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The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

I am a great fan of war movies and even a bad one engages me. The Eagle Has Landed is a bad one.

There is nothing wrong with a strong cast led by Michael Caine including Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Anthony Quayle , Larry Hagman and Donald Pleasance.

It was the daft plot – a Nazi attempt to abduct or assassinate Winston Churchill led by maverick paratrooper Steiner (Michael Caine) which rapidly descended into the absurd.

The early part when the plot was hatched featuring the Nazi High Command, head of espionage Admiral Canaris (Anthony Quayle) and a sinister Himmler (Donald Pleasance) was the most engaging but the idea that a team of crack paratroopers disguised as Poles could descend on a sleepy Norfolk village without anyone reporting this was absurd.

The absurdity was enhanced by Donald Sutherland playing a Republican Irish troubadour with devilish charm falling for a local girl (Jenny Agutter).

Romance does not work well in the war movie genre.

The director was John Sturges who made two classics The Magnificent Seven And The Great Escape, both with memorable soundtracks by Elmer Bernstein. He made a turkey here.

Michael Caine, after a decade of successful films, always poses a casting problem. Should he speak in a German or cockney accent? He opted for the latter with that familiar dry delivery of punch-lines but this contrasted poorly with the others who went for the accents of their country.

Larry Hagman was entertaining as gung-ho buffoon Colonel Pitts in a US regiment based in the village but the American audience prefers John Wayne to a dolt.

Hagman did in fact serve in the war in England and despite his evil JR persona was reputedly a nice guy who did much charitable work .

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts