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    Nazis into Germans: Went the Day Well? (1942) and The Eagle Has Landed (1976).(Critical Essay)



    Journal of Popular Film and Television, Summer, 2003, by S.P. MacKenzie



    Abstract: The author examines the development and reception of two British feature films in the context of changing British perceptions of Germany. Went the Day Well? and The Eagle Has Landed share the same basic plot line but involve contrasting moral positions, reflecting a major evolution in British attitudes between the 1940s and the 1970s.



    Key words: Britain, British, Ealing Films, Germans, Germany, Nazis, war



    **********



    Over the past century the remake has been one of the recurring features of popular cinema. Production companies, averse to risk-taking, time and again have opted for either sequels or the recycling of a previously successful plot. Inevitably, the new version differs from the old to a greater or lesser degree. The cast and crew will be different, and everything from the type of film to the locations may change. Rarely, however, is a story so transformed that at least some people do not recognize that the picture is in fact a remake. Nevertheless, this was the case with Went the Day Well? (1942) and The Eagle Has Landed (1976), two British feature films separated by 34 years and, more significantly, a polar shift in moral compass. (1)



    The pictures share a central plot and setting. Suitably disguised, German paratroopers aided by the local spy arrive in a sleepy English village in the middle of World War II to carry out a special mission. At first all goes well, but then the visitors' true identity is discovered by the villagers. Despite efforts to quarantine the population in the local church, the alarm is raised, friendly troops arrive, and the invaders are wiped out.



    There are several differences between the Went the Day Well? and The Eagle Has Landed, but the greatest and most fundamental involves the contrasting moral position of the English villagers and the German paratroopers. In the original, the villagers are the selfless heroes, the paratroopers brutally sadistic Nazis. In the remake, it is by and large the villagers who behave badly and the paratroopers who are selflessly brave. I aim to explore the nature of these two similar yet very different films in the context of changing British popular perceptions of the Germans in the intervening years, especially as reflected in British feature films.



    Went the Day Well?, directed by the talented emigre Brazilian filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti, was based on a brief story by Graham Greene that appeared in Collier's magazine in June 1940 under the title "The Lieutenant Died Last" (Greene, Sherry 37). As reworked by three Ealing Films screenwriters--Angus MacPhail, John Dighton, and Diana Morgan--the script (at first called They Came in Khaki) differed in a number of ways from Greene's story.



    Reflecting the "Deep England" strain present in much British wartime propaganda (Calder 180-208), the setting was shifted from the unpromising village of Potter in the London commuter belt to the much more idyllic village of Bramley End (pretty Turville, in Buckinghamshire, was chosen for location shooting), hidden away somewhere in southeastern England. In 1941, the Ministry of Information (MoI) was worried by Home Intelligence reports that people were growing blase about the chances of a German invasion and the danger of enemy agents, and it may well have been Jack Beddington, head of the films division at the MoI, who suggested using Greene's story--written at a time when the author was working for the ministry--to Ealing's head of production, Michael Balcon (Sherry 89-90, Huston 5-18, Aldgate and Richards 116-26). Nazi agents masquerading as Britons had already featured in two of Balcon's recent pictures--The Foreman Went to France (1942) and The Next of Kin (1942)--and it was not accidental that Oliver Wilsford (played by Leslie Banks), the gentleman of the village who turns out to be working for the enemy, was added to the cast of characters for the new project, along with a number of other key villagers.





    It was not just the village and its inhabitants that were changed, however. The invaders also underwent considerable alteration. In the short story, the party consists of only ten undisguised Fallschirmtruppen intent on sabotaging a rail line; in the film script, sixty troops dressed as sappers from the Royal Engineers arrive to set up a radar-jamming post. Significantly, the Germans in the film are a good deal nastier than in "The Lieutenant Died Last."



    In Greene's very spare story, the invaders behave with a certain courtesy toward the rounded-up villagers, the nervous young lieutenant in particular: "The German officer addressed them in the public bar [of the pub where the villagers are held]. He told them that nobody was in danger from him or his men; all they had to do was keep quiet" (50). Even after he stresses that to attempt to escape will mean being shot on sight, and a youngster makes a break, the Germans "humanely" stop him by wounding him in the legs rather than shooting him dead (52). A further element of humanity is added in the aftermath of the battle between the Germans and Bill Purvis, a rather dim and curmudgeonly poacher who avoids the round-up. After sniping at the Germans and picking them off one by one--which he relishes--Purvis accidentally sets off their own demolition charges, which kill the remainder and leave the lieutenant fatally wounded. The poacher agrees to the lieutenant's appeal to finish him off ("Kill me. Please kill me" [58]), and then takes from the officer's pocket a photograph of a baby--a picture that makes "his stomach turn over." He remains aware at some level that he has brought tragedy to some family. "Sometimes he took it out of a drawer and looked at it himself--uneasily. It made him for no reason he could understand--feel bad" (59).



    When the story first appeared, the Ministry of Information was still drawing a distinction between true Nazis and ordinary Germans. This was reflected in such pictures as Pastor Hall (1940), a film based on a true story of a clergyman who speaks out against the nation's rulers (Chapman, British at War 221-23); Freedom Radio (1941), about a clandestine German resistance group (Chapman, British at War 221-23); and 49th Parallel (1941), directly funded by the MoI, a subplot of which involves growing anti-Nazi feelings on the part of one of the survivors of a U-boat crew stranded in Canada (Aldgate and Richards 21-43).



    By early 1942, however, when Ealing began to develop Greene's story, this distinction had been long cast aside in the face of Total War. Germans and Nazis were, for all intents and purposes, synonymous, the image presented of the enemy being one of uniform fanaticism and brutality. Naturally, this was reflected in the characterization of the Germans in Went the Day Well? (Chapman, British at War 221; McLaine 137-70). (2)



    At first, the sappers, with only a few slip-ups, appear typically English. The two officers, Major Hammond (Basil Sydney) and Lieutenant Maxwell (David Farrar), for example, are politely apologetic at having to billet themselves and their men on the village and show every sign of being officers and gentlemen. (Hammond responds when asked by the vicar [C. V. France] whether he has made arrangements for his own accommodation, "One likes to get the men fixed up first, you know.") (3) However, once their true identity is discovered--the vicar's daughter, Nora Ashton (Valerie Taylor), notices that the sappers cross their sevens "in the Continental manner" when keeping score at cards and, with the aid of a boy evacuee, comes across a bar of Viennese "Chokolade" in the leader's baggage--the paratroopers turn very nasty indeed.





