Where Eagles Dare

   

 

               Look, Major, either you start playing it straight or you can deal me out of this mess. Now we both                    know that radio operator wasn't killed in any drop. Now with MacPherson dead, there's only                      five of us left. So either you let me know what's going on or there's only gonna be four.

 

Where Eagles Dare takes place during World War II . In the winter of 1943-44, US Army Bridadier General George Carnaby, enroute to Crete to rendezvous with Russian forces to plan the final details of the inavsion of Normandy, is captured by the Germans when his aircraft is shot down. He is taken to the Schloß Adler (The Castle of the Eagles - hence the story's title), a fortress high in the Alps above the town of Werfen and the headquarters of the German Secret Service in southern Bavaria. A special team of mainly British commandos is hurriedly assembled and briefed by Colonel Wyatt Turner and Admiral Rolland of MI6, and led by Major John Smith, MC and US Army Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer. Their mission is to parachute into the locality, infiltrate the Schloß Adler, and rescue General Carnaby before the Germans can interrogate him.

Unbeknownst to all but Smith and Rolland, SOE agent Mary Elison, a trusted member of MI6, accompanies the mission. General Carnaby, really an American actor and look-alike by the name of Cartwright Jones, deliberately crash-landed near the castle after a staged attack by RAFfighters. He must be rescued before the Germans realize that he truly does not know of any secret plans and is not General Carnaby.

During the early hours of the mission, someone begins killing other members of the team and attempting to cover the evidence. Major Smith is unsurprised but shares his secret only with Lt. Schaffer, trustworthy because he has no former connection with MI6.

Contriving to get the entire party captured, Smith and Schaffer, being officers, are separated from Thomas et al., the only three non-officers left alive after the murder of two others. Smith and Schaffer kill their captors, successfully cover the evidence, create a diversion in the town by blowing up the railway station, and make their way to the cable car station that provides the only safe entrance to the castle. When Thomas et al. are brought up to the castle under German guard, Smith and Schaffer silently climb on top of the car and ride to the Schloß Adler with them. Meanwhile, Mary Elison is brought into the castle by Heidi, a top trusted MI6 agent since 1941 disguised as a barmaid in Werfen. Once in her room, she lets down a rope from her window over the cable car station, and Smith and Schaffer climb inside.

All the parties are now in the castle. Thomas, Berkeley, and Christiansen, taken for questioning, declare their true German identity, revealing themselves as double agents. Smith and Schaffer are known to be missing; the German officers in charge of the interrogation of Carnaby, Gen. Rosemeyer and Col. Kramer, discover their secret entry into the castle but fail to find them.

Smith and Schaffer, hiding in a gallery above the dining room where Carnaby's interrogation is taking place, descend and capture Schaffer. He announces himself as Major Johann Schmidt of SS Military Intelligence, satisfying the doubting Kramer and Rosemeyer of this identity with false proof handed, years ago, to German allies. He exposes the true identity of Carnaby/Jones, and explains to the Germans that Thomas et al. are not double agents, but rather, British impostors claiming to be them. To test the "impostors"' identity, Smith proposes that they write down all the names of their fellow conspirators, to be compared to the "master list" in his pocket. In addition, Smith writes a name on another piece of paper, shown only to Kramer - the name of the top German agent in Britain. Smith is guessing, but Kramer nods his agreement, waiting to see if the "exposed British agents" can come up with equal proof of their German identity.

Meanwhile, Mary, investigating the castle to plan the party's escape, meets Major von Brauchitsch, a Gestapo officer. He takes her on a date to the castle's cafe, where he subtly forces her to give the tale of her assumed identity. Unfortunately, Mary's supposed hometown, Dusseldorf, is also von Brauchitsch's, and he realises through her faulty details that she is lying, uttering the classic line "Strange, I seem to remember... that the cathedral was on the other side of the square". Knowing there are British agents loose in the castle, von Brauchitsch leaves Mary to attempt to find the enemy.

