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EAGLE HAS LANDED, THE(director: John Sturges; screenwriters: Tom Mankiewicz/based on the novel by Jack Higgins; cinematographer: Anthony Richmond; editor: Anne V. Coates; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Michael Caine (Col. Kurt Steiner), Donald Sutherland (Liam Devlin), Robert Duvall (Col. Max Radl), Jenny Agutter (Molly Prior), Donald Pleasence (Heinrich Himmler), Anthony Quayle (Adm. Canaris), Judy Geeson (Pamela), Treat Williams (Capt. Clark), Larry Hagman (Col. Pitts), Jean Marsh (Joanna Grey), Jenny Agutter (Molly Prior), Michael Byrne (Karl), Leigh Dilley (Winston Churchill); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: David Niven, Jr./Jack Wiener; Artisan Entertainment; 1976-UK)
“An old-fashioned WW II adventure movie directed in a plodding and lethargic way by John Sturges.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An old-fashioned WW II adventure movie directed in a plodding and lethargic way by John Sturges (“The Great Escape”/”Bad Day at Black Rock”/”Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”), who helms the last film in his fairly successful career (even though he had more misses than hits). It’s based on the bestselling novel by Jack Higgins (half of its history is reportedly true) and written by Tom Mankiewicz.

It’s set in 1943. The Führer orders a “feasibility study” to be drawn up if it’s possible to kidnap or assassinate Winston Churchill. Col. Max Radl (Robert Duvall) comes up with a plan to abduct him when he vacations for the week-end in his country house at Sudley Constable, an isolated coastal village in Norfolk, on the East Coast of England, but Radl’s boss, Adm. Canaris (Anthony Quayle), objects by saying “this operation could make The Charge Of The Light Brigade look like a sensible military exercise” and wants nothing to come of the absurd idea but for Radl to go through the motions that he’s working on a plan. But Radl pushes it forth and secretly gets the green light from Himmler (Donald Pleasence) to go full-speed ahead with Hitler’s blessings. Radl recruits renegade decorated SS paratrooper officer Colonel Steiner (Michael Caine) to lead the mission by offering to release the court-martialed romantic and his men from detention and to restore them to their former rank. Steiner and his loyal parachute group of 31, which has dwindled to 16, are serving time in a German prison for trying to help a Polish Jewess escape during a round up of Jews. Also going along with Steiner is Liam Devlin (Donald Sutherland), a mercenary IRA member who wishes to gain Ireland’s independence by bringing down the British empire by working for the German counter-intelligence. The commandos dress as Polish soldiers and take over a small English town, supposedly on a training maneuver to await the coming visit of the Prime Minister.

It’s difficult to find much about this film that’s credible, the implausibilities keep adding up, from the bad German and Irish accents bandied around to most of the Nazis being viewed as good guys (ugh!!). But even though it’s uninvolving and convoluted in its story line, the talented cast keep it watchable (Caine is the main man who keeps it from becoming completely nonsensical and Pleasence makes for a convincing Himmler), its professionally well-constructed and there’s a surprise action-packed ending that plays out rather well.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”