    Warned by Wilsford that their cover is blown, the major and his men cordon off the village and assemble the population in the church. The gentlemanly Major Hammond is transformed into Kommandant Ortler of the 5th Parachute Regiment, who, standing arms akimbo, eyes narrowed, and chin thrust out, growls, "Any person who attempts to escape or communicate with the outside world will be shot! Is that clear?!" When the vicar refuses to obey and tries to ring the church bell (an invasion warning signal), he is shot dead. The man who shoots him, Leutnant Jung, alias Lieutenant Maxwell, is equally brutal. After a breakout attempt from the church is foiled by Wilsford, a half-drunk Jung responds by informing the villagers that five children will be shot in the morning. When the sexton, Charlie Sims (Mervyn Johns), and the other older men offer themselves in the children's stead, Jung sneeringly responds, "We can spare you a bullet--but that will not save the children." The character was so lacking in redeeming features that fans of Farrar--who, like Basil Sydney and Leslie Banks, usually played sympathetic roles--demanded he not play such parts in the future (McFarlane 183). The ordinary paratroopers, meanwhile, deal ruthlessly with anyone who gets in their way. The local Home Guard section, unaware of the crisis in the village, is mown down by rifle fire as they bicycle home, while the postmistress, Mrs. Collins (Muriel George), is bayoneted to death after she kills a guard and tries unsuccessfully to telephone for help. Ortler and his men, in short, are a nightmare image of Nazi frightfulness suddenly come to life in rural England in a picture in which Cavalcanti did not shrink from what was, for the time, a good deal of brutal realism in the depiction of violence.



    Once they have recovered from their initial shock, the villagers--except for Wilsford, who is eventually unmasked and shot by Nora--respond with universal dignity and courage. Eventually one of the efforts to escape succeeds: The poacher Bill Purvis (Edward Rigby)--the only name and character lifted intact from Greene's imagination--distracts cordon sentries long enough for young George Truscott (Harry Fowler) to make a run for it. Purvis is killed and young George wounded--the latter event a distant echo of the original story--but the outside world is warned. Led by sailor Tom Sturry (Frank Lawton) and his fiancee Peggy Fry (Elizabeth Allan), the villagers break out and organize an ad hoc guerrilla force. Harassed by the villagers, Ortler and his men give no quarter and receive none as British Army units and the Home Guard from the nearby village of Upton battle their way into the local manor house where the invaders make their last stand. As the sexton explains in a prologue at the start of the film set after the war, pointing to a communal grave marker, "They wanted England, these Gerries did--and this is the only bit they got."



    Critical reaction to Went the Day Well? was decidedly mixed. Campbell Dixon reported to Telegraph readers that it was "one of the most exciting British films of the war." Seton Margrave of the Daily Mail more cautiously called it "the best new film of the week." Dilys Powell of the Sunday Times and Edgar Anstey of the Spectator praised the acting and the representation of an English rural community standing up under siege. The Manchester Guardian critic commented that the "realism of Nazi :methods applied to home surroundings is salutary," while P. L. Mannock of the Herald thought the film a "sound warning." There were, however, plenty of negative appraisals as well. C. A. Lejeune, writing for the Observer, forcefully condemned it as lacking in both taste and talent. What really told against picture, however, even in the minds of many of the more favorably inclined critics, was the fact that by the time it was released in late 1942 the threat of Nazi invasion appeared extremely remote. By this point it was the Allies, not the Axis, who were staging operations like Torch, the Anglo-American seaborne invasion of French North Africa in November, the same month Went the Day Well? was released. Hence, a review in the Scotsman stating that "an atmosphere of make-believe and childish imagination" made the film impossible to accept. The plot was "not very convincing" (Daily Mirror), "not quite convincing" (Daily Express), and had an "air of make-believe" (News Chronicle). Even William Whitebait, who liked the film in many ways, admitted in the New Statesman that "the temperature is high for invading but low for being invaded ... this particular reality is past." (4) The film did not have much of an impact at the box office and was not reissued. (5)





    Nevertheless, the picture of Germans as beastly Nazis to a man presented in Went the Day Well? in many ways typified the image of the enemy fostered and current among the Allies during the middle and later years of the war. A Gallup poll asking Britons how they felt about the German people conducted in September 1943 found that while 22 percent expressed mixed feelings or some qualified sympathy, 14 percent expressed "dislike," 6 percent thought they "deserve what they are getting," and an overwhelming 45 percent felt only "hatred; bitterness; anger" (Gallup 82).



    Once the war had been won, however, and the Nazi state utterly destroyed, attitudes began to change. Divided into zones of occupation, Germany lay in ruins, its people poverty-stricken and on the verge of starvation. A poll conducted in Britain three months after VE Day indicated that while 35 percent of the persons asked about their feelings toward the defeated enemy still expressed either "hatred" or "dislike," 25 percent felt sympathy for their plight (Gallup 117). The case for treating ordinary Germans--as opposed to confirmed Nazis--as victims was being made from the summer of 1945 onward by publisher Victor Gollancz, and by January 1947 a poll suggested that although 36 percent of Britons still felt "unfriendly" toward the Germans, they were outnumbered by the 42 percent who now felt "friendly" (Gallup 82). (6)



    The revival of the "Good German" concept was reflected on screen in Frieda (1947), based on the stage play by Ronald Millar. The story centers on the travails of the German heroine (Mai Zetterling), who had helped a British air force prisoner of war on the run (David Farrar) survive the last days of the war and is now married to him and trying to begin a new life in his Home Counties village of Denfield. Frieda's brother, it emerges, is still a convinced Nazi, but she is clearly not. Despite her obvious desire to fit in, she is faced with a good deal of prejudice and intolerance, the clear message of the film being that distinctions needed to be drawn between Good Germans and Bad Nazis (Falcon 77-78). Freida was well received by the critics and--significantly--did well at the box office (Falcon 77-78, Lovell). (7)



    The rehabilitation of the innocent German civilian was accompanied by efforts by the military commentator and theorist Basil Liddell Hart to portray leading German generals as victims too, men who happened to find themselves serving a rogue regime under oath (Mearsheimer 184-87). Although by the early 1950s diplomatic efforts were under way to reintegrate the new Federal Republic of Germany into a defensive alliance system directed against the Soviet Bloc--rearmament first through the abortive European Defense Community, then under NATO auspices--the British public was still uneasy (Gallup 342).



