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Where Eagles Dare

film poster by Howard Terpning
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Elliott Kastner
Jerry Gershwin
Written by Alistair MacLean (novel and screenplay)
Starring Richard Burton
Clint Eastwood
Mary Ure
Music by Ron Goodwin
Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson, BSC
Editing by John Jympson
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) 4 December, 1968 (UK)
Running time 155 min.
Country USA / UK
Language English
Gross revenue $7,100,000 (US)[1]

Where Eagles Dare is a 1968 World War II action-adventure spy film starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, and Mary Ure. It was directed by Brian G. Hutton and shot on location in Austria and Bavaria.

Best-selling author Alistair MacLean wrote the novel and the screenplay of Where Eagles Dare at the same time. It was his first screenplay; both film and book became commercial successes.

The production, which hired some of the top moviemaking professionals of the period, is considered a classic of its genre.[2] Major contributors included Yakima Canutt, the legendary Hollywood stuntman, who as second-unit director shot most of the action scenes [3], famed British stuntman Alf Joint who doubled for Burton in some of the most thrilling sequences such as the aerial fight on top of the cable car,[4] award-winning conductor and composer Ron Goodwin who wrote the memorable film score and future Oscar-nominee, Arthur Ibbetson who created the movie's vivid cinematography.


Production background

Burton approached producer Elliott Kastner for ideas, who consulted with MacLean. At that time, most of MacLean's novels had either been made into films, or were in the process of being filmed, nevertheless, Kastner persuaded MacLean to write a new story; six weeks later, MacLean delivered the script of Where Eagles Dare.

The title derives from Act I, Scene III in William Shakespeare's Richard III: "The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch".

However once filming began, Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton reportedly dubbed the film 'Where Doubles Dare' due to the amount of time stand-ins were used for the action sequences.[2]


Where Eagles Dare takes place during World War II. In the winter of 1943-44, U.S. Army Brigadier General George Carnaby, enroute to Crete to rendezvous with Russian forces to plan the final details of the invasion of Normandy, is captured by the Germans when his aircraft is shot down. He is taken to the Schloß Adler (The Castle of the Eagles - hence the story's title), a fortress high in the Alps above the town of Werfen and the headquarters of the German Secret Service in southern Bavaria. A special team of mainly British commandos is hurriedly assembled and briefed by Colonel Wyatt Turner and Admiral Rolland of MI6, and led by Major John Smith, MC and US Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer. Their mission is to parachute into the locality, infiltrate the Schloß Adler, and rescue General Carnaby before the Germans can interrogate him.

Known only to Smith and Rolland, SOE agent Mary Elison, a trusted member of MI6, accompanies the mission. General Carnaby, really an American actor and look-alike by the name of Cartwright Jones, deliberately crash-landed near the castle after a staged attack by Royal Air Force fighters. He must be rescued before the Germans realize that he truly does not know of any secret plans and is not General Carnaby.

During the early hours of the mission, someone begins killing other members of the team and attempting to cover the evidence. Major Smith is unsurprised but shares his secret only with Lt. Schaffer, trustworthy because he has no former connection with MI6.

Contriving to get the entire party captured, Smith and Schaffer, being officers, are separated from Thomas et al., the only three non-officers left alive after the murder of two others. Smith and Schaffer kill their captors, successfully cover the evidence, create a diversion in the town by blowing up the railway station, and make their way to the cable car station that provides the only safe entrance to the castle. When Thomas et al. are brought up to the castle under German guard, Smith and Schaffer silently climb on top of the car and ride to the Schloß Adler with them. Meanwhile, Mary Elison is brought into the castle by Heidi, a top trusted MI6 agent since 1941 disguised as a barmaid in Werfen. Once in her room, she lets down a rope from her window over the cable car station, and Smith and Schaffer climb inside.

All the parties are now in the castle. Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen, taken for questioning, declare their true German identity, revealing themselves as double agents. Smith and Schaffer are known to be missing; the German officers in charge of the interrogation of Carnaby, Gen. Rosemeyer and Col. Kramer, discover their secret entry into the castle but fail to find them.

Smith and Schaffer, hiding in a gallery above the dining room where Carnaby's interrogation is taking place, descend to the room, where Smith suddenly betrays and disarms Schaffer. He announces himself as Major Johann Schmidt of SS Military Intelligence, satisfying the doubting Kramer and Rosemeyer of this identity with false proof handed, years ago, to German allies. He exposes the true identity of Carnaby/Jones, and explains to the Germans that Thomas et al. are not double agents, but rather, British impostors. To test them, Smith proposes that they write the names of their fellow conspirators, to be compared to the "master list" in his pocket. In addition, Smith writes a name on another piece of paper, shown only to Kramer—the name of the top German agent in Britain. Kramer nods his agreement, waiting to see if the "exposed British agents" can come up with equal proof of their German identity.

Meanwhile, Mary, investigating the castle to plan the party's escape, meets Major von Hapen, a Gestapo officer. He takes her on a date to the castle's cafe, where he subtly forces her to reveal the tale of her assumed identity. Unfortunately, Mary's supposed hometown, Düsseldorf, is also von Hapen's, and he realises through her faulty details that she is lying, uttering the classic line "Strange, I seem to remember...that the cathedral was on the 'other' side of the square." Knowing that British agents are loose in the castle, von Hapen leaves Mary to attempt to find the enemy.

