I was aware that there is an excellent war movie called “Where Eagles Dare” for a long time. In recent past, I came across the astonishing information that the movie is based on a book. Long story short, I came across the book last week. So, after reading the book, I raced to get and watch the movie.
Watching a movie after you have read the book on which it is based has some advantages, like if you liked the book, you are looking forward to how they converted it to movie medium, and you are almost sure to like the movie (some noticeable exceptions aside). Also, it has some major disadvantages, namely you know almost all the twists and turns the plot is supposed to take. Also, if they miss or change any of these, you are bound to get disappointed.
I liked the book, I liked the movie, but as I said, one of the disadvantages is that sometimes you wish they were not connected to each other.
For all those people who hadn’t watched the movie (a la me in recent past), and didn’t know or haven’t read the book (again, like me in recent past), here’s a short summary of the story:
An American Lt. General is brought down near Germany, and luckily (for Germans) he carries the entire plans for upcoming Operation Overlord in his head. He comes down near the southern combined HQ of German Secret Service and Gestapo (again, as luck would have it), and taken to the Schloss Adler, when his Mosquito crash-lands. 4 British agents and one American are pressed in service to get him back before he can open his mouth. Not surprisingly, Schloss Adler stands on a volcanic plug in a valley surrounded on 3 sides by high mountains (including highest peak in Alps) and is only accessible by cable-car (a true nest of Eagle in all including the name). Also, the valley is the location for training HQ for Alpenkorps (supposedly elite troops). The plot then follows true espionage story traditions, and ends with a maybe not-so-expected climax.
Action shots (and I mean gun-shots) make an excellent movie material, as all war movie fans would testify. But I hate it when the Maj. Smith in the book who runs back (when they are trying to escape the entire residents of the castle plus a contingent of Alpenkorps) to get a bound enemy out of fire’s way into Maj. Smith who forces a prisoner to climb down a rope knowing that the people chasing them are bound to kill him. The number of persons killed directly by the team in the book can be counted on my fingers (and I won’t even need toes), since most of the enemies are overcome and bound or left unconscious. But, the Maj. Smith in the movie leaves behind him a trail of corpses, and you wonder if they had stayed there for one day more, Operation Overlord would be much easier, if not completely unnecessary.
And when you read the book, you don’t think of Clint Eastwood being casted as the American member of the team, Lt. Schaffer. Lt. Schaffer of the book is the true American, there for comic relief, although he is more than entirely competent in his duties. Can you imagine Clint Eastwood mouthing lines like “I hate horses” and “I fall off them everywhere”? On the other hand, the associations would not have decreased the comic content of the movie one bit, so I wonder why they made Schaffer in the movie such a serious person. I am imagining Clint Eastwood sitting in a Wild West bar, in his tilted back cowboy hat, two six-shooters (with notches) and cowboy boots with spurs, telling the barman (no bar girls in Wild West), “I hate horses. I fall off them everywhere.” And I am shedding tears for all the ‘tears in my eyes due to laughs’ I missed.
But still, the movie is not so bad as I am making it (call it a reader’s indignation). The movie is a classic, and if I can make a suggestion that the movie be considered in current era of remakes, it is only that the moving backdrop (state-of-art in 1968) kind of intrudes on your Matrix-trained eyes circa 2006. Otherwise, there is almost nothing in this movie to improve on (except maybe to make it true to the book).
All in all, excellent book, and excellent movie. Scores a solid 1.0 on Book(?)…err scale.
P.S. For all fans of “Return to Castle Wolfenstein”, the castle we are supposed to get out of is Schloss Adler. So, when they start getting into castle on the cable-car, you get a huge sense of been there-done that (cannot exactly call it deja vu). You can literally tell in which place what and who is located when they enter the castle. The only difference is that, in the game, you are supposed to get out of the castle, while in the movie they enter the castle and roam around.
Quote of The Day:
“Brother! If I can ever do you a favour, like lending you car fare…”
– Lt. Schaffer (after Maj. Smith saves him from dropping about 250 metres straight down)