Where Eagles Dare

Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton
Extras: Featurette, Trailer, Film Highlights

This month, Warner Home Video is extending the "Clint Eastwood Collection" by a significant number of titles, including the World War II highlight "Where Eagles Dare." Out of the whole batch of films that Warner lined up in the collection, "Where Eagles Dare" is one of the films I’ve been anticipating the most, and quickly I set about to give this DVD a check-up.

Starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, "Where Eagles Dare" is a wonderful adventure story placed in the Second World War. On a secret mission deep within Austria, British secret agents – and one American one – try to rescue a general from a NAZI fortress high in the Austrian Alps. But what starts out as a plain rescue mission quickly turns into something more unpredictable and ultimately both the reason for and the outcome of the mission are in question.

Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, director Brian Hutton has put together are great mystery action adventure that has everything you could ask for. A phenomenal cast, stunning, snowy vistas, a plot with wicked twists, and a sure-hand direction. Not surprisingly, "Where Eagles Dare" quickly became a box office sensation and Eastwood’s most successful film at the time.
Burton and Eastwood make a great leading pair, especially because they are so very different from each other. As always, Eastwood is tight-lipped and more a man of action, while Burton plays the eloquent brains of the operation. The stars are complemented by a great supporting cast that includes names such as Ferdy Mayne, Ingrid Pitt, Patrick Wymarck, and countless others.

Sadly Warner Home Video doesn’t really pay tribute to the film the way it would have deserved it. It is presented in a <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD, but the transfer leaves a bit to be desired. It hasn’t been cleaned up and speckles, blemishes and dust marks are evident throughout. Some discoloration and color shifts are also evident, as well as registration errors that cause the image to jitter on occasion. Apart from that, the transfer is good. The level of detail is improved over previous incarnations of the film and especially the shadow delineation makes sure that the movie’s great cinematography is coming to life in all its glory. Colors are generally good and well saturated, also creating natural skin tones. Some edge-enhancement is evident in a number of shots, especially some of the nighttime outdoor scenes where the silhouettes contrast against the sky or the snow. Compression has been handled well, and is mostly free of artifacts.

The DVD contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> remix as well as a French <$DS,Dolby Surround> mix. Both are well prepared, though the technical limitations of the original elements are still noticeable in somewhat harsh-sounding dialogue and occasional sibilance. Surround usage is good, thought not overlay aggressive and used only occasionally for effect.

As an extra you will find the original 1968 production featurette "On Location" on the DVD, which takes you behind the scenes, right on the set of the movie. It is a great vintage featurette with interviews and candid footage that is great to watch. The disc is rounded out by the movie’s trailer and a listing of Clint Eastwood Film Highlights. Overall a bit thin, but the featurette certainly makes up for the lack of other extras.

Being part of the "Clint Eastwood Collection," this movie is clearly one of the shining highlights of Eastwood’s early career. Although marked as a special feature on the packaging, the transfer that Warner is serving up here is certainly not up to par with the quality of the film and the importance of the movie. A bit more care for the presentation would have gone a long way and made "Where Eagles Dare" a must-have DVD. As it stands, it’s only a great film on an average DVD.