Back in the dining room, Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen finish writing their lists. Kramer takes one of the small notebooks, thumbing appreciatively through its pages, filled with German names. Smith hands him a notebook to compare to - the "master list." Its pages are blank. Before Kramer realises something is seriously amiss, Smith signals to Schaffer to retrieve his dropped gun. Together they shoot the guards, holding everyone but Carnaby/Jones at gunpoint.

At this point it is revealed that the entire mission has been a cover for an MI6 operation to disclose the identities of German double agents who have infiltrated British intelligence. Major Smith and Admiral Rolland have managed the operation; they devised a plan to trick known agents into disclosing their contacts, revealing the entire network of infiltrators. Three of the party on the Bavarian mission, Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen, were known to be double agents only by Smith and Rolland and were the targets of the MI6 plan.

Taking from Kramer the three books of names, Smith, Schaffer and Cartwright Jones are about to make good their escape, with the three traitors in tow, when von Hapen enters the room.

Von Hapen trusts nobody and trains a pistol on the entire room, demanding an explanation. Smith, thinking quickly, explains that he has just uncovered a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler and that the books contain names of the conspirators, taken forcibly from the Germans seated at the table. Von Hapen demands to see the names. Schaffer removes his hidden pistol and shoots von Hapen as Mary bursts through the door with her own gun. They also shoot Kramer, Rosemeyer and the nurse on hand (whose job it was to inject Carnaby/Jones with scopolamine for the interrogation). They tie up Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen, and begin their escape.

Smith and Schaffer organise a diversion in the form of blowing up half the castle while they, joined by Mary, make their way to the cable car station. The Germans shoot Thomas after Smith forces him to climb down the rope Smith used to gain entry into the castle hours before.

Berkeley and Christiansen knock out Schaffer and use a cable car to escape to Werfen, leaving the heroes stranded at the castle. At the last second, Smith climbs atop the car, fighting the men inside from the roof, balancing thousands of feet above the Alps. Christiansen climbs up to fight Smith, who forces him off the roof to his death. Placing a detonation charge on the car, Smith escapes by leaping onto the passing ascending car, leaving the surviving Berkeley to be blown up. Smith rides up to the castle station, loads his party into the car and rides it down, escaping the Germans waiting at the Werfen station by dropping into the river.

Back in Werfen, Smith, Schaffer, Mary, Heidi and Jones make their way to a garage where earlier they had hotwired a bus for their escape. Smith and Schaffer had also previously set explosive charges on trees and telephone poles along the road to the nearby Oberhausen Airfield where they planned to rendezvous with an RAF aircraft, painted as a German training plane. Pursued by the Germans, they set off the explosive charges to block the road, therefore thwarting the Germans' pursuit. Once at the airfield, the pilot of the RAF plane stages a false emergency landing. On board is Colonel Turner, second-in-command of the supposed rescue mission. Under gunfire, the party boards the plane and escapes into the sky.

The final scene takes place on board the plane. Smith shows the books of German names to Turner, commenting that one single name is missing—one that the others couldn't have known, since the mastermind of the German spy network in Britain was kept hidden from them. It is the name Smith showed Kramer earlier that evening, the name Kramer confirmed as the top agent. That name is Colonel Turner. Turner, exposed, faces a court-martial for treason in his native Britain. He makes a last ditch bargaining plea by training a machine gun on Smith, but Smith reveals that Admiral Rolland took the precaution of removing the firing pin from the gun before Turner boarded the plane. With all his options now exhausted, Turner chooses suicide, leaping from the plane to his death. Smith returns to Rolland, having successfully destroyed German infiltration in Britain for the remainder of the war.

The novel and the film

The film and novel are reasonably close. The principal difference is that the novel is less violent than the film and, 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. Two characters are differently named in the film: Carraciola is called Ted Berkeley and von Brauchitsch is named as Major von Hapen of the Gestapo (Despite von Hapen's uniform having SS collar flashes, this is correct as Gestapo officials also held SS rank; less credible is the fact of a Gestapo Major sporting a "von" before his surname[5]). A budding love story between Schaffer and Heidi was also cut.

In the film Thomas is killed by the Germans, thus only Berkeley and Christiansen escape in the cable car with Smith on the roof.

In the book, the group are flown into Germany on board an RAF Lancaster bomber whereas in the film they are transported in a Luftwaffe, Junkers Ju 52.

In the film, Kramer, Rosemeyer, and Von Hapen are shot to death by Schaffer and Smith, however in the book they were just given high doses of scopolamine.

Principal cast

These are the credits as they appear at the end of the film. There are a number of differences between the characters' names in the film and the novel.


Filming locations

  • the castle - Burg Hohenwerfen, Werfen, Austria; filmed in January 1968,
  • cable car - Feuerkogel Seilbahn at Ebensee (Austria); filmed in January 1968,
  • airport scenes - Flugplatz 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 from the "Hoher Dachstein", or about 80 km east and 10 km South from Werfen [6],
  • other scenes - Borehamwood Studios, Hertfordshire, England; filmed in spring 1968


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

A soundtrack was released on Compact Disc in 2005, by specialty label Film Score Monthly, as part of their Silver Age Classics series, in association with Turner Entertainment. This soundtrack for Where Eagles Dare was a two disc release, the first CD being the film music, the second was the film music for Operation Crossbow and source music for Where Eagles Dare. This release has been limited to 3000 pressings.

Track listings for Where Eagles Dare

  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


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Where Eagles Dare". TCM. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Members of the SS were selected for racial and ideological purity. The old aristocracy, distinguished by using "von" in their names, were blamed for Germany's defeat in World War I.
  6. ^ Where Eagles (Trivia)

External links

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