That well-worn VHS pan and scan copy, presumably recorded from a previous Christmas holiday showing on BBC1, still held me to the last scene then, the same as it does today in all its Blu-ray remastered glory.
Set during WWII a small group of soldiers are hand-picked for a covert mission behind enemy lines to rescue an Allied General, from a supposedly inaccessible castle called the Schloss Adler or the “Castle of Eagles” as it is better known, currently housing the headquarters of the German secret service. But when one of their team is murdered at the start of the mission it's seems no one can be trusted.
Released in 1968 and staring Richard Burton as Major John Smith the leader of the team and the most layered character, Clint Eastwood as Lieutenant Morris Schaffer from the American Ranger division, the importance of his geographical difference from the rest of the team becomes evident later in the movie, Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt as the beautiful undercover MI6 agents who are both capable of holding their own when the bullets start flying and last but by no means least Derren Nesbitt as the ever suspicious Major Von Happen of the Gestapo.
With a stirring soundtrack by Ron Goodwin to rival any action movie today, the iconic radio call-sign of "Broadsword calling Danny Boy" and spectacular action set pieces from blowing up bridges, fighting on the roof of a cable car (years before 007) to explosions galore and two handed German MP40 shoot outs. Along with plot twists and double crosses left right and center, this is pure unadulterated action and adventure. It also gave birth to my gamer tag of ‘secondratepunk’, a line said to Clint Eastwood’s character by the legendary Burton himself.
The screenplay was written by Alistair Maclean who also wrote the novel at the same time and it was filmed on location in Austria, Bavaria and MGM studios England. Now I know my rose tinted glasses are covering up the fact that newcomers to this movie will see some occasional poor SFX that don't hold up to today’s pursuit of the picture perfect, things aren’t as historically accurate as the could be and the fact that even at the time of release Clint Eastwood himself renamed the movie 'Where Doubles Dare, due to the amount of time stand-ins where used in the action scenes but rest assured you will be cheering by the end credits.
Not because you made it through the two and a half hour running time but because you were part of an adventure that Indiana Jones would have been proud of and for any man of a certain age, this is the kind of mission your Action Man was molded for.