'The Eagle has Landed' *** 040605
DVD Review (1976)

The Work = ****
'The Eagle has Landed' is a fun drama from John Sturges, the famed director of 'The Great Escape'. If you have seen that movie or another famous film he did, 'The Magnificent Seven', than you will have some idea what to expect from 'The Eagle has Landed'. A group of men work together to accomplish a goal more or less sums up the plot. This time the setting is World War II and the group is a squad of Nazis and their allies.

I had my doubts that there was going to be too much for me to enjoy here and I was worried that somehow this film would, oh I don’t know, make the Nazi’s seem like a bunch of fun loving, misunderstood cowboys, or something. Thankfully Sturges does no such thing and sets up his main characters as being those with a code of honor. Indeed many of the Axis are shown to be without.

Steiner (Michael Caine) and his men care nothing for the parties anti-Semitism. He cares for the men next to him and fights for them. Devlin (Donald Sutherland) does not care for the Nazis per say, nor is one but works with them because they appose the British and he wants a unified Ireland (without British rule.) Devlin doesn’t like the IRA “hitting soft targets” (read: civilians) but wants to go after the British government head on. Of course his logic is paper thin since the amount of “soft targets” killed by the Axis is enormous. (Though he might counter that they are not his people.) In any event he, like many of the characters in this film, pursues his goals with a single mindedness.

Logic gaps aside 'The Eagle has Landed' ends up being an engaging drama. It has a slow build up (although that didn’t bother me) but some action does kick in by the end of the film. The main characters are all headed towards certain death and there would seem to be no plausible way for them to victorious yet they march on, all with their own strict codes.

I will not reveal the specifics of their plan (although it is mentioned very early on.) The film actually becomes a story about characters choosing to die with honor rather than live with disgrace. They have an opportunity to do something that might help the Axis lose the War in a manageable way. (The film takes place at a point in the War when they knew they were going to lose and when Hitler was becoming consumed by madness.) Steiner and his men have lost their rank and uniform but are given it back after they accept the dangerous mission. They have a chance to make enough of a difference to alter the end of the War.

Now I suppose I should say that although I mentioned that the characters had their own code of honor they were still working for the Axis. There are those that would say that if they truly had a code they were following than they would have left the country. I will say that I can’t really defend the character choices as this film is a fantasy. I think it is possible for soldiers who fought for the Axis to have been honorable but I would say that if you don’t share that sentiment than I’m not going to be able to convince you otherwise.

I enjoyed this film and recommend it. Although it has a slow build up, the second half of the film picks up the pace. Whether they are flawed or not, the characters are great. Michael Caine is good, as is the rest of the cast.

DVD = ***

The Look
Ok, so I’m giving the DVD *** basically because this is widescreen. However, to my eyes this looks like a pretty terrible transfer. There was damage on the print throughout. Although most of it was minor some was pretty bad (the beginning of the end credits for one example.) Some shots looked blurry. Many shots had haloing present. The picture also looked a little squashed to me, almost like this film was actually shot in 2.40:1 or 2.37:1 and they squished it into 2.35:1 for the DVD. I have no way to verify this so I can’t say for certain.

The Sound
The film is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and gets a fairly week mix. Some dialogue was hard to hear. (I cranked the sound to catch a few lines and then had to drop it down fast so I wouldn’t make myself def.) Also a couple of the sound effects came across muted. I don’t know if the above problems are symptoms of the source or of the transfer but judging by the quality of the video transfer I’m leaning towards the fault lying with the transfer.

The Bonus
You don’t want bonus features on your DVD do you? Why would you want any of those pesky things? Frick! What is the matter with people? The last film by John Sturges and you don’t put ANYTHING on the DVD? (Not to mention doing the crap transfer.) Ok, so I’m exaggerating a little bit. You get brief text bios of some of the cast and of Sturges as well as a bio of Winston Churchill. That’s it. There was probably at least one featurette from the time of the film’s original release that Artisan could have put on to say nothing of, heaven forbid, putting new features on the DVD. Menus and scene selection round out the features. No subtitles. Pretty weak Aritsan.

All together = ***
I give this one a recommendation based solely on the film itself. I’d be curious to know how Artisan ended up with the rights to 'The Eagle has Landed'. They sure did a hatchet job on the transfer. There are also no real extra features (aside from text screens,) not even subtitles. The film shines through though. An engaging World War II drama dealing with honor and adventure in sometimes surprising ways. 'The Eagle has Landed' is enjoyable and has some great performances. I really hope it gets a better DVD release. Until that day, check this one out.


'The Eagle Has Landed' Links:


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.