Where Eagles Dare

Where Eagles Dare

Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Elliott Kastner
Jerry Gershwin
Screenplay by Alistair MacLean
Based on Where Eagles Dare
1967 novel
by Alistair MacLean
Starring Richard Burton
Clint Eastwood
Mary Ure
Music by Ron Goodwin
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson
Edited by John Jympson
Winkast Film Productions
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 4 December 1968 (1968-12-04) (UK)
  • 12 March 1969 (1969-03-12) (US)
Running time
155 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $7.7 million[1]
Box office $21,000,000[2]

Where Eagles Dare is a British 1968 Second World War action film starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, and Mary Ure. It was directed by Brian G. Hutton and shot on location in Austria and Bavaria. Alistair MacLean wrote the novel and the screenplay at the same time. It was his first screenplay; both film and book became commercial successes.

The film involved some of the top moviemaking professionals of the time and is considered a classic.[3] Major contributors included Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt, who as second-unit director shot most of the action scenes; British stuntman Alf Joint, who doubled for Burton in such sequences as the fight on top of the cable car; award-winning conductor and composer Ron Goodwin, who wrote the film score; and future Oscar-nominee Arthur Ibbetson, who worked on its cinematography. The film is noted for the phrase "Broadsword calling Danny Boy", used by Richard Burton several times throughout.


In the winter of 1943–44, U.S. Army Brigadier General George Carnaby, a chief planner of the second front, is captured by the Germans when his aircraft is shot down en route to Crete. He is taken for interrogation to the Schloss Adler, a fortress high in the Alps of southern Bavaria. A team of Allied commandos, led by British Major John Smith (Richard Burton) and U.S. Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood), is briefed by Colonel Turner (Patrick Wymark) and Admiral Rolland (Michael Hordern) of MI6. Their mission is to parachute in, infiltrate the castle, and rescue General Carnaby (Robert Beatty) before the Germans can interrogate him. MI6 Agent Mary Elison (Mary Ure) accompanies the mission in secret, her presence known only to Major Smith.

Early in the mission, two of the operatives are mysteriously killed, but Major Smith is unperturbed, keeping Lt. Schaffer as a close ally and secretly updating Rolland and Turner on developments by radio. After seeming to give up and allowing themselves to be captured, Smith and Schaffer (being officers) are separated from the three remaining members of the group — Thomas (William Squire), Berkeley (Peter Barkworth) and Christiansen (Donald Houston). Smith and Schaffer kill their captors, blow up a supply depot, and prepare an escape route for later use before hitching a ride on top of a cable car — the only approach to the castle. Mary, posing as a maid, is brought into the castle by Heidi (Ingrid Pitt), a deep-cover agent working as a barmaid in the nearby village; Major von Hapen (Derren Nesbitt), a Gestapo officer whom Heidi has been cultivating, becomes infatuated with Mary. Mary sets a rope through one of the castle windows for Smith and Schaffer to climb.

Carnaby's interrogation, carried out by General Rosemeyer (Ferdy Mayne) and Colonel Kramer (Anton Diffring), is underway when the three other prisoners arrive and reveal themselves to be German double agents. Smith and Schaffer intrude, weapons drawn, but Smith then forces Schaffer to disarm and establishes himself as Major Johann Schmidt of the SD — the SS intelligence branch. He exposes the true identity of "General Carnaby": Cartwright Jones, an American Corporal and body double for Carnaby. He also claims that Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen are British impostors. To test them, Smith/Schmidt proposes they write down the names of their fellow agents in Britain, to be compared to the personal list in his pocket (having discreetly shown the name of Germany's top agent in Britain to Kramer, who silently affirms it). After the three finish their lists, Smith reveals his own to Kramer, which is in fact blank. Kramer realises too late he has been bluffed but Smith and Schaffer re-secure the room, the former finally revealing the mission's true objective: the lists of names the agents had provided.

