As any fan of the Misfits can tell you, many (or even most) of their songs are about, or at least have titles inspired by or taken from, horror films. But “Where Eagles Dare” appears to be one of the exceptions. There is a movie called Where Eagles Dare but it’s not a horror film, and judging by the lyrics the song doesn’t seem to be about it–with the possible exception of one verse which I’ll get to in a bit.
The most memorable line in the song is what brought it to mind the other night when my sister, slightly drunker for my birthday than I was, suddenly burst into my room laughing and shout-singing “I AIN’T NO GODDAMN SON OF A BITCH!” I hadn’t thought about that song for a while, so we put it on and listened as we poured another round, and that’s when it occurred to me that there was this movie I had heard about but never seen, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, about a Secret Intelligence Service paratroop team raiding a Nazi castle in the Alps, and I wondered if maybe that most memorable line from the song of the same name came from the film itself. So I looked it up on Wikipedia only to discover that it seemingly wasn’t related to the song at all… unless it was not so much the premise of the movie itself, but the antics that went on behind the scenes (especially the drunken exploits of Burton) that inspired some of the lyrics:
“Richard Burton, well known for his drinking binges, disappeared for several days with his friends Peter O’Toole, Trevor Howard, and Richard Harris (who were not even in the movie), [causing delays in filming]. In the meantime, as part of his deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Clint Eastwood took delivery of a Norton P11 motorcycle, which he ‘tested’ at Brands Hatch racetrack, accompanied by Ingrid Pitt, something that he had been forbidden from doing… for insurance purposes in case of injury or worse. At one point during production, Burton was so drunk that he knocked himself out while filming and [his stunt double] had to quickly fill in for him. Derren Nesbitt observed that Burton was drinking as many as four bottles of vodka per day. At one point during filming, Burton was threatened at gunpoint by an overzealous fan, but fortunately danger was averted” [ibid].
Anyway, I ended up watching the film on HBO Max, and no spoilers, but even though it’s set during WWII and Wikipedia calls it a war movie, to me it’s not really a war movie. It has none of the heaviness or dreariness of a war movie. It’s more of an action-adventure espionage thriller, and even has some elements of a heist or caper. As such it sacrifices realism in favour of thrilling Bond-style stunts and almost super-human heroics, but for the most part this is a stealth mission in which a small team of special agents are chosen to infiltrate “Schloß Adler“, the Castle of Eagles, which is being used as a Nazi base, in order to rescue a high-ranking American officer before he talks under torture. Which brings me to the one verse in the Misfits song that sort of fits:
Let’s test your threshold of pain
Let’s see how long you last
That tappin’ in your retina
Unbosoms all your past
With jaded eyes and features
You think they really care?
Let’s go where eagles dare
We’ll go where eagles dare
Interestingly, the title of the movie was originally going to be “Castle of Eagles” before it was wisely changed to its current one, taken from a line in Shakespeare’s Richard III: “The world is grown so bad/That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.” In the end I’m still not sure whether the Misfits song was inspired by the movie or not, but I’m glad that my curiosity about that possibility led me to watch it because it was a really good movie with some gorgeous scenery and sets that I would’ve most likely missed out on due to its having been labelled a war movie (which I’ve never been that much of a fan of, though there are always exceptions, like Full Metal Jacket, which is one of my all-time favourite films, period). I especially enjoyed the scenes on the cable cars, which reminded me of one of my favourite parts of the game Return to Castle Wolfenstein, only a lot more exciting for reasons I won’t get into so as to avoid spoiling it for those who have yet to see this classic film.