Eagles Over London may be most famous because of its most famous fan, Quentin Tarantino, or because the director, Enzo G. Castellari, directed the original The Inglorious Bastards, which was recently made famous by his most famous fan. It’s what is known as a ‘macaroni combat’ movie – exploitation war movies that came out of Italy in the ’60s and ’70s. Take out the meaningful themes and through lines, add in extra punches and bullets and broads, and you’ve got yourself a plateful of macaroni.
In this one, the Nazis have invaded France and there’s a mass evacuation underway. In the chaos, a group of German soldiers steal uniforms and papers from the dead and disguise themselves as British officers, blending in with the fleeing soldiers. The ruse works perfectly and they are taken in, heading back to England. The Germans are intent on destroying British radar capabilities – something the British had just devised that was leading to Nazi air missions being intercepted.
British Captain Paul Stevens (an especially stiff Frederick Stafford) unknowingly befriends Martin (Francisco Rabal), one of these German spies. Paul is also the one who first suspects that there might be enemies in his midst, as more soldiers are found slain, their IDs and uniforms taken. Paul does his best to hunt them down, but somehow the saboteurs remain hidden and he somehow never suspects his good friend Martin. Meanwhile, Martin represents the grayest territory in the movie. Officially he’s in Britain to wreak havoc on their military. But as the story moves along, he’s the only one among the Germans that seems to have a conscience. The others come off as black to the core, but Martin is the one who understands the consequences of his actions, even if he never turns away from his duty. When he has to pull the trigger, he knows that trigger is heavy.
What results is a murder mystery of sorts played out against the backdrop of bombastic ground and air battles. Rarely do ten minutes pass without something being blown up, punched, shot or broken. What could be wrong with that? You won’t get bogged down in a long monologues about the importance of this or that. No one ponders the meaning of war. It’s Stevens hunting the Nazis and Martin looking to take down the British. May the best man win.
The air battles are a key piece of the movie and are staged with models that barely pull it off, though pull it off they do. More often than not it feels like you’re watching tiny planes fly through the air and much of this action is spliced with footage from what appears to be actual footage from WWII, tinged different colors so as not to seem too out place. None of it is state of the art, but works beautifully. There’s something about these tangible if obvious models and miniatures that fits perfectly with the overcooked tone of the rest of the movie. None of the battles are very realistic – even the blood looks more like paint. But it’s all in good fun.
One definite downside to the movie is Stafford, who makes for a pretty face, but his stiff and marble-mouthed delivery drags down any scene he’s in. This is especially troubling because he’s got the meatiest role here – not only is he in charge of pretty much saving everybody, he unwittingly moves his mortal enemy into his flat in a gesture of goodwill. This is a guy who’s got some confusion coming his way. But when he inevitably figures out what Martin’s deal is, his reaction is less that satisfying. Too bad – considering how most of the other actors dialed it up way high for this picture, it would’ve been nice to have someone at the front really take it over the top.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. The print is aged and grainy and some scenes are especially muddy – don’t expect a pristine picture here. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and tends to peak during battle scenes or when someone raises their voice.
A Conversation with Enzo Castellari and Quention Tarantino Part 2 – Tarantino gets his film geek on, interviewing Castellari in this second part of a conversation that started on the Inglorious Bastards disc.(14:15)
Eagles Over Los Angeles – From a screening at the Silent Movie Theater on May 6th, 2008. Tarantino gives a hyped, breathless introduction, then has an energetic talk with Castellari afterwards. (16:34)
Deleted Scene – It’s understandable why this German strategy meeting was cut, though the two scenes that now stand side by side in its absence do require a bit of a jump for the audience. (0:32)
Eagles Over London is a grainy, low budget, hard-nosed WWII film from the ’60s that turns a game of war time cat and mouse into a enjoyable couple of hours.
Severin Films presents Eagles Over London. Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari. Starring: Frederick Stafford, Van Johnson, Francisco Rabal, Evelyn Stewart, Renzo Palmer, Christopher Hay, Teresa Gimpera. Running time: 104min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 13, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino