Where Eagles Dare passes the Bechdel Test

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Rather unexpectedly. One might grumble that the test is quite hard to pass — Cukor’s THE WOMEN wouldn’t pass it, I don’t think, and no men appear in that movie. But many many films would pass the opposite version of the test — LAWRENCE OF ARABIA has no women with any dialogue at all, and THE THING has no women, period, nor do the men spend their time discussing the opposite sex.

But Alastair MacLean’s thick-ear warnography, referred to as WHERE EAGLES SHIT by Joseph Losey, includes a brief, all-business discussion between Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt. Go figure. The scene is quite redundant, which is even more obvious as it’s right next to an equally unnecessary discussion between lead Aryan supermen Anton Diffring (a man who needs binoculars to look down his nose at you) and Derren Nesbitt (described by Matthew Sweet, I think it was, as looking like he’s been dipped in peroxide from head to toe). Maybe there should be a Bechdel test for Nazis. Does your WWII film feature any scene between two Nazis when they’re not talking about the British?

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Fiona quizzed me very closely on why the hell I was watching this film. “Well, I don’t know, some people seem to like it,” I blustered. Boys of my generation saw this on TV or on re-release around the same time as STAR WARS, and like to relate to their dads via manly combat films (dads who were themselves too young to be in the war). I can’t even recall seeing it, though the cable car action rang a vague bell. But maybe I was confusing it with MOONRAKER.

Richard Burton doesn’t look TOO drunk, although he’s doubled in many longshots. Not just for the abseiling — for the walking around shots. He was together enough to coin the phrase “dynamic lassitude,” a brilliant encapsulation of co-star Clint Eastwood’s screen manner. Nobody else makes a huge impression, though Patrick Wymark and Michael Hordern are on hand for beady-eyed perspiring and mmnah-hrrumph, respectively. “Functional” would be a very kind way of describing the dialogue. There is, quite literally, no characterisation whatsoever.

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Matte-painted castle evokes Hammer horror, augmented by the fact that Ingrid frickin’ Pitt is up there.

Lots of things blow up, though.¬†Sometimes they blow up for no discernible reason, which is interesting and suggests an idea for a really colourful but quite abstract film in which everything blows up in every scene for no reason. INCEPTION meets THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE meets ZABRISKIE POINT. I would watch that. I do enjoy explosions, it’s the grim-faced heroes or jocular heroes who tend to walk about in front of them that give me the pip.

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8 Responses to “Where Eagles Dare passes the Bechdel Test”

  1. The women are there for one reason only: GAY PANIC!!!!!
    The perpetrators of this “Boys Own” silliness were well aware that Lawrence of Arabia had “slipped one past the goalie” Big Time. So how to keep these Eagle Scouts from accusations that “strange twilight urges” are involved? Put a couple of women in the movie.

    Anywhere.

    For any reason.

    No matter how flimsy .

    That way there’s no possibility it can be accused of having what the great Mel Brooks “a hint of mint.”

    PHOOEY!

  2. What’s surprising is that they let the women get together behind the men’s backs, especially when one of them is a notorious lesbian vampire.

    If Staircase had been made earlier, the filmmakers would have been able to relax, secure in the knowledge that nobody could ever mistake Richard Burton for gay.

  3. SNERK!

    Oh and don’t forget that Elizabeth Taylor’s clutch-purse also played a gay gangster modeled after Ronnie Kray in Villain

  4. And that was more convincing, as I don’t think anyone ever called Ronnie Kray camp. And lived to tell.

  5. chris schneider Says:

    If THE THING has no women, period, where does that leave actress Margaret Sheridan? Admittedly, she indulges in Hawksian banter in the film, a style of byplay that has its own pecularities, but Sheridan is undeniably in the film and she’s undeniably a woman.

    Btw, I seem to remember an anecdote to the effect that Burton did WHERE EAGLES DARE because one of his children said he wanted to see a film where a lot of people get blown up. That has a certain credibility for me, whether it happens to be true or not.

  6. The Thing from Another World: has woman. The Thing: has no woman.

    So many actors make so many films because of their kids. This may have added ever so slightly to the dumbing down of cinema.

  7. The Thing From Another World Babe-a-licious Dewey Martin.

  8. Never saw the movie, but remember the Mad Magazine satire: “Where Vultures Fare”. Among the jokes:
    — Eastwood expressing emotion with facial tics and talking like Tarzan (“We got rope! We got plenty rope! We got thirty million feet rope!”)
    — Two characters grappling with the difference between German-English (English with German grammar and accent to simulate German) and British-English (when used to pass for German)
    — One of the heroes tells another there’s a complication: a woman has infiltrated the mission. The other notices the couple necking next to them and says if that’s not her, there’s another complication.
    — The woman’s presence is finally justified when she’s assigned to count the bodies as Eastwood opens fire.

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