    That the line Liddell Hart and others were promoting did not meet with universal acceptance was evident in the controversy surrounding the release of Rommel--Desert Fox (1951). Based on the book by Desmond Young and starring James Mason in the title role, this was a highly sympathetic portrayal of the chivalrous commander of the Afrika Korps, one in which Rommel grows progressively disenchanted with Hitler and eventually becomes involved with the German Army resistance. Although not directly involved in the failed plot of July 1944 to kill the Fuhrer, he becomes a suspect and--to protect his family--agrees to take poison rather than face a public trial, thereby becoming something of a martyr. This generated a good deal of controversy in the press (Hirschhorn 98, Harcourt-Smith 134, Morley 93, Mason 234). "This film does as much to revive the discredited legend of an efficient, wise and above all gentlemanly military caste," the Evening Standard fumed in a far from atypical reaction, "as if it had been made by the Propaganda Department of the Wehrmacht itself.... " Although the public went to see the film in large numbers, (8) the sympathetic portrayal generated enough complaints for Darryl Zanuck, the studio head, to reshape the character--again using James Mason--into a more bombastic, arrogant figure in the follow-up film The Desert Rats (1953), which also did well in Britain (Hirschhorn 99, Morley 99, Mason 234).





    By the mid-1950s, a rearming Federal Republic had become a full-fledged member of NATO with the consent of the British government, an official ally with whom a variety of nongovernmental groups, such as the Anglo-German Association, were striving to forge real friendship (Breitenstein). Nevertheless, at the diplomatic level relations remained "an uneasy partnership," while at the popular level there was still a good deal of mistrust (Gossel, Lee). In the press, especially the papers of the Teutonophobic newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook, as well as elsewhere, the British people appeared "reserved" (to use the polite term employed by the German ambassador in a 1955 report to Bonn) toward Germany (Von Bittenfeld 238, Lee 91-92).



    A sign of the times was the public fuss surrounding The One That Got Away (1957). By this point, there had been several successful pictures dealing with the escape exploits of British prisoners of war. What distinguished this new film on the same theme was that it chronicled the efforts of Franz von Werra, the only German service-man to escape from an Allied prison camp and make it back to the Fatherland during the war. Director Roy Baker had read the book of the same name by Kendal Burt and James Leasor and decided that, quite apart from its potential as a chase picture, the story ought to be filmed in order to show how "resourceful and determined" the Germans could be. After securing the services of German actor Hardy Kruger to play the lead--a move still thought to be controversial in a British film--Baker was at pains to show that von Werra was not only a maverick but also something of a braggart. Despite this and the many good reviews accompanied by success at the box office that followed the release of The One That Got Away, the director came under fire in the press. "There was a lot of opposition to my making it," Baker recalled, "I was heavily criticized for making a German into a hero" (qtd. in McFarlane 51). (9)



    There was, nevertheless, also evidence that attitudes were shifting as time passed. Even in the midst of the British war film boom, in which the British are almost invariably portrayed as the heroes, a later study of the films made between 1950 and 1960 revealed almost a fifth were neutral about Germans, while almost a quarter showed them in a positive light (Cumberbatch and Wood 108-09; Ramsden; Chapman, "Our Finest Hour"; Murphy chs. 7-9). The light comedy Bachelor of Hearts (1958), for instance, in which Hardy Kruger starred as a German exchange student coming to terms with life at Cambridge, touched on national stereotypes but without rancor. "If there was any temptation to exploit anti-German prejudices," Campbell Dixon noted approvingly in an enthusiastic review for the Daily Telegraph, "it has been manfully resisted" (9). In 1962, 54 percent of Britons polled described their attitude toward Germans in positive terms. By the second half' of the 1960s, the figure had risen to around 70 percent (Gallup 617, 955, 1043). Although they were still the enemy in the few successful British war films of the decade, beginning with The Guns of Navarone (1961), distinctions were increasingly drawn between the Nazis of the Gestapo and SS and professional German officers in the Wehrmacht and other branches of the armed forces (Chibnall 257 ff). By the time the epic Battle of Britain (1969) reached the screen, the aircrew of the Luftwaffe were being portrayed as just as brave and skillful as their Royal Air Force counterparts (Mosley). (10)





    It was in this context that Harry Patterson set about redeveloping the storyline of Went the Day Well? in the mid-1970s. A teacher by training, Patterson had produced dozens of mostly action-adventure novels since he began writing at the end of the 1950s and by this point was seasoned enough to recognize that stories about World War II--especially plots centering on clandestine operations--had immense market appeal (Sutherland 167-71). Although cagey about admitting an outside source of inspiration to preserve the illusion that "at least fifty percent of [the story] is documented historical fact" (Higgins, Eagle 6), (11) Patterson had doubtless seen Went the Day Well? in Leeds at age 15 when 79 percent of young men and women in his age group were going to the cinema at least once a week. (12) Thirty years later, the film was almost completely forgotten, and the theme of German invasion had been used only once in a low-budget semi-amateur picture, It Happened Here (1964), which had received very limited distribution and almost no press coverage (Brownlow). Consciously or otherwise, Patterson set about refashioning the film's plot into "a book in which Winston Churchill is sitting in Norwich in November 1943, when some Germans disguised as British paratroopers drop in to kidnap him." (13)



    Patterson's U.K. publisher was extremely dubious when informed of this latest project. "How can you have a bunch of Nazis trying to get Churchill?" he remembered one editor remarking. "You've no heroes. The public will never go for it." Patterson, however, who had worked with Wehrmacht veterans while serving in the British Army of the Rhine after the war, thought that readers would respond to a story involving "good men" caught up in "fighting for a rotten cause" (Higgins, letter). Using the nom de plume Jack Higgins, he went ahead and wrote the first draft of The Eagle Has Landed in the space of eight or so weeks (Beumer).



    The resulting novel, as the author's chosen premise and theme indicate, differed significantly from the 1942 film. In addition the origins and planning of "Operation Eagle"--which takes place in November 1943--are dealt with at considerable length, a host of new characters are introduced, and existing figures from the old film are given new names, motives, and even in some cases the opposite gender. It is clear, however, that Went the Day Well? was the model being refashioned into The Eagle Has Landed.



