THE EAGLE HAS LANDED —–pretty good, but rather letdown for John Sturges, director of The Great Escape, and just a patch off the bestselling thriller classic from Jack Higgins. Sturges bailed on the editing process to go deep-sea fishing (he told star Michael Caine that financing that hobby was why he was making the movie), the tone wobbles, the tension from the book is mostly missing.
Higgins’ clever idea has an elite German parachute unit attempting to kidnap Winston Churchill, with some assistance from the I.R.A., but screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz (guilty of Live And Let Die, Diamonds Are Forever, The Cassandra Crossing and Superman 2: I rest my case) wasn’t the best choice to put it across.
Fine cast but they clash rather than cohere. Caine is solid as the leader of the mission. Robert Duvall is fine as Caine’s duty-bound superior–though you may find yourself thinking “hey, that’s Duvall with an eyepatch and a German accent”. As Caine’s I.R.A. contact, Donald Sutherland muffs an Irish accent, though not quite as badly as the one he mangled in The Great Train Robbery. Donald Pleasence makes the most of his few scenes as Heinrich Himmler; he offers the most persuasive role in the film.
Treat Williams, Jenny Agutter and Anthony Quayle are under-utilized, and Larry Hagman is too over-the-top as a gung-ho American colonel; it bazookas a hole in the second part of the 134 minutes (145/151 in some prints). Lalo Schifrin’s score is all right, there’s some nice cinematography, the action scenes are well done, accented by some nifty sound effects. Costing $6,000,000, it made around $13,600,000 in 1977 (49th place for the year) and seems to have a fair number of fans, though many who read the novel will be a bit disappointed. Sturges’ last film, with Siegfried Rauch, Judy Geeson, Jean Marsh, John Standing, Sven Bertil-Taube, Jeff Conaway, Maurice Roeves, Read the book: there’s a reason it sold 50,000,000 copies.