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War Eagles (1938-1939)

 
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:41 pm    Post subject: War Eagles (1938-1939) Reply with quote

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I've known about War Eagles since the 1960s when Famous Monsters of Filmland presented articles about it in connection with King Kong's creator, Wills O'Brien.

The video below is a panel discussion with Bob Burns and several film historians who have published a book about the unmade film. They describe some of the amazing things planned for War Eagles.




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I found the photos below with a simple Google search, although I spent a few hours enhancing the images, which tended to be either very dark or very too pale.





























And these shots are of an eagle armature that would have been used in the film.






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Last edited by Bud Brewster on Thu Mar 22, 2018 12:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a huge fan of stop-motion animation I've always been saddened that O'bie's WE never came to fruition.

It might have become a classic like King Kong.

It was a great shame that Willis did not have a producer like Charles Schneer who advanced/promoted Ray Harryhausen's film career.

It would have also been wonderful to see O'bie & Ray collaborate upon some films as they had done on Mighty Joe Young.
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Skullislander
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The basic story outline of WAR EAGLE is covered in the early CINEFEX article on O'BRIEN and I must admit it had more potential for sheer spectacle even than KING KONG, with a climatic aerial battle over a city between the natives on their huge eagles, taking on aircraft.

It's a great, great shame this stop-motion spectacle got cancelled, and I regard it as one of THE biggest losses in the History of Fantasy Cinema.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Skullislander wrote:
It's a great, great shame this stop-motion spectacle got cancelled, and I regard it as one of THE biggest losses in the History of Fantasy Cinema.

It's impossible to disagree with that statement after looking at the pre-production sketches.

Magnificent! Shocked

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2020 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks so much for posting these terrific pre~production storyboard renderings along with photos of test footage for what would have been a magnificent film, Bud.

I strongly agree with the comments posted here that the film world took an enormous loss when "War Eagles" collapsed in its pre~production stages.

I don't know if it would have been as highly revered a movie by fans and critics as "King Kong" is; but I have no doubt that it would have left a lasting mark in film history and forged its own impact upon audiences and critics.

Sadly, the demise of the production had a number of obstacles going against it from the get-go.

Pre-war studio politics was one such issue. At the time most of the studios were unwilling to produce a film such as "War Eagles" where the plot established Nazis as a vicious enemy.

The reason being that the studios feared alienating the lucrative European market for their movies...and Germany in particular prior to the outbreak of WW II.

So studio interest in "War Eagles" was minimal at best.

It was during the pre~production that producer Merian C.Cooper decided to abandon the project. He joined the Flying Tigers air group based in China.

Cooper's leaving sealed the film's fate even though he & stop~motion animator legend Willis O'Brien had gotten quite far along with scripts written by Cyril Hume (MGM's Tarzan films, Forbidden Planet), storyboards as seen here thanks to Bud, and special effects test footage that also has posted photos here thanks to Bud once more.

Our other stop~motion animator legend, Ray Harryhausen, first met his future mentor, Willis O'Brien, during the pre~production of "War Eagle."

According to Ray, writer Cyril Hume had to rewrite large portions of his script for "War Eagles" three time altering the hero from a professor to a young pilot.

Synopsis for War Eagles.

Slim is a young pilot who, while flying over Antarctica, encounters a severe fog bank which causes Slim to crash land into a valley enclosed by mountains and warmed by volcanic activity.

Slim is discovered by a native girl, Naru, who introduces him to her tribe.

Naru's tribe are descendants of a Viking called Einar who came to this hidden valley many thousands of years before.

The Viking warriors have managed to tame and ride upon giant eagles, which they call Erns.

Slim is able to capture and master his own Ern which impresses the Vikings and they adopt Slim into their tribe.

Now a full-fledged member, Slim helps the tribe to destroy a herd of allosaurus that have terrorized the tribe for centuries.

Working for months to repair his plane's radio, Slim is finally able to get it to function.

What he then hears over the radio astounds him: a fleet of Nazi Zeppelins is attacking New York City. And what's more, they have a powerful electromagnetic pulse weapon that has disabled all electricity, including military plane engines.

