The Eagle Has Landed - 1977
The Eagle Has Landed - released April 2, 1977 (NYC). Directed by John Sturges
The Eagle has Landed has the unusual gambit of trying to get us to like and admire one of the main characters, a German paratrooper (Michael Caine) and to witness the basic humanity and even heroic action of him and his troupe of daring cammandos. Oberst Kurt Steiner (Caine) has the difficult task of kidnapping Winston Churchill, or, if absolutely necessary, assassinating the UK leader, but it takes a little while for the military gears for this adventure to really start turning. The first half of the movie is more of a talk fest as all the pieces for perpetuating the scheme are moved to the coast of Norfolk in the United Kingdom where Churchill is supposed to be arriving for a short holiday. Besides Caine's Germans (who will arrive dressed in disguise), the story also revolves around the activities of a German agent among the villagers (Jean Marsh), an Irish IRA agent (Donald Sutherland) and young love (with Jenny Agutter), along with an American unit led by a humorously incompetent leader named Colonel Pitts (Larry Hagman).
Sturges' direction in the latter part of the movie is an expertly told running battle between the small German unit and the American soldiers, but the first half is partially melodrama with the funny comedy of Larry Hagman's arrogant Col. Pitts and his mad desire to get into combat (which turns out to not be a very good idea for him nor his soldiers) bridging the two halves of the story.
Michael Caine's honorable German paratrooper who is commanded by Nazis who he appears to loath (and who we are supposed to loath right along with him) is another large part of the tale, and we are shown Caine's character heroically trying to save a Jewess prisoner near the beginning of the film, an action that gets him into trouble and if it were not for his particular skills being called upon to parachute into England, he might have been executed right then.
With his Nazi superiors watching him and a later problem of suddenly having a group of English hostages on his hands and no way out, the real tension of the movie appears to be whether Caine's Oberst Steiner will remain the humane soldier we saw at the beginning or will he go full-on Nazi killer. How Sturges and writer Tom Mankiewicz (from the Jack Higgins novel) wrap it all up is as serviceable a conclusion as can be expected from such an odd tale of World War II heroics with the Germans being a nominal group of "good guys" despite the understood necessity that they fail in their mission (although, in a way, they succeed).
The Blu Ray from Shout Factory is sharp with good color and sound.
Original Page Aug 2018
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