Monday, 19 March 2012

Critique - 36 years too late

Last night, in a vain attempt to stave off depression caused by the previous 2 posts, H.I. and me watched 'The Eagle Has Landed' on DVD.

I found it amazing that I have waited 36 years to watch this film, but having now seen it I can understand why I delayed for so long. I also discovered that it doesn't improve with age.

I don't think I would be spoiling it for you (for the above reasons) if I told you that the basic plot hinges on an ill-fated attempt to capture Winston Churchill from his Norfolk hidey-hole, by a bunch of renegade German paratroopers (posing as Polish ones) led by Michael Caine, on the instructions of Adolf Hitler himself.

All the actors talk to each other in varyingly bad German accents, except for Donald Sutherland's character, who talks in a bad Irish one. The use of bad accents to distinguish between nationalities seems so dated now, especially since modern actors are so convincing at taking on very good ones in the same way as black American opera singers take on absolutely perfect German pronunciation, without understanding a word of what they are singing. It's all down to the training, I suppose.

Jenny Agutter is as irritatingly and inexplicably stupid as she seems to be in all her roles, accidentally shooting a village hero with BOTH barrels of a 12 gauge shot-gun, having fallen in love with the IRA man who is helping the Germans to kill Churchill. Oops.

The only totally convincing character is played by Larry Hagman, who portrays J.R. Ewing in uniform - totally out of his depth in a foreign war-zone. I love Larry Hagman - he is the quintessential Texan as seen with British eyes. Oh, and Donald Pleasence plays a very good Himmler as well, but then again, he was always good as anyone sinister.

When the flick came to an end, I wondered why I was left with a feeling of being duped without any willing suspension of disbelief (I'm normally good at switching off, which is why I love Harry Potter so much), then I realised that this could be explained by the absolute final scene in which the obvious is spelt out for us in words better suited to the under 15 year-olds who are not allowed to watch the picture in the first place.

The German commander manages to escape the village siege where the rest of his comrades are dying in a hail of bullets, and creeps up to Winston Churchill on a dark terrace, where Winny is enjoying a cigar and brandy on his own.

He points his Luger at Churchill and for a moment, the two men face each other before he pulls the trigger. As soon as he has shot, he himself gets shot by the late-arriving American soldiers who are supposed to be guarding the Prime Minister, and the two men lie dead on the ground, with everyone else standing over them.

When you see Churchill's face, you - of course - know that he is an actor dressed up in the trade-mark outfit of bow tie, dark suit, glasses, etc. and I found myself wondering if they could not have got someone a little more like Churchill to play this unspeaking role.

Then, a character who plays one of Churchill's aides says, "No, this is not Churchill, he was an actor who we dressed up as Churchill to divert attention away from the real one."

For God's sake!

When I met my German friend at Exeter Airport last summer, I waited to pick him up and take him to Cornwall, and when his plane touched ground I had an SMS message from him on my mobile phone - "The Eagle Has Landed."


  1. I always liked Judy Geeson as the vicars sister saving the day!......oh and that nasty Jean Marsh as the impressive sounding Joanne Grey!

    1. The only thing I noticed about Judy Geeson was the VPL showing NON 1940s knickers riding up the cheeks of her arse. Call me sad, but I have an eye for these details.

  2. Loved that last paragraph Juhn - your German friend had obviously seen the film years ago.

  3. And they say Germans have no sense of humour!

  4. My name is Herr Caine, and I am a cock-eny.

    Classic film. I tried that bit where the Irish guy just whistles at the slavering attck dogs and sends them to sleep.

    I should get my prosthetic arm sometime next week.

    1. I have tried that whistling trick today, but she just ran away.