Many war movies of the 1960s are unremarkable but "Where Eagles Dare" is different in at least two respects. Women characters figure significantly and the leading actors of the time in the classical and action genres, Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood respectively, are brought together in a rare partnership. It's a recipe for variety which works with Alistair MacLean's rather outrageous story by enabling a constant shift of focus to keep the viewer guessing.
Action is relentless (watch for a hair-raising cable car fight!), hilarious one-liners abound and credulity stretches to the limit but never quite beyond it. The plot is a complex one about a British military intelligence operation to unmask traitors under the cover of rescuing an Allied general from the Schloss Adler ("Castle of the Eagles"), a German alpine stronghold in southern Bavaria.
Eastwood plays an American Ranger on a commando team led by Burton who steals the limelight as Major Smith, a role he performs with obvious enthusiasm. Mary Ure gives a thoroughly professional performance as a trusted MI6 agent and Ingrid Pitt lights up the screen with her character of a flirty barmaid spying for the Allies. Wintry mountain exteriors, shot in the Austrian Alps, provide a forbiddingly steely backdrop to heighten the sense of mission impossible, while Ron Goodwin's memorable theme music catches exactly the right mood.
To criticize the slightly dated combat special effects and obvious German villains would be easy but also churlish. Enjoy this movie for what it is: a 'sixties war actioner with some unusual extras which elevates it to special status.