Mary, while preparing the explosives, is visited by von Hapen; he takes her to the castle's cafe and persuades her to recite the tale of her assumed identity. Finding faults in her story, he investigates and happens upon the scene of Carnaby's interrogation just as Smith finishes his explanation. Von Hapen puts the room under arrest, but is distracted by Mary's entrance, enabling Schaffer to draw a hidden pistol — killing von Hapen and the other German officers. The group then makes its escape, taking the three agents as prisoners. Schaffer sets explosives to create diversions around the compound, while Smith leads the group to the radio room, where he informs Rolland of their success. They then head to the cable car station, sacrificing Thomas as a decoy. Berkeley and Christiansen attempt their own escape in a cable car, but are thwarted and killed by Smith. The group eventually reunites with Heidi on the ground, boarding a bus they had prepared earlier as an escape vehicle. With enemy soldiers in hot pursuit, they battle their way to the airfield and finally escape on a disguised extraction plane, in which Col. Turner is waiting for them.

Smith briefs Turner on the mission, and reveals a suspicion he and Rolland had shared since before the start: that Turner is the Nazis' top agent in Britain, which had been confirmed by the late Colonel Kramer. Turner had been lured into participating so MI6 could expose him, with Smith's trusted partner Mary and the American Schaffer (who had no connection to MI6) specially assigned to the team to ensure the mission's success. To avoid a trial and execution, Turner is permitted by Smith to save face and commit suicide by jumping out of the plane without a parachute. Schaffer then jokes with Smith that the next mission should be "an all British operation".



Burton later said, "I decided to do the picture because Elizabeth's two sons said they were fed up with me making films they weren't allowed to see, or in which I get killed. They wanted me to kill a few people instead."[4] Burton approached producer Elliott Kastner "and asked him if he had some super-hero stuff for me where I don't get killed in the end."[5] The producer consulted MacLean and requested an adventure film filled with mystery, suspense, and action. Most of MacLean's novels had been made into films or were being filmed. Kastner persuaded MacLean to write a new story; six weeks later, he delivered the script, at that time entitled Castle of Eagles. Kastner hated the title, and chose Where Eagles Dare instead. The title[6] is from Act I, Scene III in William Shakespeare's Richard III: "The world is grown so bad, that wrens make pray where eagles dare not perch". Like virtually all of MacLean's works, Where Eagles Dare features his trademark "secret traitor", who must be unmasked by the end.

Kastner and coproducer Jerry Gershwin announced in July 1966 that they had purchased five MacLean scripts, starting with Where Eagles Dare and When Eight Bells Toll.[7]

Brian Hutton had just made Sol Madrid for the producers and was signed to direct.[8]

Eastwood and Burton reportedly dubbed the film 'Where Doubles Dare' due to the amount of screen time in which stand-ins doubled for the cast during action sequences.[3] Filming began on 2 January 1968 in Austria and concluded in July 1968.[9] Eastwood received a salary of $800,000 while Burton received $1,200,000.[9][10] This is one of the first films to use front projection effect.[11] Specifically, this technology enabled filming of the scenes where the actors are on top of the cable car.

Eastwood initially opined that the script written by MacLean was "terrible" and was "all exposition and complications", and–according to Derren Nesbitt–requested that he be given less dialogue. Most of Schaffer's lines were given to Burton, whilst Eastwood handled most of the action scenes.[12] Director Hutton played to his actors' strengths, allowing for Burton's theatrical background to help the character of Smith and Eastwood's quiet demeanour to establish Schaffer.

Derren Nesbitt was keen to be as factual as possible with his character Von Hapen. Whilst on location, he requested to meet a former member of the Gestapo to better understand how to play the character and to get the military regalia correct. He was injured on set whilst filming the scene in which Schaffer kills Von Hapen. The blood squib attached to Nesbitt exploded with such force that he was temporarily blinded, though he made a quick recovery.[12][13]

The production was delayed while filming due to the weather in Austria. Shooting took place in winter and early spring of 1968 and the crew had to contend with blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and potential avalanches. Further delays were incurred when Richard Burton, well known for his drinking habits, disappeared for several days with his friends Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris.[14] As part of his deal with MGM, Clint Eastwood took delivery of a Norton P11 motorcycle, which he 'tested' at Brands Hatch racetrack,[15] accompanied by Ingrid Pitt, something that he had been forbidden from doing by Kastner for insurance purposes in case of injury or worse.[16]

