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Eagle's Wing
Eagle's Wing poster.jpg
Directed byAnthony Harvey
Written byMichael Syson (story)
John Briley (screenplay)
Produced byBen Arbeid
StarringMartin Sheen
Sam Waterston
Harvey Keitel
Stéphane Audran
CinematographyBilly Williams
Edited byLesley Walker
Music byMarc Wilkinson
Peter Shaw Productions
Distributed byRank Film Distributors
Release date
8 November 1979
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Eagle's Wing is a Euro-Western Eastmancolor film made in 1979. It stars Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston and Harvey Keitel. It was directed by Anthony Harvey,[1] with a story by Michael Syson and a screenplay by John Briley. It won the British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Award for 1979.


The story has three plot strands that run concurrently through the film: a stagecoach carrying a rich widow home to her family's hacienda, a war party of Indians returning to their village, and two fur traders waiting to meet a different group of Indians with whom they trade. The war party attacks the other Indians and kills their leader, who owns a magnificent white stallion. White Bull (Waterston) attempts to capture the horse, but it is too quick and makes off carrying the dead chief. Pike (Sheen) and Henry (Keitel) wait in vain for the traders and are then attacked themselves by the war party. Henry is killed, the Indians take the trader's horses, and Pike is left alone with only a mule.

Travelling alone, he comes across the funeral of the dead chief. He saves the white stallion from ritual slaughter, abandons his mule, and continues his travels. The Medicine Man conducting the ritual is accidentally killed while Pike is taking the horse. The war party finds the stage coach, attacks it, kills the driver, guard, and one of the passengers, and then leaves White Bull to ransack the coach and passengers of all valuables. White Bull gathers a hoard of jewels and other valuable items, takes a white girl for himself, and leaves the other survivors standing in the desert. One of the survivors, a priest, takes a coach horse and rides off to alert the hacienda.

The story then becomes a four-way chase. After gaining the white stallion from Pike, White Bull, the girl, the treasure and the stallion continue towards the native's village; Pike goes after the stallion; a posse from the hacienda sets out to recover the coach passengers and the girl, and members of the Medicine Man's tribe seek to avenge his death. After a series of to-and-fro adventures, the film ends as White Bull rides off alone with the stallion while Pike, utterly defeated, stands and watches him go; the girl is still behind Pike, waiting to be rescued.



The film was based on a story by Michael Syson, who worked for the BBC. Director Anthony Harvey said Syson "wrote it as kind of a short story, a series of ideas with a very strong story line but not really a script."[2]

The film attracted Harvey "as a chance to break away from the subjects I have done before, really to have complete freedom. It was a film with a very thin script in a way but it had a very strong story. It didn't have much detail and no dialogue at all, except for the first ten minutes between Harvey Keitel and Sam Waterston. It was very much a director's subject."[2]

Harvey said "The moment I read Eagle's Wing I knew very clearly the kind of things I wanted visually, and talked to Billy Williams for days about it."[2]

Harvey says he and John Briley sat down and wrote a script "for about a month before we went on location, just to make sense of it."[2]

The film was shot in nine weeks in and around Durango, Mexico in early 1978, finishing by April. Harvey says this was "short but we had the luxury of a small unit."[2] Harvey said they would go "three or four hours out of" Durango. "We were looking for desolate landscapes. The movie is about loneliness and people who don't communicate... We didn't want any romantic David Lean sunsets but rather black and threatening skies."[3] He looked for unusual landscapes that appeared "like the surface of the moon".

Harvey says after filming was complete and he was on another project, Players, "the money people came in and... made a number of cuts and put back some things I had cut out."[2]


The film was released in England in 1979. Harvey said "the reviews couldn't have been better if I'd written them myself."[4] The Observer called it "dazzling"[5] and The Guardian saying it was "well worth seeing".[6] However the film was not a commercial success and it was a number of years before it was released in the US to varied reviews.

It was one of the last movies financed by the Rank Organisation.[7]


  1. ^ "Eagle's Wing". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Combs, Richard; Milne, Tom (Fall 1979). "The Romantic Englishman: an interview with Anthony Harvey". Sight and Sound. London. 48 (4): 210.
  3. ^ KILDAY, GREEGG (12 April 1978). "FILM CLIPS: Harvey: Movies Back to Back". Los Angeles Times. p. f8.
  4. ^ Buckley, Tom (7 March 1980). "At the Movies: Good ole boy cashes in on the Texas days". New York Times. p. C14.
  5. ^ Milne, Tom (29 July 1979). "The battle for Eagle's Wing: Cinema". The Observer. London. p. 15. ProQuest 476517313.
  6. ^ "Jockeying for possession: DEREK MALCOLM reviews Eagle's Wing, a western by Anthony Harvey, and the rest of this week's releases". The Guardian. 26 July 1979. p. 10. ProQuest 186174482.
  7. ^ Huxley, John (7 June 1980). "Losses of £1.6m sound the knell for cinema production". Times. London, England. p. 17.

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