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.