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Where Eagles Dare
File:Where Eagles Dare poster.jpg
film poster by Howard Terpning
Directed byBrian G. Hutton
Screenplay byAlistair MacLean
Produced byElliott Kastner
Jerry Gershwin
StarringRichard Burton
Clint Eastwood
Mary Ure
CinematographyArthur Ibbetson
Edited byJohn Jympson
Music byRon Goodwin
Winkast Film Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 4 December 1968 (1968-12-04) (UK)
  • 12 March 1969 (1969-03-12) (US)
Running time
155 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
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 (Robert Beatty), a chief planner for the second front, is captured by the Germans when his airplane to Crete is shot down. He is taken for interrogation to the Schloss Adler, a mountaintop fortress in the Alps of southern Bavaria, accessible only by cable car or helicopter. A team of seven 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. They are to parachute in, infiltrate the castle, and rescue General Carnaby before the Germans can interrogate him. In Germany, Smith secretly meets MI6 agents Mary Elison (Mary Ure) and Heidi (Ingrid Pitt), their presence known only to him. Heidi arranges for Mary to be hired at the castle as a maid.

Meanwhile, two of the team are mysteriously killed, but Smith is unperturbed, keeping Schaffer as a close ally and secretly updating Rolland and Turner by radio. The commandos surrender themselves to the Germans; after Smith and Schaffer (being officers), are separated from the other three, they kill their captors, blow up a supply depot, and prepare an escape route for later use. They reach the castle by riding on top of a cable car and climb inside when Mary lowers a rope.

German General Rosemeyer (Ferdy Mayne) and Standartenführer Kramer (Anton Diffring) are interrogating Carnaby when the three new prisoners arrive — and all three identify themselves as German double agents. Smith and Schaffer intrude, weapons drawn, but Smith then forces Schaffer to disarm and establishes himself as Sturmbannführer Johann Schmidt of the SD — the SS intelligence branch. As proof, he discreetly shows the name of Germany's top agent in Britain to Kramer, who silently affirms it. He now reveals that "General Carnaby" is an impostor, a lookalike U.S. corporal named Cartwright Jones — and claims that the other prisoners are all British impostors. To test them, he proposes that they write down the names of their fellow agents in Britain, to be compared to his own list in his pocket. After the three — Thomas (William Squire), Berkeley (Peter Barkworth) and Christiansen (Donald Houston) — finish their lists, Smith reveals that he was bluffing and the lists were the mission's true objective. Smith and a re-armed Schaffer re-secure the room.

Meanwhile Mary is visited by Sturmbannführer von Hapen (Derren Nesbitt), a Gestapo officer infatuated with her, but he becomes suspicious of faults in her cover story. Leaving her, he happens upon the scene of Carnaby's interrogation just as Smith finishes his explanation. Von Hapen puts everyone under arrest, but is distracted when Mary arrives in turn. Schaffer seizes the opportunity to kill 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 castle, 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 break free and 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 Turner is waiting for them.

As Turner debriefs Smith on the mission, Smith reveals that the name Kramer confirmed as the top agent in Britain was Turner's own. Rolland had lured Turner and the others into participating so MI6 could expose them; Smith's trusted partner Mary and the American Schaffer (who had no connection to MI6) had been assigned to the mission to ensure its success. To avoid a trial and execution, Turner is permitted to commit suicide by jumping out of the plane without a parachute.

Schaffer then jokingly asks Smith to make his next mission "an all-British operation".


  • Richard Burton as Maj. John Smith
  • Clint Eastwood as Lt. Morris Schaffer
  • Mary Ure as Mary Ellison
  • Patrick Wymark as Col. Turner
  • Michael Hordern as Admiral Rolland
  • Donald Houston as Capt. Olaf Christiansen
  • Peter Barkworth as Capt. Ted Berkeley
  • William Squire as Capt. Lee Thomas
  • Robert Beatty as Gen. George Carnaby/Corporal Cartwright Jones
  • Brook Williams as Sgt. Harrod
  • Neil McCarthy as Sgt. Jock MacPherson
  • Vincent Ball as Wing Commander Cecil Carpenter
  • Anton Diffring as Col. Paul Kramer
  • Ferdy Mayne as Gen. Julius Rosemeyer
  • Derren Nesbitt as Maj. von Hapen
  • Victor Beaumont as Col. Weissner
  • Ingrid Pitt as Heidi Schmidt
  • Guy Deghy as Maj. Wilhelm Wilner (uncredited)
  • Derek Newark as SS Officer (uncredited)


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]


  • the castle – Hohenwerfen Castle, Werfen, Austria; filmed in January 1968.
  • cable car – Feuerkogel Seilbahn at Ebensee, Austria; filmed in January 1968.
  • airport scenes – Flugplatz at Aigen im Ennstal, Austria; filmed in early 1968. The exact place of filming is the "Fiala-Fernbrugg" garrison, still used by HS Geschwader 2 and FlAR2/3rd Bat. of the Austrian Army. The big rocky mountain in the background of the airfield is the Grimming mountains, about 40 km east of the "Hoher Dachstein", or about 80 km east and 10 km south from Werfen.[18]
  • other scenes – MGM-British Studios, Borehamwood, England; filmed in spring 1968.[19]

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]


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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:


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. 3.0 3.1 "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. 9.0 9.1 Hughes, pp.191–192
  10. Munn, p. 79
  11. Lightman, Herb A. Front Projection for "2001: A Space Odyssey". American Cinematographer
  12. 12.0 12.1 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. 14.0 14.1 14.2 the cellulord is watching: WHERE EAGLES DARE. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  15. "Norton Motors homepage". Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  16. If Only. Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  17. Where Eagles Dare – The Internet Movie Plane Database. (30 January 2015). Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  18. (Trivia). Where Eagles (3 January 1997). Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  19. Where Eagles Dare (1968). Retrieved on 20 November 2015.
  20. "Bell Helicopters". Helicopter History Site.
  21. "Biography of ARTHUR MIDDLETON YOUNG" (PDF). Retrieved 17 August 2016.
  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. 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. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)


  • Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-902-7.
  • Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-790-X.

External links[]

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