As Major Smith scales the outside of the Schloss Adler and after fortuitously bypassing German soldiers who conveniently do not turn around in the room below and see him, Mary Ellison makes the following observation as a flushed and bothered Smith enters terra firma once again.
" You're too old for this. Why do you go on these insane missions? "
Richard Burton did not scale the outside of the castle leaving it to stuntman, Alf Joint. I have no head for heights either but whilst over visits to Austria and Switzerland since 1982 I have had an easier ride, I do sometimes chuckle at what makes me embark on many insane but, I hope usually, safer missions to see Where Eagles Dare locations.
It started in 1982 when my parents took me to Austria for our summer holiday. The car broke down before we had left England and I was told off by my father when, the car repaired, I had asked to listen to Test Match Special for coverage of the England and Pakistan Test at Edgbaston. No further dramas happened and we reached St. Wolfgang where the Cosmos rep, Karen Johnson, asked if we knew of the film, Where Eagles Dare. I most certainly did and three of the seven days in Austria were set aside to visit Ebensee ( for the cable car) and Werfen (for the castle) at Karen's suggestion. Karen, thank you.
The view in Saalfelden where the opening scene was shot. Schloss Hohenwerfen was known as Schloss Adler in Where Eagles Dare. Adler is German for eagle. Another general view of Schloss Hohenwerfen. The window used for entrance by Major Smith and Lt. Schaffer is the small one furthest left with red and white shutters.
Stairs used by Rosemeyer and Kramer after the former's arrival by helicopter. Window from where Mary Ellison supported the arrivals of Smith and Schaffer. Arrival for some visitors is now easier from the other side of the castle to that experienced by stuntmen during the film. Main courtyard where a lot of the action took place. This is the main view of the helicopter landing.
The door which took a lot of pummelling from German soldiers was used as the entrance to the souvenir shop the last time I visited. The Funkraum (Radio Room) is now a toilet. A slightly different view of the castle taken from the path leading to the setting of The Sound of Music. One of the cable cars being used up to the mid-1980s is now housed in a local garden near the valley station in Ebensee.
We went to Ebensee the very next day and took the cable car to the Feuerkogel. My father was in the R.A.F. but, well, declined to fly and it took some persuasion to force him into the cable car. On that first day, he watched my mother and I go up in the rickety cable car and took a photo (with two men on the roof testing the cables). I am delighted to be able to share this photo.
My thanks also go to Cinema Retro (solopublishing@gmail.com) for producing a most wonderful magazine of the making of Where Eagles Dare. Anyone interested in the film would do well to procure a copy. There is a wealth of information within it and apparently sixteen cable cars were made for the film, some naturally for use within the MGM studios at Borehamwood. Whether my mother, father (later in the holiday) and I travelled on one of the cable cars used in Where Eagles Dare having heard of the number built and used, I cannot be sure but I hope so. It was magical in 1982 but, sadly, when I returned in 1985, the cars had been replaced with more modern versions. My research over the next thirty or so years led me easily to find one of the original cars on the top of the Feuerkogel and, with a little bit of luck, to find the other in a residential garden close to the valley station in Ebensee.
Since 1982, I have made trips to Austria and Switzerland and visited the castle and other places near Werfen which appear in the film; Pfarrwerfen just a mile or so down the road where the huts used at the beginning of the film can be found (with patience, in my case: it took me three visits...); Hallein, where the staff car crashes after a gormless guard allows Schaffer to tie his shoe laces; Stainach-Irdning close to where Oberhausen Airfield lies and Lofer where much of the action took place including the Zum Wilden Hirsch Gasthof (and also a lovely place to stay).
I last saw the other cable car in 2010 at the top of the Feuerkogel. Another view of the cable car at the top of the Feuerkogel again taken in 2010. This was my first trip on the Feuerkogel cable car - and possibly one used in the film - in 1982. Please note the company we also had on the roof. Another shot from 1982 showing an original cable car and the unmistakeable Ebensee valley station.
Only the cable car has changed from this 1982 photo. Taken from the Feuerkogel mountain station, this 1982 photo shows one of the cable cars possibly used in the film. An idea of the stepped Langbathbach river near Ebensee into which the stunt actors jumped towards the end of the film. The German staff car with prisoners Smith and Schaffer travelled along this road near Adnet Seefeldmuhle near Hallein.