    The new story starts with Hitler, buoyed up by the successful raid by Otto Skorzeny that had freed Mussolini from captivity in September 1943, ordering Admiral Canaris, head of military intelligence, to develop a plan for kidnapping Churchill. Canaris is dubious, but the deputy to whom he assigns the task, Colonel Max Radl, drawing on intelligence from spy Joanna Grey (the Oliver Wilsford character), thinks it can be done and is pressed into organizing the operation by SS head Heinrich Himmler. To lead the parachute raid on the isolated Norfolk village of Studley Constable (a version of Bramley End), where it is known Churchill will be staying on a certain date, Radl chooses Kurt Steiner (the Ortler role). Steiner and his fifteen veterans, along with a British SS officer, Harvey Preston (possibly a version of Leutnant Jung), are assisted by Mrs. Grey and IRA soldier Liam Devlin posing as marsh warden (shades of poacher Bill Purvis), in landing by parachute and infiltrating Studley Constable dressed as Polish paratroopers. While waiting for Churchill, their cover is quickly blown when one of them dies saving a little girl and boy who have fallen into the local mill race and the German uniform he wears under his British parachute smock is revealed. Steiner then takes over the village, herding the population into the church of Father Vereker (i.e., Vicar Ashton). Word gets out, however, through the efforts of Vereker's sister, Pamela, who, despite being wounded by Mrs. Grey (echoes of young George), successfully flees the scene. Steiner's men, along with Mrs. Grey, are eventually killed by American Rangers stationed nearby who come to the rescue. Steiner himself manages to get close enough to the man he thinks is Churchill--he is in fact an actor--to take aim, but hesitates and is killed before he can pull the trigger. Only one wounded paratrooper and Devlin, assisted by the young woman who has fallen in love with him, Molly Prior (a heavily reworked version of the Peggy Fry character), manage to get away. A security clampdown is imposed on Studley Constable, and--as the book's prologue explains--only after "Jack Higgins," led by the sexton, Laker Armsby (the Charlie Sims figure), uncovers the secret grave and the story, does the "truth" emerge.





    There were, then, despite the basic similarity, many changes. None was more important, however, given the intended theme, than the good and bad role reversal of the invaders and the villagers. In The Eagle Has Landed the paratroopers are portrayed not as Nazis but as brave soldiers trying to do their duty under difficult circumstances. Steiner and his men, despite a sterling combat record, have been court-martialed and condemned to serve in a penal unit in the Channel Islands for confronting the SS and trying to help a young Jewish girl escape while passing through Warsaw. Steiner, who has no time for Hitler ("I don't like Adolf. He has a loud mouth and bad breath" [Higgins, Eagle 104]), only takes on Operation Eagle because his father--a general of the old school involved with the German Resistance-is being held by the Gestapo. As he says to Radl, who fears for his filmily if the mission fails, "We're all up the same dark alley looking for a way out" (Higgins, Eagle 106). When the plan goes wrong--thanks to the humanitarian instincts of one of his men--and the paratroopers are surrounded in the church by U.S. soldiers, Steiner, somewhat to the surprise of the American commander, Major Harry Kane, lets the villagers depart. "Why, did you think we'd hold the entire village hostage or come out fighting, driving the women in front of us? The brutal Hun? Sorry, I can't oblige" (Higgins, Eagle 316).



    Devlin, the IRA man, is also portrayed sympathetically, a devil-may-care figure who makes fun of the Nazis but loves "playing the game." He also dislikes certain aspects of IRA policy. "I don't like soft target hits," he tells Radl. "Women, kids, passers-by. If you're going to fight, if you believe in your cause and it is a just one, then stand up on your two hind legs and fight like a man" (Higgins, Eagle 89).



    It is the SS, the real Nazis, who are the true villains, personified for the team members by Himmler himself and manifest to the villagers in the despicable figure of Harvey Preston--a cowardly traitor and a sadistic brute with no redeeming features. The villagers, meanwhile, lack the moral superiority they possess in Went the Day Well? Their spiritual leader, Father Vereker, a former British para-troop padre, is embittered by the loss of a foot in the Sicilian campaign and driven to un-Christian vindictiveness when he discovers that the admirable Joanna Grey--who is in fact a Afrikaner whose family was mistreated by the British in the Boer War--works for the enemy. As Steiner points out to the increasingly unstable Vereker, the plan went wrong:





    Because one of my men sacrificed himself

    to save the lives of two children of

    this village, or perhaps you don't wish

    to know about that? Why should that be,

    I wonder? Because it destroys this pitiful

    delusion that all German soldiers are

    savages whose sole occupation is murder

    and rape? Or is it something deeper?

    Do you hate all of us because it was a

    German bullet that crippled you? (Higgins,

    Eagle 315-16)





    Vereker's response--"Go to hell!"--does not improve his image in readers' eyes, and it is the priest who, when it seems as if Steiner and his men may be able to surrender on honorable terms, forcibly reminds them that, even with German uniforms underneath, the Germans came dressed as Poles, a breach of the rules of warfare punishable by death. "Well now, Father," Steiner replies calmly, "your God is a God of Wrath indeed. You would dance on my grave, it seems"--at which point Vereker loses all control ("Damn you, Steiner!") and tries to attack him (Higgins, Eagle 315-16). The moral centerpiece of the village, the figure who in Went the Day Well? defies the Nazis with dignity and self-sacrifice, is in Higgins's novel a deeply flawed man. The rest of the villagers are not much better, protecting and making excuses for the violent and ultimately homicidal brute Arthur Seymour--a character not present in the Cavalcanti film--simply because he is one of them (Higgins, Eagle 150, 181, 186, 321-22).



    Wary that the theme of The Eagle Has Landed would meet with public hostility, no British publisher would at first touch the book. In a pattern repeated many times with other blockbuster novels of the 1970s, it was put out first in the United States in July 1975, where it became an overnight success, after which it was also published in Britain. The reviews in high-end papers such as the Times Literary Supplement were a bit condescending, but the book, appearing in paperback, was soon a bestseller in the United Kingdom as well as around the world. Pan Books calculated that The Eagle Has Landed, which rapidly sold thirteen million copies, was second only to The Godfather and Gone with the Wind in mass sales. (14)



    The potential of the story as the basis for a film was recognized by independent producer Jack Weiner, who bought the movie rights even before the book appeared in print. David Niven, Jr., managing director of Paramount Pictures (U.K.), worked with him on development of the project, and when Paramount lost interest, they joined forces to independently co-produce the film under the auspices of the British theatrical and TV impresario Lew Grade, then trying to break into the United States and world film market through his Associated General Films organization. It was Grade who approved the casting of Michael Caine (as Steiner), Robert Duvall (as Radl), and Donald Sutherland (as Devlin), and who agreed to employ the veteran Hollywood director John Sturges (Falk and Prince 49; British Film Institute [BFI] 22, 24; Grade 250).



    Scriptwriter Tom Mankiewicz inevitably had to simplify the book for the screen, cutting out most of the secondary characters--including one of the two children who fall into the mill race--and several subplots (even after which there were still almost 70 speaking parts [BFI 9]). There was also tinkering with names and motives. Mrs. Joanna Grey, for example, as played by Jean Marsh, was considerably younger than in the novel and not noticeably of Afrikaner extraction, and Father Vereker (John Standing) is no longer a crippled veteran. Major Harry Kane, the U.S. Army officer who successfully leads the storming of the church, becomes Captain Harry Clark (played by Treat Williams), while his commanding officer, Colonel Robert E. Shafto, a gung-ho combat veteran who bungles the first assault, becomes Colonel Lawrence E. Pitts (Larry Hagman developing the Southern persona he would later use in the TV series Dallas), equally inept but lacking any combat experience. Paramount, furthermore, which agreed to distribute the film in the United States, insisted that the screen time given to the colonel be cut on the grounds that American audiences would bridle at such a negative portrayal of an American officer (Falk and Prince 49).