Slim, along with his Viking tribesmen, heads for NYC where they encounter a particularly massive German airship that has the powerful electric neutralizing weapon.

A fierce dogfight then takes place between the war birds & their masters against the Nazi Zeppelins over Manhattan.

Slim and his new found friends defeat the enemy, and the retreating airships are now pursued out over the Atlantic Ocean by the U.S. military planes with their now revived aircraft.

The final scene is of Slim, Naru, and a white eagle on the Statue of Liberty watching the fleeing Zeppelins.

Over the years Ray Harryhausen would bring up Obies "War Eagles" whenever he was having a meeting with movie studio executives to discuss future projects.

Ray's longtime producer, Charles Schneer, who was very interested in producing "War Eagles,'' was able to obtain the original three scripts for "War Eagles" from the MGM library.

After reading the scripts, MGM told Ray & Charles that the concept was too old-fashioned.

In one sense I can see MGM's point regarding "War Eagles."

Shooting the film in the 1970s & early 1980s simply would not have had the same power and meaning compared to making the film pre-WW II when Germany's threat was all too real.

Now with World War II decades behind us, Adolph Hitler's Third Reich was long buried in the dust.

Hitler and his regime were done often in film and on television so as to almost become a cliche.

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "Magnum P.I." and other TV series over the years had episodes about Nazi officers who had escaped and gone underground at the end of WW II.

Heck, we even had the sitcom "Hogan's Heroes" which was about a German P.O.W.Camp.

So, Nazis as a ruthless foe became oft used fodder for film & TV script writers.

In the "Star Trek" episode "Patterns of Force," Kirk and his Enterprise crew encounter a Nazi culture on the alien planet of Ekos. The evil political system was recreated by a Federation of Planets historian who was sent to the planet in order to secretly observe but not interfere with the population.

On "Mission:Impossible" we had the episode "The Legacy" from January 7, 1967. The IMF team are out to stop the sons of Hitler's most trusted officers from locating a vast treasure which they intend to utilize in order to create a Fourth Reich.

In another "M:I" episode we have an episode where Hitler's former top Nazis are gathering in South America where they plan to revive Nazism.

If "War Eagles" had been resurrected by Ray & Charles years after the concept was first proposed, it would have most certainly been an entertaining and exciting film.

It just would not have had the same impact with the Nazis as the ''heavy'' as it would have when the idea was first originated.

Now, you could have made it a period piece in the '70s or '80s by having the events take place in 1939-40 exactly as they were in Cyril Hume's scripts.

Worked for Indiana Jones just fine.

It's just that if the movie was produced pre-WW II it would have had a profound resonance and historical propaganda that could only have been found in that era.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 09, 2020 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

Pow, that is a magnificent post! Very Happy

I've never read such a detailed synopsis of the plot, and I was impressed by several strong points. For example, the idea of an electromagnetic pulse weapon disabling the American aircraft is terrific — and it's decades ahead of its time!

Add to this the fact that the eagle-riding Vikings would be unaffected by that weapon and could come to the nation's rescue. Brilliant!

I wonder if the Cyril Hume's script addressed the fact that Zeppelins are extremely vulnerable to gunfire, since the are constructed of fabric stretched over aluminum frames, with gas bags inside filled with explosive hydrogen. This would make the German warships pretty easy to shoot down. Sad

But that problem could be solved (to some degree) by having the highly advanced German airships filled with some "new" non-flammable gas which they discovered.

Better yet, they could use Edgar Rice Burroughs' fascinating concept for the dirigible called the O-220 in Tarzan at the Earth's Core. It was made of a fictional metal called Harbenite (found only in a remote part of Africa), which was as strong as steel . . . but lighter than cork!

According to ERB's book, a large percentage of the O-220 was constructed of Harbenite, simply because it was both lighter and stronger than any other substance.

But the truly amazing thing about the O-220 was that it featured "vacuum tanks" instead of gas bags — since tanks with nothing in them are even lighter then bags of hydrogen or helium! Hydrogen and helium are used in Zeppelins and dirigibles only to inflate the tanks with some gas lighter than air.

