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  Eagles Over London The Italian Battle Of BritainBuy this film here.
Year: 1969
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Stars: Frederick Stafford, Van Johnson, Francisco Rabal, Ida Galli, Luigi Pistilli, Renzo Palmer, Luis Dávila, Christian Hay, Jacques Berthier, Teresa Gimpera, George Rigaud, Eduardo Fajardo
Genre: War
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1940 and the Second World War is in its second year as Captain Paul Stevens (Frederick Stafford) leads his platoon of British troops towards Dunkirk where they will be picked up at the shore, along with many others fleeing the Nazis. But on the way they must ensure that the enemy won't cause them more trouble than is necessary, and set ambushes for the German forces. One thing they have to do is blow up a bridge to halt the advance, but what Stevens does not know, and what will become very relevant to him soon, is that there is a band of Nazi spies posing as British soldiers who are planning to infiltrate the troops escaping to Blighty...

Needless to say, if you're looking for any great historical accuracy in Eagles Over London, then you've come to the wrong place, as this was more about the adventure, the heroic sweep of war than about what really happened in Dunkirk or in the Battle of Britain. This was one of many World War II efforts made by the Italians for purely sensational purposes, like something out of the comic books that proliferated around this time where action was most important, and judgement of what truly made the men of the hour, in this case no matter what side they were on. The two lead characters, Stevens and the Nazi spy Martin (Francisco Rabal), are more or less counterparts to each other.

And both heroic in their way, as if to observe that if there had been no international conflict, these two men and indeed whole countries would have got along far better, with more in common than they would have cared to admit. Well, this was made in 1969, so there was a certain "give peace a chance" vibe to the social climate, even in the war movies being churned out around the world, though here director Enzo G. Castellari ensures that the explosions come thick and fast when necessary. This was one of his biggest successes, suggesting that audiences were less hung up on how authentic the film looked and responded more to its themes and setpieces without concerning themselves with history.

Martin and his coterie of baddies make it to London after a brave attempt at staging the events at Dunkirk with just three German planes representing the Nazi war machine, but to make up for that there does seem to have been hundreds of extras employed, so there is a sense of grand scale about the sequence. This was one of the most expensive Italian movies of its day, and if nothing else you can see where the money went, with lots of things blowing up good, blowing up real good, and an array of lovingly designed miniatures to be callously destroyed, although they were not above using stock footage, which at least is presented with some creative split screen to mix it up with the newer stuff.

Both Stevens and Martin become friends after Stevens saves the spy's life, and espionage is the order of the day where the baddies go around killing British soldiers and air force types so they can get their hands on much needed official papers and documents to render their subterfuge more convincing. Their big plan is to knock out various radar stations so that the German bombers can get through the British defences, and although we're confident that the Nazis won't succeed, we don't know what the cost to the characters will be. Stevens and Martin each have their love interest to contend with, allowing us to draw parallels, but sadly Martin does not see the light and in spite of regretting his orders, carries them out anyway. Also worth noting is the Sergeant Mulligan character (Renzo Palmer), a tea-swigging, Frenchman-hating English stereotype who borders on the ridiculous, but it's the action you'll appreciate, as imported star Van Johnson takes to the skies as an Air Force commanding officer in an unlikely feat of derring-do. This is a bit silly, but it's presented with winning gusto. Music by Francesco De Masi.

Aka: La battaglia d'Inghilterra
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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