    The central theme of the book, however, remained in the script and was reinforced at certain points. In the novel, it is Himmler who orders Steiner's men to wear Luftwaffe uniforms under their Polish paratrooper gear for reasons of prestige. In the film, it is Steiner himself who insists to Radl that this is necessary. "We are not spies. And we will not be treated as such by the British if anything goes wrong. We will wear our own uniforms under the Polish outfits, and if necessary we will fight and die as what we are--German paratroopers." (15) Steiner's confrontation with Vereker in the church is simplified somewhat but is still very much to the point:



    VEREKER; Colonel, my one consolation is that thanks to my sister [played by Judy Geeson], your plot failed.



    STEINER: Really? I thought the plot failed because one of my men died saving the little girl out there.



    As the villagers are led away, the girl's mother, Mrs. Wilde, comes up to Steiner and says, "Colonel, I understand none of this, and I don't wish you well. But I'm grateful for the life of my child." Steiner responds, "So am I."



    At the same time, however, there were one or two changes designed to make the Germans appear a little less wonderful. In the film it is Captain Clark, not Steiner, who suggests that the hostages be released, and at the climax Steiner does not hesitate to shoot the man he believes to be Churchill before being himself shot down. In contrast to the novel, only Devlin gets away, Radl being shot on Himmler's orders to cover up failure and the rescue boat left stranded in a Norfolk estuary. Publicity material for the film put it in a nutshell: The raiders were to be "portrayed in a human (if not sympathetic) manner" (BFI 87, 13-15).



    Shot between May and August 1976 on location in Finland (for the Warsaw scene), at Charlestown in Cornwall (representing Alderney), and RAF St. Mawgans (for the airfield scenes), and above all in and about the picturesque Berkshire village of Mapledurham (the stand-in for Studley Constable), The Eagle Has Landed was a major production. A scale replica of the Church of St. Margaret, for example, was built near Mapledurham for scenes of windows being blown out and masonry shattered in the battle sequences. Based as it was on an immensely successful novel, those involved with the film hoped that the $6 million picture would be equally appealing to audiences (BFI 145-55).



    When it appeared in Britain the spring of 1977, however, the film met with a decidedly mixed critical reaction. The Times critic pointed out the obvious inconsistency of filming the village in high summer when the date is supposed to be November 1943; Alan Brien added, in the Sunday Times, that it was highly unlikely that a Catholic church would be found in rural Norfolk. Some considered the pacing slow, the acting variable, and the tale itself too tall for easy suspension of disbelief. Tom Hutchinson, for instance, writing for the Sunday Telegraph, concluded that "this Eagle has landed with rather a dull thud." Others were more charitable. Express critic Judith Symonds found it an "enjoyable" picture in which "there is a tendency to find yourself sympathizing with the enemy," while Gordon Gow argued in Films and Filming that "mostly on account of Caine's charisma, we are quirkily 'on the side' of the would-be kidnappers." For several critics, however, the portrayal of the German raiders plus an IRA agent as the heroes clearly rankled, the arrival of American rather than British troops to save the day adding insult to injury. Clancy Signal in the Spectator, for example, thought the picture "burdened by suspense-killing charity to the Nazis." "Where our military had got to," John Coleman added sourly for the New Statesman, "is anybody's guess." Alexander Walker in the Evening Standard, summing up such faults, added, "Thanks for nothing." (16)





    The key point to note, though, is that despite such criticism in the press, and Caine's contention that director John Sturges had not put his heart into the project (Caine 344), The Eagle Has Landed did good business at the box office in Britain and elsewhere (Murphy 256, Davies 230, Grade 250, Falk and Prince 92). (17) Many of those who saw the film were obviously admirers of the novel; but as Grade was to discover with other international film projects, a blockbuster novel did not, ipso facto, translate into a money-spinning picture (Falk and Prince). What then was the secret of Eagle's success?



    Patterson, as we have seen, had essentially remade Went the Day Well?, which even the most hostile critics had forgotten. But there was probably a secondary model for The Eagle Has Landed too--Alistair MacLean's 1967 screenplay/novel Where Eagles Dare, which had resulted in a very successful film the following year (1968). This was also a story about a snatch involving a small team of elite soldiers--although Allied rather than Axis--and the similarity in title, part of a general trend in such books, was probably not accidental (Sutherland 168-70, Webster 129-37, Murphy 251). Sturges certainly thought it worthwhile to mirror almost exactly the same flying-through-snow-covered-mountains in the opening title sequence that director Brian Hutton used in the film version of Where Eagles Dare. In essence, those who were drawn to The Eagle Has Landed expected and got the same kind of high adventure as had cinemagoers seven years earlier. To appreciative audiences of The Eagle Has Landed, the fact that the raiders were German was simply a variation--and a rather neat one--in an established popular genre. "It is one of those films," as Derek Malcolm noted perceptively in the Guardian, "that doesn't aspire very much beyond the Where Eagles Dare level of middle to low-brow entertainment." (18)



    Whatever its drawbacks, The Eagle Has Landed on screen was generally comprehensible, the sets and background were fairly lavish, and the acting by no means uniformly awful (reviewers were split on the merits and demerits of individual performances). As for British critics bridling at such a positive portrayal of the wartime enemy, by the mid-1970s the mainstream film audience had been born at least a decade after the war (Docherty, Morrison, and Tracey). Although national stereotyping still occurred--especially in connection with international sporting events (19)--the attitudes of middle-aged and older critics were for this generation of cinemagoers mostly an irrelevance. A Gallup poll conducted for the Sunday Telegraph six years later indicated that more than one in four in the United Kingdom now saw Germany as Britain's best friend in Europe. (20)



    Went the Day Well? failed at the box office because, while Britons found the German characters typical, they thought the plot implausible. For those who chose to see The Eagle Has Landed 34 years later, a lot had changed. By the late 1960s and into the 1970s, World War II had become a setting for action-adventure novels and films, the improbability of their fictional plots of decidedly minor importance for all concerned in comparison to the appeal of action-that-changes-the-course-of-history stories. Patterson and then the filmmakers had recrafted the original story into something that met the requirements of a popular genre. Older critics might complain, but for the younger generation presenting the Germans as the de facto heroes was merely a twist on an established form, and one they could adjust to with comparative ease. The war had ended years before they were born, and in any event Steiner and Radl were shown to be in opposition to Himmler and the SS, which for this generation was enough to establish their credentials as sympathetic characters. Patterson and then Grade and company had correctly guessed that enough time had passed to successfully turn Bad Nazis into Good Germans. (21)





    FILMOGRAPHY



    Bachelor of Hearts. Dir. Wolf Rilla. Independent Artists ]United Kingdom], 1958.