However, extremely ridged tanks made of Harbenite could be almost completely vacated of air, with no need of a gas inside to equalize the internal and external pressure.

And the degree of vacuum in the tanks could be varied according to the amount of lift needed, thus allowing the ship to go to higher altitudes, despite the thinner air.

It could even land and remain stable on the ground in high winds, simply by letting air into the tanks to cancel the lift. The O-220 was equipped with landing gear for this purpose.

If the Germans attacked America with vacuum tank Zeppelins made of Harbenite, they would be formidable warships indeed!

Perhaps a story which presented an "alternate timeline" in which Germany had technological advancements like the Zeppelin's I described, it might make a pre-WWII story more appealing to modern audiences.

After all, if movies like Captain America and Wonder Woman can succeed in using the idea of "unknown technology" in the era, perhaps War Eagles could do so as well! Cool

And just look what the 2011 version of The Three Musketeers did with lighter-than-air vessels!










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PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're welcome, Bud.

Your post about addressing some weaknesses in the "War Eagles" script regarding the Zeppelins is very well thought out. It definitely would strengthen the script with your knowledge about Zeppelins.

As I admire the photos of airships that you post here I suspect that you find them as fascinating a subject as I do.

In college I took a public speaking class and one of my topics was about airships.

An article in Newsweek at the time was all about the future of airships and how exciting it was going to be and what promise they held.

Sadly, all these years later here we are without airships being a crucial part of life.

I've gone to sites about airships and see how they can utilize new construction material, new designs, all kind of new technology for 'em...yet we barely have a dribble about them anymore.

Some of the films that I have enjoyed about airships have been "The Hindenburg" from 1975 and directed by Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still).

In that movie they used a 25-foot richly detailed model for the Hindenburg that took three-to-four months to build at a cost of $35,000.

"Zeppelin" came out back in 1971. For that film the LZ36 had two models with one being 37-feet and the other 18-feet.

"The Rocketeer" (1991) had a 12-foot model of the Nazi airship the Luxembourg which had one hell of destruction scene in the film's finale

Those poor airships just don't seem to make it through an entire movie before they go down in flames and explosions, do they?

"Island at the Top of the World" was a 1974 Disney movie which I always enjoyed.

In that movie we had the Hyperion that journeyed to the Arctic...where it eventually also bit the dust.

Much as I enjoy that Disney film it has occurred to me that wouldn't that have been a fine vehicle for Ray Harryhausen & Charles Schneer's revival of "War Eagles?"

Just imagine if they could have sold WE to the Walt Disney Studio and the studio did WE instead of IATTOTW?

Both were about a lost tribe of Vikings who resided in an undiscovered land. Although one was about the Arctic and the other the Antarctic.

That plot point could easily be swapped out.

Volcanoes managed to keep the frosty environments warm enough for humans to build and maintain a civilization in the harsh and unforgiving cold in both scripts.

What could have been?

I also have to give a salute to Willis O'Brien for even attempting so ambitious a film as WA.

I read the background of Ray's "One Million Years B.C." and he said that doing the animation scenes of the flying dinos is an enormous challenge to undertake...more so than animating his ground-based models.

The preparation is huge in planning any flying scenes; and then you must deal with a complex overhead wire system in order to make it all happen.

Ray said that animating flying scenes requires twice the time to achieve compared to animating models on the ground.

As much as Harryhausen loved his work, he really did not look forward to doing the battling flying dinos sequence in his "One Million Years B.C."

The flying scenes that would have been necessitated for WE would have been vast.

Scenes with the giant eagles battling the dinos in their native lost world; then the air battle over NYC would have been an incredible challenge for Obie. As well as any other members of his animation team.

And I gotta believe he would have had to have had a team of stop~motion animators in order to accomplish such a daunting production.

One man alone attempting such a project would end up with a total nervous collapse.

O'Brien sure was ready to slay the dragon on WE which is all the more pity the film was never realized.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Here's a gift, Mike — from one airship fan to another. Cool



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every one is a beauty, thanks Bud.
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