A short distance further down the Wiestal Landesstrasse towards Hallein might be where the staff car came to a halt. Looking down towards the gorge in the general area of where the staff car was deposited. Werfen Station and its general area feature prominently in the film. The castle can be seen in the background. The commandos came over this stretch of track from the field behind.
In Switzerland, I travelled to Maloja and the Forno Glacier where I read that the parachute scenes at the start of the film were shot. I was extremely lucky to blag my way on to the aircraft, HB-HOT, at Dubendorf near Zurich when she was in the hangar and kind technicians allowed me free rein and insisted that I spend time watching them at work. What a terrible tragedy last year to hear of HB-HOT's crash with the loss of all those on board. I felt for all those on board who lost their lives, their families and those who had tended to "Tante Ju" at Dubendorf.
Just outside Geneva in a small village called Celigny, I have twice visited Richard Burton's grave. A few feet further down on the other side of the same cemetery lies the grave of the man who, above all, made Where Eagles Dare possible. Author Alistair MacLean.
I am delighted to see that I am not alone in travelling to Where Eagles Dare filming locations. Indeed, without some, I would not have remotely seen as many of the places and I would especially like to thank Rene (www.hebels.nl) for his help and assistance and telling me where to go to find where the opening scene was shot. Rene has his own pilot's licence and therefore has a far better sense of direction than I do. His website is fascinating and I am very grateful to him.
Their entrance was through this part of Werfen Station. The bridge in front of Werfen Station along which the commandos walked.. The same Werfen bridge down which Smith and Schaffer escaped before the hut was blown up. The bank close to Werfen Station where Smith shoots and Schaffer knifes sentries. Closer scrutiny shows Werfen Station, the bridge and Schloss Adler within this photo.
Zum Wilden Hirsch (now Villa Egger) in Lofer. Like other buildings in Lofer, Villa Egger has a resume of its history on the building. A building close to Villa Egger which is seen in the film. The view from the woodshed outside which Smith finds Jock's body. Villa Egger is the building on the right.
Towards the end of the film, the bus bursts out of a garage and past this Lofer building. The fleeing bus then passes this Lofer building. The Forno Glacier near Maloja in Switzerland which I read was used for the parachute jump at the beginning of the film. This is just a hunch that at the start of the film during credits, the plane turns right in the mountains. This area just further down from the Forno Glacier seems familiar but I could be completely wrong.
A couple of hotels have shown me their guest books from 1968. The year should tell readers therefore that the hotels were used as bases or similar for some of the actors. I think it only fair to firstly request their permission before I show photos which they kindly allowed me to take. I found a certain satisfaction at unearthing one of these little treasures.
In the same way, Schloss Hohenwerfen (now referred to as Festung Hohenwerfen) is an easy place to visit for Where Eagles Dare fans. Through Rene and another excellent website (mitteleuropa.ihostfull.com/filmlocations_where_eagles_dare.html), I have been able to visit, in my mother's words, bends in the road ( the Hallein road mentioned earlier), traipsed through the woods close to the Schloss Adler (and likely out-of-bounds), hiked up the Forno Glacier and been chased off by dogs and a horse in finding the huts near Pfarrwerfen also mentioned earlier. I am happy to admit that it has been made me chuckle at times but I am still as excited when Where Eagles Dare comes on (usually around Christmas).
I hope that the photos will prove of interest to those who, like me, enjoy the filming locations of this classic film. I am not sure that there are any further places for me to visit but I have no doubt that I will be back again to re-visit these wonderful parts of Austria and Switzerland.
The same scene in winter. In a meadow above Pfarrwerfen the huts which were used after the parachute drop are to be found. As in the film, it is deserted in winter but a sign warns off people in summer. The huts in summer. This area of Samedan in Switzerland was also briefly used in the aircraft's departure at the end of the film.
Oberhausen Airport or Aigen im Ennstal near Stainach-Irdning in Austria. The Grimming Mountain seen clearly at the end of the film is in the background. The scene at Oberhausen where the bus smashes through the fence. Between Bad Ischl and Ebensee, the road to the Offensee is, I read, where the escaping bus goes en route to Oberhausen. This is likely the area where the bridge was blown up. On the same Offensee road, this is how the bridge now looks.
A short distance from the bridge, this part of the road is seen at a similar time in the film. Richard Burton's grave lies in a small Celigny cemetery in Switzerland. Within the same Celigny cemetery, author Alistair MacLean is also buried. Eagles really dare at the Scloss Hohenwerfen and are one of the castle's attractions.
A small memento bought at the valley station of the Feuerkogelbahn in 1982.