    Battle of Britain. Dir. Guy Hamilton. United Artists [United Kingdom], 1969.



    The Desert Rats. Dir. Robert Wise. Twentieth Century-Fox [United States], 1953.



    The Eagle Has Landed. Dir. John Sturges. Associated General Films [United Kingdom], 1976.



    The Foreman Went to France. Dir. Charles Frend. Ealing Films [United Kingdom], 1942.



    49th Parallel. Dir. Michael Powell. GFD [United Kingdom], 1941.



    Freedom Radio. Dir. Anthony Asquith. Two Cities [United Kingdom], 1941.



    Frieda. Dir. Basil Dearden. Ealing Films [United Kingdom], 1947.



    The Guns of Navarone. Dir. J. Lee Thompson. Columbia [United Kingdom], 1961.



    How I Won the War. Dir. Richard Lester. United Artists [United Kingdom], 1967.



    It Happened Here. Dir. Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo. Rath Films [United Kingdom], 1964.



    The Next of Kin. Dir. Thorold Dickinson. Ealing Films [United Kingdom], 1942.



    The One That Got Away. Dir. Roy Baker. Rank Films [United Kingdom], 1957.



    Pastor Hall. Dir. Roy Boulting. Charter Films [United Kingdom], 1940.



    Rommel--Desert Fox. Dir. Henry Hathaway. Twentieth Century-Fox ]United States], 1951.



    Warn That Man. Dir. Lawrence Huntington. ABPC [United Kingdom], 1943.



    Went the Day Well? Dir. Alberto Cavalcanti. Ealing Films [United Kingdom], 1942.



    Where Eagles Dare. Dir. Brian G. Hutton. MGM [United Kingdom], 1968.



    NOTES



    (1.) There is, however, a passing reference in Aldgate and Richards (137, n. 39). Robert Murphy also notes certain similarities (265).



    (2.) The pressbook issued by Ealing for Went the Day Well?, a copy of which is held at the British Film Institute library, suggests that casting against type was in part undertaken so as to drive home the message to the public that there might be more to both locals and strangers than met the eye.



    (3.) Quotations and punctuation are taken from the film itself, which differs slightly from the shooting script held by the British Film Institute.



    (4.) New Statesman and Nation Oct. 31, 1942: 288; News Chronicle Oct. 31, 1942: 2; Daily Express Oct. 31, 1942: 2; Daily Mirror Oct. 30, 1942: 7; Daily Mail Oct. 30, 1942: 2; Daily Herald Oct. 30, 1942: 2; Daily Telegraph Nov. 2, 1942: 2; Spectator Nov. 6, 1942: 431. The other reviews mentioned are summarized in Huston (53-54) and Aldgate and Richards (134-35). See also The Times Oct. 29, 1942: 6.



    (5.) It is not mentioned among the successful films of 1942-43 in the yearly summaries drawn up in Kinematograph Weekly Jan. 14, 1943:47 and Jan. 13, 1944: 52.



    (6.) On Gollancz, who was a symptom as much as a cause of this shift in attitudes, see Edwards (433-48).



    (7.) See The Times July 7, 1947: 6; New Statesman July 12, 1947: 29. For the film's good box-office performance, see Kinematograph Weekly Dec. 18, 1947: 13.



    (8.) On British box-office performance of Rommel--Desert Fox, see Kinematograph Weekly Dec. 17, 1953: 11.



    (9.) For reviews, see, e.g., The Times Oct. 14, 1957: 3; Spectator Oct. 18, 1957: 516; Films and Filming Dec. 1957: 23; Monthly Film Bulletin Nov. 1957: 136. For British box-office success, see Kinematograph Weekly Dec. 12, 1957: 6.





    (10.) In the black comedy How I Won the War (1967), a German officer is shown as more sympathetic than his British counterpart--something that, to judge by the poor reviews and box-office returns, the viewing public was not yet ready to accept. See Yule (136-41). By the mid-1970s, attitudes had progressed to the point where a far less hostile reception was possible. In 1973, the BBC TV drama Colditz, in which the German officers were ail shown in a sympathetic light (with one exception, only added in the second series), became the most popular British television drama up to that point (Radio Times Feb. 8, 1973: 58).



    (11.) The mixing of historical and fictional figures, along with claims that the story was, in essence, true, were common features of the successful 1970s World War II spy/adventure genre (Sutherland 167-73).



    (12.) On his boyhood and career, see Sunday Times Nov. 9, 1997: 10; newspaper profiles in Gert M. Beumer's unofficial Jack Higgins homepage at http://www.scintilla.utwente.nl/users/gert/higgins. On the immense cinema-going habit of youths aged 14-17 in the middle of the war, see Moss and Box (3). Although Graham Greene was one of Patterson's favorite writers (New York Times July 20, 1980, Section 7: 22), it is unlikely that he had read "The Lieutenant Died Last," as the piece appeared in an American magazine and was not part of a published collection until 1990. The book is, in any event, far closer in plot and organization to Went the Day Well?



    (13.) Sunday Times Magazine Nov. 20, 1988: 42. While averse to mentioning Went the Day Well?, Patterson did suggest that the idea for the kidnap scheme came from a Russian officer in Berlin after the war who told him that the Germans had developed a plan to abduct Churchill (BFI 86). It is also possible that Patterson had seen the comedy Warn That Man (1943), the plot of which involves spies and fifth columnists planning to kidnap Churchill (Murphy 256).



    (14.) Sunday Times Magazine Nov. 20, 1988: 42; Sunday Times Nov. 9, 1997: 10; Times Literary Supplement Dec. 19, 1975: 1508. Nine years after publication, sales had reached 20 million (The Times Aug. 3, 1984: 11).



    (15.) As with Went the Day Well? dialog is taken from the film (U.K. release) of The Eagle Has Landed rather than the shooting script.



    (16.) Evening Standard Mar. 31, 1977: 26; Hutchinson quoted in Gallagher (162); New Statesman Apr. 8, 1977: 473-74; Spectator Apr. 9, 1977: 27; Films and Filming June 1977: 44; Daily Express Apr. 2, 1977: 27; Guardian Mar. 31, 1977: 10; Sunday Times, Apr. 3, 1977: 37; The Times, Apr. 1, 1977: 17; see Daily Mirror, Apr. 1, 1977: 20; Sight and Sound 46.2 (Spring 1977): 132; Monthly Film Bulletin Mar. 1977: 41.



