Looking over John Sturges’ filmography, I was surprised by how many of his films I’ve seen. I was then surprised by how very few of those films have really stayed with me. The only one of his films I’ve seen more than once is his 1968’s Ice Station Zebra (I’m still working out why, and I blame the presence of Patrick McGoohan). My overall impression of Sturges is that he is a director of enjoyable but relatively disposable movies that fill a couple hours. That’s not such a bad legacy, and it certainly sums up my feelings about his last movie, The Eagle Has Landed (1976). It’s a film that reminds us of a time long past when movies pretended to do nothing more than be enjoyable, a time when movies weren’t almost entirely divided into attempts at greatness and exercises in mediocrity.
What we have here is a star (or at least recognizable) cast in a vaguely preposterous story about Nazi paratroopers in England attempting to assassinate Churchill. As a barometer of what we’re dealing with: Michael Caine is Col. Oberst Steiner and Donald Pleasence is an appropriately hissable Heinrich Himmler. It’s slick enough and entertaining enough without ever straining for much in the way of overt seriousness. It’s certainly no worse than such fondly remembered WWII adventures from the 1970s as Kelly’s Heroes (1970), but without Kelly’s Heroes’ anachronistic comedy.