The Eagle Has Landed (1976) Review

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To The Moon, Nazi.

The Eagle Has Landed (1976): 5 out of 10: The Eagle Has Landed is one of those revisionist war films that were so popular after the Vietnam War.

Checking your parachutes before taking a boat to England?

In this film, the Nazis are the protagonists (though not necessarily the good guys). While the British people are painted as morally equivalent (mention is made of the British concentration camps during the Second Boer war) and the United States forces are portrayed as untested buffoons (Two words; Larry Hagman; see below).

I don’t mean to be Mr. Picky, but the pub behind the Nazi’s seems to indicate they have already arrived in England.

The Eagle has Landed is about a Nazi plot to kidnap Winston Churchill and bring him back to Germany. An eye patched Robert Duvall plays the plan’s author and Donald Pleasence plays his ruthless boss Heinrich Himmler (great casting there).

Donald Pleasence should have played Himmler in every film. Not just World War 2 films, mind you. Himmler show up in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory… that kind of thing.

They recruit German airborne leader Michael Caine (Who was educated in England. How a German at Oxford picks up a Cockney accent is never explained.) Caine’s character is where the movie floats off the rails. Caine and his men are in a German prison camp because they tried to rescue a Jewish girl. This of course sets Caine up as the “good” Nazi.

Michael Caine was originally offered the part of Devlin but did not want to play a member of the IRA, so asked if he could have the less objectionable role of a Nazi.

This honestly is as bad a copout as when Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot was proffered as being the only plantation owner in the American south to use free blacks exclusively.

You know those kids look like Nazis. Now I am confused.

If the movie wants us to root for the Nazi’s at least be honest about it. This unfortunate choice also gives a Dirty Dozen vibe to the film that it neither deserves nor can live up to.

The Good Nazi.

After Caine’s men land in Middle Earth (sorry a small English village) disguised as polish paratroopers (Insert obvious joke here) they quickly set up camp with the help of a local woman with a chip on her shoulder (Jean Marsh) and an IRA man played broadly by Donald Sutherland. The film quickly develops more subplots than its two-and-a-half hour running time can comfortably handle.

Jean Marsh has the biggest body count of anyone in the film. Honestly, she is a bigger bad ass than either the Nazis, The Americans or the IRA.

The silliest of these involves the romance between Sutherland’s romantic IRA gadfly and a local village girl played by a disappointing clothed Jenny Agutter. They have one slight meet cute date at the beach and based on a chaste peck and some poetry (not to mention the promises of an Irishman); Agutter’s character shoots her other suitor with a shotgun, covers for the Nazis (including working their radio) and runs away with her charming murdering rogue.

Jenny Agutter blowing away the English scum. (Seriously, what is her motivation? Donald Sutherland?)

Pile on the Germans demanding the right to wear their Nazi uniforms under their disguises (Yeah, that’s a foolproof idea. No downside there); Sutherland’s spy character not noting the large United States Army Rangers’ base just up the road; and that the village itself is not suspicious of an Irishman who seemed to just drop out of the sky (Literally). After all this entire dimwitted English shire consists of about 12 people, a water wheel and a Catholic church. The Eagle Has Landed does not explain why Churchill would ever visit such a hamlet in the first place.

Of course, this only happened because the good Nazis risked their mission to rescue a child. I am surprised that the child wasn’t holding a puppy at the time.

And then there are the American Rangers. I’ve heard Larry Hagman was a talented actor occasionally (I’m not about to sit through Fail Safe anytime soon to find out) but in this film he is unfunny broad comic relief. While up to this point all the actors have done a great job with sometimes poorly written roles (I’m giving Agutter a pass on this one); Hagman’s comic relief guy kills any serious mood the movie had created up to this point. It’s overacting scene-chewing buffoonery that has to be seen to be believed.

Yup, acting.

The other major American role is played by Treat Williams. Yeah, enough said.

Treat Williams discusses what’s for lunch with Michael Caine, John Standing and Judy Geeson

Last nail in an otherwise attractive coffin are the action scenes themselves. Maybe I play too much Call of Duty, but have any of these guys ever heard of suppressive fire or squad tactics? Another reviewer compared it to the A-team and I concur. The action scenes seem simply sloppy and the movie piddles out into a trick ending.

This is the extent of things blowing up.

Had they played it straight throughout and allowed the characters to act like real people, this could have been a great movie. They had the budget and the cast to do a great film. They just didn’t have the confidence in the material to let the chips fall where they may.

Part of The Eagle has Landed fashion shoot.
Per Michael Caine’s Biography: “The picture was being directed by the Hollywood old-timer John Sturges […], and we were all very pleased that this illustrious veteran had agreed to direct our film. That is, until one day when I was talking to him between set-ups and he informed me that now that he was older, he only ever worked to get the money to go fishing, which was his passion. Deep-sea fishing off Baja, California, he added, which was very expensive. The moment the picture finished he took the money and went. [Producer] Jack Wiener later told me that he never came back for the editing nor for any of the other post-production sessions that are where a director does some of his most important work. The picture wasn’t bad, but I still get angry when I think of what it could have been with the right director. We had committed the old European sin of being impressed by someone just because he came from Hollywood.”
You know, eye patches work with the Nazi uniform.
Donald Sutherland plays the biggest jerk in the movie. I understand he is supposed to be a delightful rogue. He is like nails on a chalkboard when he is on screen.
Seriously, just look at him. Such a smackable mug.
Robert Duvall is excellent in the film.
He always seems to know where to stand for the staring off into the distance, thinking shots.
Himmler’s office is some pretty horrible set dressing. Look at the photos. The Hitler picture above the fireplace is the same as one of the Hitler pictures on the desk. Himmler would have pictures of himself standing with Hitler on his desk. He would also have a more serious piece of art over the fireplace.
The guy on the right does not know how to take cover. He is easily visible through the fence with light vegetation, which also provides no cover from snipers.
There are a lot of white flags from the Allies in this movie. You would have thought The Eagle Has Landed took place in France.
Let us look at Larry Hagman.
Larry surprised
Larry with a smattering of red food dye.
Jenny Agutter Getting seduced.
Happy Jenny Agutter
Jenny Agutter showing some ankle and thigh.
Jenny Agutter reading a love letter from her horse.
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