The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS -

Be­fore I read this, I thought it was just me, but it turns out that a load of oth­er­wise se­ri­ous chaps, chaps who more usu­ally get their kicks from Shake­speare or Schopen­hauer, love Where Ea­gles Dare. Booker Prize-win­ner Michael On­daatje, The New Yorker’s rare­fied film critic An­thony Lane, top telly pun­dit Clive James – all of them take to the sofa when the Richard Bur­ton/Clint East­wood clas­sic (above) is on TV.

And now, Ge­off Dyer – nov­el­ist, lit­er­ary critic, jazz afi­cionado, pho­tog­ra­phy his­to­rian – is here to tell us that ever since he first saw it 50 years ago, he too has wor­shipped at the al­tar that is Alis­tair MacLean’s mas­ter­piece. Yes, he says, Ea­gles is anachro­nis­tic, asi­nine and ab­surd. Still, ‘it’s bet­ter than Wim Wen­ders’ Un­til The End Of The World’.

Point taken, though I’d have been rather more im­pressed with ‘Broadsword Call­ing Danny Boy’ had it ac­tu­ally ar­gued its case, rather than sim­ply stat­ing and re­stat­ing it. Early on in his scene-by-scene anal­y­sis, Dyer talks of the movie’s theme mu­sic be­ing ‘pro­pelled by full Bruck­ne­r­ian orches­tra’. Ac­tu­ally, Ron Good­win’s puls­ing score owes more to Ben­jamin Brit­ten. But it would have been nice, in a book ef­fec­tively premised on Noël Coward’s re­mark about the po­tency of cheap mu­sic, for Dyer to have won­dered why it should be that nei­ther Brit­ten nor Bruck­ner get your blood rac­ing as rapidly as Ron.

Don’t get me wrong. ‘Broadsword Call­ing Danny Boy’ is great com­pany. Read­ing it is like watch­ing a post-pub screen­ing of Ea­gles with a wise-crack­ing mate. But de­spite some won­der­ful gags and ironic ref­er­ences to the likes of Hei­deg­ger and Ni­et­zsche, the book is a missed op­por­tu­nity. Dyer isn’t wrong when he claims that Bur­ton was slum­ming it mak­ing such a movie. But what does he think he’s do­ing writ­ing a book about it? And while I’m about it, why are there no pic­tures of Ea­gles’ eye-candy, In­grid Pitt, in that di­vine dirndl?

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