciggy in the most poorly staffed com­mu­nic­a­tions centre in movie history.

But I like it. There’s no bull­shit. It’s proper old school com­mu­nic­a­tion. Bur­ton isn’t call­ing home to get castle blue­prints down­loaded to a PDA, or for some over­weight desk jockey to give him real­time updates on guard move­ments. He’s call­ing home from the other side of the globe to tell them shit just got real. See you for brandy and cigars when I’ve kicked the Nazis right up the seat of their pants. Roger and out.

3. Busty serving wenches

4. Eastwood and Burton speaking German without subtitles

Not what you might think. They’re speak­ing Ger­man, except they’re speak­ing Eng­lish. And not even with a Ger­man accent. Unlike other war films, such as The Great Escape, where a fatal slip into your mother tongue might blow your cover to a Ger­man patrol­man and be your undoing, Where Eagles Dare makes no attempt to have our her­oes speak actual German.

We’re told in the mis­sion brief­ing that every­one is flu­ent in the lan­guage. But Bur­ton and East­wood stroll into the camp sur­round­ing the Nazi castle, the former rolling stage trained Eng­lish vow­els off his tongue, and the lat­ter whis­per­ing like he’s audi­tion­ing for Dirty Harry. Where Eagles Dare has no pre­tense of real­ism, and this scene high­lights it beau­ti­fully. It’s com­pletely nuts.

5. Dual wielding machine guns

At one point, Clint decides he needs to fire not just one gun but two. At the same time. This is, of course, excellent war time tactics. You fire two guns, you kill double the Nazis in the same amount of time. If all of the Allies had done this, the war would have ended ahead of schedule.

6. Clint has no idea what's going on

Towards the end of the movie, Richard Bur­ton explains the oper­a­tion in full. Is it a double bluff, or a triple bluff, or a quad­ruple bluff? It’s none of these things. It’s a mind bend­ing labyrinth of sub­ter­fuge that is impossible to get a handle on. Maybe if I sat down for an hour or two with a note­pad, plot­ted graphs, did some long divi­sion, drank ten bottles of wine, and shot smack dir­ectly into my eye­ball, it would make sense. But I’m not smart enough. And neither is Clint East­wood.

7. The daring escape by... bus?

Of all the modes of trans­port you might use to escape a Nazi strong­hold, a loser cruiser seems the least likely.

The bus in Where Eagles Dare, com­plete with huge snow plough that des­troys everything in its path, takes centre stage in the final twenty minutes. And any­thing that doesn’t get wiped out at the front, gets wiped out at the rear by Clint East­wood and Mary Ure tot­ing machine guns with unnerv­ing accur­acy. The film finally throws all cau­tion to the wind. Never mind that Richard Bur­ton is exhausted from a massive scrap on top of a cable car (not to men­tion a bul­let wound to his hand that he shrugs off by wrap­ping his hanky around it), or that every­one is prob­ably half frozen to death from a plunge into an icy river.

The true mes­sage of Where Eagles Dare is now all too appar­ent. The Nazis are shit, and the Allies are awesome.


So what bet­ter way is there to relax after Christ­mas din­ner, and admire the chilly, snow covered land­scapes of Where Eagles Dare? Bask­ing in the warm glow of the fire, sur­roun­ded by friends and fam­ily, take stock of how lucky you are.

Bur­ton and East­wood killed thou­sands of Nazis to make this film (okay, maybe they were act­ors fall­ing over, pre­tend­ing to be shot), and if it wasn’t for these brave Hol­ly­wood men, your dad would be goose step­ping to the kit­chen to carve a fresh slice of brat­wurst, and ask­ing if you’d like another apple schnapps.

That doesn’t sound like Christ­mas to me.