Famed stuntman Alf Joint, who had played Capungo–the man whom 007 electrocuted in the bathtub in Goldfinger–doubled and was stand-in for Richard Burton, and performed the famous cable car jump sequence; in so doing, he lost three teeth.[14]

Visitors to the set included Elizabeth Taylor, who was married to Burton at the time, and Robert Shaw, who was then the husband of Mary Ure.[14]

The Junkers Ju-52 used to fly Smith and Schaffer's team into Austria and then make their escape at the end of the film was a Swiss Air Force Ju-52/3m, registration A-702.[17]


Historical inaccuracies

Where Eagles Dare includes many historical errors, plot holes and anachronisms. For example, a helicopter (actually an American Bell 47 that entered U.S. military service in 1946)[20][21] is seen at the start of the film. The Luftwaffe did not have an abundance of helicopters able to fly the high-ranking general from Berlin to Bavaria, as is evidenced by the dialogue in the film.[22]

At the beginning of the film a meeting of Allies in Crete is mentioned, although historically Crete was captured by the Germans in 1941.

The uniform worn by Derren Nesbitt as SS-Sturmbannfuhrer von Hapen is that of an Allgemeine-SS officer. Gestapo agents typically wore plain clothes, but when in the field, operating with the Einsatzgruppen or providing intel to Wehrmacht units tasked with assisting Einsatzgruppen, they wore the grey SS uniform, with the diamond-shaped SD insignia on the lower left arm of the uniform tunic.

Also, von Hapen is shown wearing a Close Combat Clasp in Gold, a qualification badge exceedingly rare in the German armed forces, awarded for documented participation in 50 distinct combat actions. Among German infantrymen, the Close Combat Clasp was often held in greater esteem than the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. How a Gestapo officer could have qualified for such a rare qualification badge is not explained in the film. During location filming, Derren Nesbitt stayed in a separate hotel from the rest of cast, and by chance one of the hotel managers had been an SS officer during the war, and advised Nesbitt on the correct way to wear the decorations on von Hapen's uniform.


The film earned $6,560,000 in rentals at the North American box office during its first year of release.[23] It was the 7th-most popular film at the UK box office in 1969, and 13th in the US.[24] The film was particularly lucrative for Richard Burton, who earned a considerable sum in royalties through television repeats and video sales.[25] Where Eagles Dare had its first showing on British television on 26 December 1979 on BBC1. In 2009 Cinema Retro magazine released a special issue dedicated to Where Eagles Dare which detailed the production and filming of the movie.[26] Today, Where Eagles Dare is considered to be one of the best war films of all time.[27]


Where Eagles Dare
Soundtrack album by Ron Goodwin
Released 4 January 2005
Genre Soundtracks
Film music
Length 74:07
Label Film Score Monthly
Producer Lukas Kendall

The score was composed by Ron Goodwin. A soundtrack was released on Compact Disc in 2005 by Film Score Monthly, of the Silver Age Classics series, in association with Turner Entertainment. It was a two-disc release, the first CD being the film music, the second the film music for Operation Crossbow and source music for Where Eagles Dare. The release has been limited to 3,000 pressings.

Track listing:

  • 1. "Main Title"
  • 2. "Before Jump/Death of Harrod"
  • 3. "Mary and Smith Meet/Sting on Castle/Parade Ground"
  • 4. "Preparation in Luggage Office/Fight in Car"
  • 5. "The Booby Trap"
  • 6. "Ascent on the Cable Car"
  • 7. "Death of Radio Engineer and Helicopter Pilot"
  • 8. "Checking on Smith/Names in Notebook"
  • 9. "Smith Triumphs Over Nazis"
  • 10. "Intermission Playout"

  • 11. "Entr'Acte"
  • 12. "Encounter in the Castle"
  • 13. "Journey Through the Castle Part 1"
  • 14. "Journey Through the Castle Part 2"
  • 15. "Descent and Fight on the Cable Car"
  • 16. "Escape from the Cable Car"
  • 17. "Chase, Part 1 and 2"
  • 18. "The Chase in the Airfield"
  • 19. "The Real Traitor"
  • 20. "End Playout"