Back in the dining room, Thomas, Berkeley, and Christiansen finish writing their lists. Kramer takes one of the small notebooks, thumbing appreciatively through its pages, filled with German names. Smith hands him a notebook to compare to - the "master list." Its pages are blank. Before Kramer realises something is seriously amiss, Smith signals to Schaffer to retrieve his dropped gun. Together they shoot the guards, holding everyone but Carnaby/Jones at gunpoint. At this point it is revealed that the entire mission has been entirely a cover for an MI6 operation to disclose the identities of German double agents who have infiltrated British intelligence. Major Smith and Admiral Rolland have managed the operation together; they knew of some agents but not enough, and so devised a plan to trick known agents into disclosing their contacts, revealing the entire network of infiltrators. Three of the party on the Bavarian mission, Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen, were known to be double agents only by Smith and Rolland, and were the targets of the MI6 plan.

Taking from Kramer the three books of names, Smith, Schaffer, and Cartwright Jones are about to make good their escape, with the three traitors in tow, when von Brauchitsch enters the room.

A Gestapo officer, von Brauchitsch trusts nobody and trains a pistol on the entire room, demanding an explanation. Smith, thinking quickly, explains that he has just uncovered a plot to assassinate Hitler, and that the books of names are the names of the conspirators, taken forcibly from the Germans seated at the table. Von Brauchitsch demands to see the names. Playing for time, Smith hesitates (stepping between von Brauchitsch and blocking his view of Schaffer - who removes his hidden pistol) in taking the books across the room to him; Schaffer shoots von Brauchitsch and Mary arrives bursting through the doors with her own gun. Between them, Mary, Smith, and Schaffer shoot Kramer, Rosemeyer, and the nurse on hand (whose job it was to inject Carnaby/Jones with scopolamine for the interrogation). They tie up Thomas, Berkeley and Christiansen, and begin their escape.

Smith and Schaffer organise a diversion in the form of blowing up half the castle while they, joined by Heidi, make their way to the cable car station. The Germans shoot Berkeley after Smith forces him to climb down the rope Smith used to gain entry into the castle hours before.

They make their way to the cable car room but Thomas and Christiansen knock out Schaffer and use a cable car to escape to Werfen, leaving the heroes stranded at the castle. At the last second, Smith climbs on top of the car, fighting the men inside from the roof, balancing thousands of feet above the Alps. Christiansen climbs up to fight Smith, who forces him off the roof to his death. Placing a detonation charge on the car, Smith escapes by leaping onto the passing ascending car, leaving the surviving Thomas to be blown up. Smith rides up to the castle station, loads his party into the car, and rides it down, escaping the Germans waiting at the Werfen station by dropping into the river.

Smith, Schaffer, Mary, Heidi, and Jones make their way to a garage where earlier they had hotwired a bus for their escape. Pursued by the Germans, they drive to the nearby Oberhausan Airfield, where an RAF aircraft, painted as a German training plane posed a false emergency landing. On board is Colonel Turner, second-in-command of the supposed rescue mission. Under gunfire, the party boards the plane and escapes into the sky.

The final scene takes place on board the plane. Major Smith shows one of the books of German names to Turner, commenting that one single name is missing from the list - one that Thomas et al. couldn't have known, since the mastermind of the German spy network in Britain was kept hidden from them. It is the name Smith showed Kramer earlier that evening, the name Kramer confirmed as the top agent. That name is Colonel Turner. Turner, exposed, sees he faces a court-martial for treason in his native Britain, and chooses suicide, leaping from the plane. Smith returns to Rolland, having successfully destroyed German infiltration in Britain for the remainder of the war.

 

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Movie Script

Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Elliott Kastner
Jerry Gershwin
Written by Alistair MacLean
Starring Richard Burton
Clint Eastwood
Mary Ure
Music by Ron Goodwin
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) 4 December 1968
Running time 155 min.
Language English
Budget  

 

 

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