Where Eagles Dare Versus The Guns of Navarone
My father served in the “Big One” (World War II), as Archie Bunker described it. Dad would never talk about his experience much, even when I would pepper him directly with questions. He did mention he had the same recurring nightmare of walking through an open field, where a Nazi soldier lay hidden in the tall grass. As he walked through the brush, all he could see was the German’s helmet as it bobbed up and down, coming ever nearer to his position. When it came to war stories, he preferred to forget the memories.
As a young child watching WWII fare on the television, I came to picture the Second World War as Hollywood imagined it. My two favorite films of all time are Where Eagles Dare and The Guns of Navarone. They are both Alistair MacLean vehicles that feature complicated heroes, hidden saboteurs, rousing action, and plot twists galore. You might argue that they are the same WWII story told in two different locations—the balmy Mediterranean and the snowy Austrian Alps.
Where Eagles Dare stars Richard Burton as the leader of a small British team dropped behind enemy lines to rescue an American general held captive by the Germans in an impregnable castle. Clint Eastwood is the only American on the squad and racks up a severe amount of casualties as the team’s resident assassin. Legend has it that Burton did the picture because Elizabeth Taylor’s boys wanted him to do an action film in the spirit of The Guns of Navarone.
The Guns of Navarone stars Gregory Peck as Captain Mallory, leader of a crackpot military team charged with blowing up two radar-controlled guns on the island of Navarone. Mallory is joined by defeated Greek Army Colonel Andrea Stavrou (Anthony Quinn) and genius munitions expert, Corporal Miller (David Niven). The specialty commandos have only a few days to complete the mission before the Axis powers sink the British fleet sailing to the island in an apparent rescue operation.
Both films are pure fiction and highly implausible, yet are incredibly entertaining stories. The Guns of Navarone is the better-produced film, but Where Eagles Dare is the more memorable and enjoyable. Compared to the special effects of today’s movies, audiences might feel the miniature sets and rear-projection techniques a bit cheesy. The acting is superb—furthered by a cast of leading British character actors. If you watch Anthony Quinn throughout The Guns of Navarone, you will see his shirt increasingly turn a dark red as the film progresses. This stunt was a personal contribution to the film that irked director J. Lee Thompson to no end. I have watched these films countless times and have come to discover many continuity errors. For example, in Where Eagles Dare, as Burton and his team walk past a building in the town of Werfen, you can see the film crew’s reflection in the windows!
The soundtracks for both these films are superb. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for The Guns of Navarone makes use of the french horn in an arousing anthem to the exploits of our heroes as they venture about the Grecian isles. The constant use of snare drum in the music of Where Eagles Dare makes clear we are experiencing a military operation filled with tension and explosive action.
In both films, the good guys are victorious, as it should be!
One Response to “Where Eagles Dare Versus The Guns of Navarone”
“Broadsword calling Danny Boy.”