    (17.) In the United States, it made $2.5 million (Variety June 1, 1977: 9).



    (18.) Guardian Mar. 31, 1977: 10. Critical reaction was more positive in the United States and Canada, where the picture was assessed purely on its merits as an action film (see, e.g., Variety Dec. 22, 1976: 31; New York Times Mar. 26, 1977: 10; Globe and Mail [Toronto] Apr. 2, 1977: 31).



    (19.) See, e.g., Daily Mirror June 24, 1996: 1; Goodwin (219-20). On more general stereotyping, see Emig.



    (20.) Sunday Telegraph Aug. 28, 1983: 1. Alexander Walker, the influential Evening Standard critic, was born in 1930, while Alan Brien of the Sunday Times had been born in 1925 and served in the RAF during the war (Griffiths 128, 576). Symptomatic of a different attitude of the younger generation was the famous 1975 "The Germans" episode of the BBC TV comedy series Fawlty Towers, in which John Cleese mercilessly sent up older British attitudes to the former enemy. The Central Television comedy series Auf Weidersehen Pet (1983-84), concerning the lives of a group of English bricklayers working in Germany, was another indication of how much the situation had changed. See Margolis (172) and Falcon (83).



    (21.) This was part of a downward trend in the number of negative portrayals of Germans in British films (Cumberbatch and Wood 109-10). Germanophobia still existed (see Crockett 18-20), but as The Times put it in reference to Nicholas Ridley's fears of a Fourth Reich 'arising out of German reunification, Anglo-German rivalry was to most Britons "just so much past history" (Moyle 171, 174; Head 13).

  2. #2
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    I seem to recall, before getting chopped with the axe in Went the Day Well? the German soldier is momentarily humanized when he begins to talk about his family. The postmistress has no time for mercy however. Apart from that moment every single German and agent is an emotionless cold hearted killer. You know that when watching a film from this period you are unlikely to find a German character portrayed in a favourable light on both sides of the Atlantic

  3. #3
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    JamesM:

    [snip]

    You know that when watching a film from this period you are unlikely to find a German character portrayed in a favourable light on both sides of the Atlantic
    The exception being Powell & Pressburger :)



    They often got into trouble for portraying "good German" characters in films made during the war like The Spy in Black (1939), 49th Parallel (1941) and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).



    Steve

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    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    There was a good German (Vogel) in 49th Parallel but the scene at the trading post with Laurence Olivier and Finlay Currie was comparable in brutality to many (the ambush of the Home Guard) in Went the Day. But that one sympathetic character does make a great deal of difference.



    Cavalcanti was a pacifist but I suppose during this period (for Ministry films) Balcon was painting with broad strokes.

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    "THE EAGLE HAS LANDED" 1977. I've just seen on www.sendit.com it's release on 21st June finally in widescreen. On 2 discs the 131min cut and the 145min extented version. Also includes Biog's, Still's, Trailer and Location Report, not bad for £9.99p.

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    I have a very dim (and possibly very faulty) memory of a black and white B film in which someone tried to shoot Churchill at a country house. I saw it on TV in the early 60's and always thought it was Warn That Man.

    Does anyone recall it?

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    You are quite right oz, Warn That Man (1943) directed by Lawrence Huntingdon, had exactly that plot, though Churchill was not named, and it was only implied that it was him. It starred one of my favourite "actors" Gordon Harker (the speech marks because Gordon didn't really act - he was just himself in all his films )



    Also starred Raymond Lovell and Jean Kent. It hasn't been on TV for absolutely yonks, but I do have a copy somewhere - haven't a clue where tho - all my videos need indexing and are starting to fail in quality I'm afraid.



    I guess its unlikely the film will show up again on TV with schedules as they are at the moment. Bring back Carlton Cinema!!!



    rgds

    Rob

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    Thanks Rob,

    i suppose WTM is an uncredited inspiration for Jack Higgins. As I recall the film left little doubt that the target was Winston. I can't imagine a Hollywood film with FDR as the target.

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    Watched the new double disc DVD of "THE EAGLE HAS LANDED"(1976) last night. It has an extended version which includes a lot more of Himmler and Canaris. Devlin's love intrest with Molly Prior covered in depth as well. The Patrick Allen commentary over film of Mussolini's Escape has gone but Ferdy Mayne turns up as Max Radl's Doctor. Lots more extras and great to see in widescreen at last. The only down side is the sound. I watched one of the many other versions on SKY last week. It was showen in a good widescreen format and the sound was excellent. Still that apart a very good acquisition for the collection.

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    "Went the Day Well" is a vastly underated British gem!

    This holds up even today as a serious drama and the aformentioned axe scene still has power.

    The portrayal of the German's is too be4 expected due to when it was made. So what.

    And today it actually adss to the charm and entertainment value.



    And the film's basic premise shows up what's wrong with (esp in the extended version) "The Eagle Has Landed".

    I do like the film, but it takes WAY, W A Y too long for them to get to the village.

    The extended cut, although it has some good scenes restored, makes it even longer before they arrive as well.

    The fact is you could have lost much of the very unrealistic love interest stuff with Devlin and Molly and got Caine and his men there earlier to spend more time in the village as Polish soldiers.



    This was a plus with "Went the Day Well" as the villagers mixed and trusted the 'British' soldiers much more before the revelation.

    It's only about 10 minutes or so of screentime in "Eagle" before the game is up.

    How much better it would have been to have a trust built up between the supposed Polish and the villagers before the betrayal is revealed.



    Other things that stuck out badly for me were the inclusion of American soldiers, to shove a few American actors into the film and to plese the Hollywood money men, to save the day.

    And of course Devlin's IRA connections.

    No thank you very much to BOTH of these things.



    But Caine is great, the set-up is interesting and the action very well handled at time suitably violent.

    LOVE the German uniforms as well. Say what you want about the Germans/Nazis..but they sure knew how to dress!



    On my 'Extended version' I could not get the Black and White prologue to play either, yet it is on the chapter pictures.

    Anyone else have the same problem? As i am sure it IS meant to be on the 'extended cut'.



    [ 07. October 2004, 02:30: Message edited by: 42ndStreetFreak ]

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    Having re-watched The Eagle Had Landed today on DVD (Free with The Mail on Sunday) I felt more sympathy with the German invaders than I did last time I saw it years ago.



    Having been stitched-up by their own people and sent to Alderney, and given that their only escape from penal servitude was to embark on a potential suicide mission to England, topped by the fact that the war was all but lost, had I been Steiner I would have wanted to save my men.



