cover image “Broadsword Calling Danny Boy”: Watching ‘Where Eagles Dare’

“Broadsword Calling Danny Boy”: Watching ‘Where Eagles Dare’

Geoff Dyer. Pantheon, $22 (128p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4757-2

This slim volume from critic and novelist Dyer (White Sands) is a witty gem of personally inflected film analysis. Moving scene by scene through the 1969 WWII action epic Where Eagles Dare, starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton as commandos who infiltrate a German-held Alpine castle, Dyer lovingly and obsessively dissects a film that’s held a special place in his imagination ever since his first boyhood viewing, so that he calls this study “a chapter from an autobiography.” He shows off an exquisite eye for visual detail and actorly gesture; praising Eastwood’s graceful and unhurried movements, he describes the star’s character rigging “explosives as though setting the table for a leisurely dinner that might be served sometime in the next five or six days.” He also exhibits an impressive breadth of reference, name-checking Doctor Who’s TARDIS and quoting Rilke within two short pages. In footnotes, Dyer is breezily reminiscent, as when he muses about always stumbling upon the film on late-night TV at the exact same scene and nodding off 10 minutes later, as if it was the only sequence that’s ever broadcast. The book complements a popcorn classic while functioning in quite a different register—in place of grandiose, visceral big-screen thrills, Dyer’s fleet work gives off a playful, often funny intellectual high. (Jan.)