Sunday , May 26 2024
Enzo Castellari’s Italian masterpiece hits Blu-ray courtesy of Severin Films.

Blu-ray Review: Eagles Over London

In case one serving of macaroni wasn’t enough, Severin Films has doubled-up the ratio of the so-called “Macaroni Combat” genre with Enzo G. Castellari’s Eagles Over London. The 1969 precursor to Castellari’s later The Inglorious Bastards has at long last found its way to DVD and Blu-ray courtesy John Severin and devoted crew. Apart from a few limited engagements back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Enzo’s retro World War II flick has rarely been seen by American audiences — so this is your big chance to see the film that signore Castellari’s is perhaps most famous for in his native Italy.

We start in Dunkirk, with the British withdrawing from the advancing German army. A group of undercover Nazi soldiers slaughter a troop of Englanders, and assume their identities. One of them, “Martin” (Francisco Rabal), inadvertently befriends a Hungarian/English army captain, Paul Stevens (Frederick Stafford) and his girlfriend, Meg (Ida Galli, billed here as Evelyn Stewart). Dwindling star Van Johnson turns in one of his most embarrassingly enjoyable performances as Air Marshall George Taylor, the familiar face of Luigi Pistilli can be seen as the Nazi troops’ commanding officer (?), and Renzo Palmer is on hand as the movie’s comedy relief, Sgt. Mulligan.

While the movie isn’t the greatest World War II flick ever made, you really have to admire Enzo’s creativity on this one. During the dogfight sequences, he splices in some vintage wartime stock footage (via split screen), and also makes some very cunning use of models and miniatures to boot. Outside of the studio, Enzo manages to assemble hundreds of extras during the German air attack on Dunkirk, and again when the Brits return from France. Pretty impressive shit, especially for a 1969 Italian-made war flick (the film’s producers were so impressed with Castellari’s combat footage that a majority of it wound up in Umberto Lenzi’s From Hell To Victory). On the opposite end of the spectrum, Eagles Over London boasts a mostly subdued cast that either phone it in (Castellari’s leading man, Frederick Stafford, delivers a rather forgettable performance) or ham it up altogether (the name Van Johnson quickly comes to mind, particularly during the film’s climactic dogfight).

Suffice to say, Severin’s Blu-ray will most definitely not be winning any awards anytime soon: the movie is offered up in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation with a 1080p/MPEG-4 transfer, but the print used is far from superior. There is grain present and some debris present throughout, and the color/contrast balances are a bit dull and unfulfilling most of the time. The film’s sole soundtrack is an English DD 2.0 mix. It suffices rather well, but has a lot of static.

In the illustrious “Special Features” section, Severin Films has included “A Conversation With Enzo Castellari and Quentin Tarantino, Part 2,” which continues the fun interview between the two inglorious directors that started out on The Inglorious Bastards. Enzo and Quentin discuss the film in general, as well as the “lure” of Italian cinema that brought many an American actor over during the ‘60s and ‘70s. The second featurette, “Eagles Over Los Angeles,” consists of highlights from Quentin’s 2008 screening of Eagles Over London at The Silent Movie Theater in L.A. Enzo is on hand as QT’s honorary guest, and the pair answer several questions from the audience. Lastly on the disc are a couple of trailers: one for Eagles Over London and another for The Inglorious Bastards.

Sure, it’s cheesy — it is an Italian exploitation film, after all! But, when you stop and think about it, Enzo G. Castellari’s Eagles Over London is quite a delight: a true guilty pleasure that is hard to beat.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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