The principal difference is that the novel is less violent. In particular, one scene – during the escape from the castle, where Smith saves a German guard from burning to death – presaged the non-lethal thriller vein MacLean explored in his later career. In the novel, the characters are more clearly defined, and slightly more humorous than the fast pace of the film and the grim acting of Burton and Eastwood portrayed. Three characters are differently named in the novel: Ted Berkeley is called Edward Carraciola, Jock MacPherson is called Torrance-Smythe, and Major von Hapen is instead Captain von Brauchitsch. A budding love story between Schaffer and Heidi was also cut.

In the book, the group are flown into Germany on board an RAF Avro Lancaster, whereas in the film they are transported in a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 52. While in the film, Kramer, Rosemeyer and Von Hapen are shot to death by Schaffer and Smith, in the novel they are just given high doses of nembutal. In the book Thomas, Carraciola and Christiansen attempt to escape in the cable car with Smith on the roof. Carraciola is crushed by the steel suspension arm of the cable car while struggling with Smith on the roof; Thomas and Christiansen fall to their deaths after Smith blows the cable car up with plastic explosive. In the film, only Thomas and Christiansen are killed by Smith, as one of the three had been previously killed by Germans.



  1. Metro-Goldwyn Omits Dividend; O'Brien Resigns: Board Cites Possible Loss Of Up to $19 Million in The Current Fiscal Year Bronfman Named Chairman Wall Street Journal (1923 – Current file) [New York, N.Y] 27 May 1969: 2.
  2. Hughes, p.194
  3. 1 2 "Where Eagles Dare". TCM. Retrieved 21 November 2009.
  4. "3 Companies Offer to Bankroll Burton Film", Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 22 February 1968: d16.
  5. Aba, Marika (21 July 1968) "The Burtons... 'Just Another Working Couple'". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif]. c18.
  6. "BROADSWORD CALLING DANNY-BOY … the making of WHERE EAGLES DARE". Film Review 1998: republished in The Cellulord is Watching. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  7. Martin, Betty (30 July 1966) "Gene Kelly to Do 'Married'". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif]: 18.
  8. "'Isadora' Shooting Under Way". Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 7 September 1967: d20.
  9. 1 2 Hughes, pp.191–192
  10. Munn, p. 79
  11. Lightman, Herb A. Front Projection for "2001: A Space Odyssey". American Cinematographer
  12. 1 2 A Conversation with Derren Nesbitt. "Major von Hapen" in "Where Eagles Dare". YouTube (10 June 2013). Retrieved on 2015-11-20.
  13. Actor Injured as Burton Fires 'Shot' Chicago Tribune (1963–Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 25 April 1968: b30.
  14. 1 2 3 the cellulord is watching: WHERE EAGLES DARE. Cellulord.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  15. "Norton Motors homepage". Nortonmotors.de. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  16. If Only. Ingridpitt.net. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  17. Where Eagles Dare – The Internet Movie Plane Database. Impdb.org (30 January 2015). Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  18. (Trivia). Where Eagles Dare.com (3 January 1997). Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  19. Where Eagles Dare (1968). Mitteleuropa.x10.mx. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  20. "Bell Helicopters". Helicopter History Site.
  21. "Biography of ARTHUR MIDDLETON YOUNG" (PDF). Modelaircraft.org. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  22. Coates, Steve (2002). Helicopters of the Third Reich. Crowborough, UK: Classic Publications Ltd. ISBN 1-903223-24-5.
  23. "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p. 15
  24. "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, UK] 27 September 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 April 2014
  25. Richard Burton classic Where Eagles Dare funds new literary prize. Wales Online. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  26. "WHERE EAGLES DARE": THE UPDATED AND REVISED CINEMA RETRO MOVIE CLASSICS ISSUE NOW SHIPPING WORLDWIDE! – Celebrating Films of the 1960s & 1970s. Cinemaretro.com. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  27. "Where Eagles Dare: No 24 best action and war film of all time". The Guardian. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2013.


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