Today’s Key Movie:
Written by Alistair MacLean based on his novel by the same name, a team of soldiers are sent on a secret mission deep in Nazi Germany in order to rescue a US General from the hands of the Third Reich. Let by Major John Smith (Burton), the team go in to only to discover that this is more than just a rescue mission.
Why this movie?
I discovered this film from in a rather unusual way. In the advent of the popularity of CD’s our local music store opted to purge their cassette collection at a considerable discount resulting in my family buying literally hundreds of albums on cassette that summer. Amid the various classic rock albums and compilations was a soundtrack that intrigued me. For some reason, at that time in my life, I had become enamored with film scores, most likely due to the amazing work of Danny Elfman and this one was incredible. By Ron Goodwin, the score was a blend of military themes with classical music in a way that was intriguing to me. The opening theme alone fills me with the same anticipation that the Imperial March from Star Wars does. It is epic.
Soon, I had tracked down the movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood and would find it wasn’t long before it became one of my favorite films. Only, it didn’t stop there. My obsession with this film moved to the author, Aliester MacLean and I soon discovered he had not only written this terrific film, but also the classic war movie The Guns of Navarone starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn. Needless to say, I was hooked.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Without a doubt this is one of the best World War Two war movies of it’s time. Most movies depicting this era tend to focus on the more historical events such as the Invasion of Normandy or even the Holocaust itself. Now, these films obviously have a necessary historical significance but the time period is ripe with excellent fictional opportunities that many overlook. In this instance, the story is more of a spy film with the events of World War II as a backdrop, giving the story a weight that it would otherwise lack.
While Clint Eastwood had already become a star in his own right by the release of this film, it is one of the few where he is not the sole leading man. While he is a key character, he shares the story with fellow lead Richard Burton. The pair dominate the screen with Burton playing an MI-6 agent with Eastwood (presumably due to his accent) playing his American counterpart.
While I do not want to go too much into the story as to avoid spoiling it for you, this is a wonderful spy thriller under the guise of a war film. Not far into the film there are some pretty incredible reveals that set this film apart from most. It is one that has layers of story with some pretty clever twists and turns throughout. One interesting note is that it is MI-6 that sends this group into Nazi Germany to complete the mission. Even though MI-6 is a real organization, I have always felt that this film had a plausible tie to the James Bond franchise seeing that this depicts a clandestine undercover operation that I could easily see someone of Bond’s caliber participating in. There is even a general who looks remarkably similar to Bond’s ‘M’ as portrayed by Robert Brown. While this is a stretch, In many ways this could serve as a precursor to the ‘double oh’ program.
While most war films are action packed thrill fests, especially modern ones, this one, under the direction of Brian G Hutton, has a solid pacing balancing the action with a strong story. Coupled with the aforementioned soundtrack by Ron Goodwin, it is one of the best films of it’s time and one worth multiple viewings.
OK, where do I get this movie?
The best value I could find is a double feature set that includes another great Eastwood film Kelly’s Heroes. For just around $10, this is an easy win on blu-ray. Otherwise, you can find a copy via your favorite digital distribution service.
If you like classic war movies, if you like great espionage films, or if you just like good classic flicks, this is one you should not pass up on. It is worth adding to your collection and I think you’ll agree once you give it a go.
Of course, the trailer:
Late To The Game 6/27/2019
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