    When escaping from the church with Hans and Devlin, I would have instructed my men to give token covering fire and then surrender knowing that they would be treated better by the British than they had been by their own people. To leave them to fight to the death for no reason seems to contradict Steiner's non-conformist and caring character.



    Overall, a very enjoyable film, and as some of it was shot just a few miles from my home village it always brings back memories of those schoolboy days in idyllic rural surroundings.



    NB. The old boy who played the gravedigger used to drink in a pub I frequented a few years later, near Epsom.

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    This film popped up on TV recently and a very pleasant surprise it was too!



    If you haven't seen it the following may contain PLOT SPOILERS.



    Made in 1942 it had a particular resonance as the threat of a German Invasion was still possible . The premise is one that was later revisited ( on a much larger Budget ) by " The Eagle has landed " . Feeding on fears of Nazi Saboteurs , the film seeks to emphasise that ordinary British people would meet an invasion with courage and resolve.



    The film starts in an idyllic English Village complete with Vicar , Prim Vicar's Daughter , Postmistress , Village Bobby , Poacher, Scamp and the " Lady of the House" . Into this idyll comes a group of Soldiers who are "on exercise" . They are welcomed by the trusting Villagers who provide Billets for them.



    However it is soon established that these Soldiers are not taking their Orders from Churchill! They even have a helper in the Village .



    Clues about their origin start to build up . One soldier writes a seven " the continental way". A Bar of Chocolate raises suspicion. The tension rises until the Soldiers are forced into the open. The Postmistress is brutally killed trying to get a message out.



    Now they start to act like Nazis and herd everyone into the Church. The Traitor continues to sabotage the Villagers efforts to break out and warn the Army.



    However a Sailor on leave manages to break out and organise a " last stand" at the Manor House. A furious fire fight ensues . One of the Defenders falls on a Grenade that threatens a huddled group of Children. At the last minute , the Army arrives to rout the "Invaders".



    There are a few jarring moments. One of the "Land Girls" is a rather unfunny Comedy relief. The Army Sequences are stilted ( using real Soldiers had disadvantages) and rather like a Training Film. There is one hilariously awful model shot of a Truck getting Blown up.



    However the main strength of the film is that it gets its message over without being too pushy ( not all propaganda ages well ). The contrast of "our" ways against "their"ways is highlighted. At the same time its an efficient thriller/action film.



    There are some scenes which seem quite strong although they do emphasise the Nazi tactics. The killing of the Postmistress by Bayonet is still pretty shocking and must have been more so to contemporary audiences.



    I like films which take a familiar setting such as the " English Village" and subvert them . ( The Village of the Damned comes to mind ) If it wasn't so similar to " The Eagle has Landed" it would make a nice remake.

  13. #13
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    (Johnny Rico @ Mar 27 2006, 12:33 AM)

    I like films which take a familiar setting such as the " English Village" and subvert them . ( The Village of the Damned comes to mind ) If it wasn't so similar to " The Eagle has Landed" it would make a nice remake.
    I have still never actually seen any reports that Jack Higgins has admitted that he nicked the story of The Eagle Has Landed from Went the Day Well? just grafting on the bit about it being a plot to kill Churchill.



    But they are remarkably similar in so many ways.



    Steve

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    (Steve Crook @ Mar 27 2006, 12:11 AM)



    I have still never actually seen any reports that Jack Higgins has admitted that he nicked the story of The Eagle Has Landed from Went the Day Well? just grafting on the bit about it being a plot to kill Churchill.



    But they are remarkably similar in so many ways.



    Steve
    It is certainly feasible that a yuong Jack Higgins could have seen WTDW? when it first appeared and may well, even if subconsciously, drawn some ideas/inspiration from it.



    I think both films are remarkably good - though both have a similar weakness.



    It is a good idea to watch both films in fairly quick succession so that you can contrast the viewing public's attitude towards Germans, as opposed to Nazis, that they picture so well. I'll say no more so as not to spoil it for those who have not seen both.



    FELL

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    ...and don't forget that the "plot to kill/kidnap Churchill from a country house" idea was also the central theme of "Warn that Man" (1943, directed by Lawrence Huntingdon, starring Gordon Harker) Warn That Man (1943)



    It's true that Churchill is never actually named, for obvious reasons, but the implication is there.



    Good little film (though not in the same class as Went the Day Well), it was shown on C4 years and years ago, and Gordon Harker (one of my favourite actors) was once again playing.....Gordon Harker!



    rgds

    Rob

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    The Eagle Has Landed was one of my childhood’s private mithology milestones. I was fed up of seeing German characters underportrayed in war films, basically meat to feed Allied guns, and was delighted to see consistent German characters. I loved Caine/Steiner’s ultra-romantic heroicism (I was 8 yo then ...), the originality of the plot, the diversity of settings and secundary characters converging to the main action, and that particular ambience the film carries (a kind of sad, quiet resignation, that is Steiner’s primarily but seems to embody the entire film). That German that sacrifices himself to save a boy particulary moved me (*blushing* mind my age then ...), but that Himmler/Pleasence’s giggle after his line “Theoretically, you have autority over me? (or something like that) made my blood chill.



    I only watched it again about 5 years ago (though I clearly kept the film vivid in my memories all those years). I still find it a very good film, very efficiently made. Excellent acting, Sturgee’s direction beeing efficient as it is discrete, gorgeous photograpy, very original and well conceived plot.



    That group of Germans paras is clearly idealised to a degree that contrasts with the other film’s elements (Radl’s and Canaris down-to-hearth resignation, Himmler’s polite ruthlessness, SS’ rude ruthlessness, the American’s enthusiam and lack of pathos, etc.). But that’s that contrast that makes the film’s charm, I think : the German para’s heroicism is set inside a very real world (depicted differently accordingly the different subworlds it’s made of), and that makes it worth believing.



    Perhaps a masterpiece in its type. Surely a very original war film, definitely the best I’ve ever seen.

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    Wow! How do I find more of your 'stuff'. (I'm new here.) (Referring to 'Eagle Has Landed'/Went the Day Well' essay - I've lost it now.) (Edit: It was DB7.)

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    Does anybody know the year that this film was made?

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    The answer is 42.



    Nick

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    I watched WENT WELL THE DAY recently and I don't give it very high marks. It's probably more "interesting" than "good", and that's likely to have been the primary goal of the film as a propaganda works (if that's what it was).



    There is a certain 'rushed' feeling to a lot of scenes. And the choppy (no pun intended) editing didn't help (that poor phone mistress).



    Aside from this thread's originating commentary, do you have comparative reviews of the propaganda-esque films of the day?



    I am thinking of UNPUBLISHED STORY, which seems better acted and edited, albeit with a smaller cast.

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