Main Features No 35
Eagle Eyes Needed, an All-Star Cast Has Landed and..
In a fictional take of World War 2, German troops infiltrate a sleepy Norfolk town in a plot to kidnap British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The Eagle Has Landed – Trailer, 05HK09, www,youtube.com and photographs © Columbia Pictures
As all of my readers, followers and family know that many of my reviews tend to mention a sadly demised prime time American television soap opera named Dallas (1978-91). Much to my mother’s probable dismay, this review is no exception and is on one of the films of Larry Hagman – who now you will need no prompting to remember played the man I loved to love while most people in the world hated him – J.R. Ewing in a pre-Dallas movie, The Eagle has Landed (1976). The Eagle has Landed has a full array of 1970s acting heavyweights including Michael Caine, Donald Pleasence, Anthony Quayle, Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland – and as he is billed in the opening credits – “and Larry Hagman”. And in these days “and” meant much more than a 5 minute cameo. Actresses included Jenny Agutter and Jean Marsh. But more on the cast later, on with the show.
The film is based on the book by Jack Higgins. During World War 2, in Germany, Himmler (Pleasence) suggests to Admiral Canaris (Quayle) – his head of military intelligence – to study into the possibility of kidnapping British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill and him being brought to Germany. Canaris colludes with Himmler to carry out this study with the plan is named Eagle (leading to the movie’s title). Canaris orders Radl (Duvall) to look more into if this plan could work in reality. It is discovered that Churchill is due to visit Studley Constable, a quiet Norfolk town from one of their undercover spies based there. Himmler then asks Radl to carry out the plan with Hitler’s consent. Those who will assist him carrying this plan out in practice include a German Colonel Steiner (Caine) and his men – who are currently in a penal colony in the Channel Islands – and an Irishman Liam Devlin (Sutherland), an IRA member.
Steiner and his men infiltrate the town as Polish paratroopers, however Steiner demanded they wear their German uniforms underneath their disguise. Their plan is that once they have completed their mission they will escape by boat. Meanwhile Devlin (Sutherland) has been getting better acquainted with the locals – arousing mistrust due to his accent – and started a mild flirtation and romance with one of their women, Molly (Agutter). All is well, until a child is rescued by one of Steiner’s men after a freak accident. This leads to Steiner and his buddies being identified as Germans. Steiner et al then take townspeople hostage in the church. The minister’s sister manages to slip away and tells an American soldier about this and he reports all to his superior, Colonel Pitts (Hagman).
Although I’d seen this film before, with my dad, when I was a kid in my Dallas obsession days of the 1980s, I enjoyed this film immensely. I really love the ensemble casts in so many 1970s films such as this and many disaster movies such as The Towering Inferno (1974) and the Airport Film series (1970-79). I appreciate these now classics so much more now as I am able to identify more of the cast and I also know more about their film careers. It is even better now being married to a fellow film buff – and history one – who can discuss more about those acting in the film. However when mansplaning the historical characters, he does make it easier for me to remember by adding the actor’s name. An example is “Himmler who was played by Donald Pleasence was blah history blah”. Sometimes if I’m really lucky he does a random impression of the actor. For which this cast was perfect fodder.
However since the 1980s, I found this film as comedic at times due to all these factors described in the last paragraph. As a teen, it was just Hagman and Caine I recognised only vaguely acknowledging the others as being famous. Then Hagman of course was J.R. in Dallas. Caine I knew from a couple of 1980s romantic comedies – Surrender (1987) and Educating Rita (1983) – and disaster movies – The Swarm (1978) and The Hand (1981) – thanks to my parents’ diverse taste in movies. No explanation needed as I am sure you can deduce who liked which movies. Now with age more insight these factors film seem more comedic than dramatic at times. Caine’s character was amusing because his character was described as being a German who speaks English like a native. Cue Caine’s Cockney accent. As Michael Caine acting anything other than a Cockney, would have been like asking Sean Connery to drop his Scottish accent for most of his career. Just wrong. Other characters which made me smirk included Pleasence, still acting with his Blofeld, German accent from You Only Live Twice (1967) which helped establish his nationality but then confused me when Quayle spoke in terribly nice English, so I needed an impression and manexplanation from darlin’ husband.
Other accents included Sutherland as the cheeky chappie Irishman, who possibly studied his particular accent and dialogue listening to Terry Wogan. As he entered the local bar in Studley Constable’s saying “Top of the morning to you”, darlin’ husband and I expected full on Wogan patter. It really didn’t help – apart from an obvious comic factor – that this led Caine, Pleasence as Blofeld and Wogan being mimicked by my darlin’ husband. Larry Hagman escaped this, only because I do Dallas cast impressions in this household. Special mention of course has to go to Hagman who was almost auditioned for his most famous part as he sped into the town to try to save the day as he said he wanted to impress his “daddy” as darlin’ husband and I both thought and said simultaneously Jock Ewing. Which must have worked as two years later Hagman had landed…the role of J.R. in TV’s Dallas.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
Bonus Trailer: Yes, Fan Made