Adrian Graham

Prince of the City poster, man facing window with police badge on belt

Prince of the City

Prince of the City (1981) is a film about Danny Cielloa, a New York policeman in the Special Investigations Unit. He wants ‘absolution’ as he describes it; to come clean and turn informant for internal affairs. Once Danny agrees to wear a wire – so long as he doesn’t implicate any of his partners – he records vital evidence used to prosecute numerous corrupt policemen. Other policemen soon join him, agreeing to cooperate with the investigation to gain immunity from indictment. But, as Danny painfully realises, ‘absolution’ comes at a high price.

Where Eagles Dare vs Attack

Where Eagles Dareis a ‘roller coaster’ ride of a film; we set off with the team on their dangerous mission, and witness them overcome one setback after another. The film’s comic book treatment of warfare feels highly packaged, and sanitised. This is all about the action and stunts, instead of presenting a ‘true’ story about the brutality of war. Attack is a different kind of war movie; it uses the genre to make an intellectual and emotional attack on corruption and incompetence within the American system. Lieutenant Joe Costa, not only faces the Nazis, but a commanding officer who has no idea what he’s doing – the officer was not promoted on merit, but as a favour.

Major John Smith, who leads the Allied team, in Where Eagles Dare, is: a superb commander, strategic thinker, bluffer, fearless risk-taker, and is able to keep his cool. In short, he’s ‘hero material’, the kind of man you want fighting on your team. Lieutenant Costa, in Attack, is also the kind of man you want on your side. He’s brave, honest, modest, popular with the men, and knows how to fight the enemy – but, unlike Smith, he can’t hide his emotions.

Treachery is a core element of both these stories: the enemy within. In Where Eagles Dare the traitors are embedded with the team, which makes it hard to trust anyone – the most important traitor turns out to be a senior officer, Colonel Turner. The mission’s objective is a decoy – the real objective is to engineer a situation that will expose the traitors. The stakes are high, because the traitors are murdering the loyal team members. The cowardly Captain Cooney, in Attack, isn’t working for the enemy, but his incompetence is producing terrible consequences: the avoidable death of men under his command. He is willing to let them die to save his own skin, and even if he wanted to do good by them he couldn’t, because he is incapable of thinking rationally – and, as a result, his men despise him. Why was Cooney promoted? Lieutenant Colonel Bartlett is using the promotion as a favour, to get business from Cooney after the war.

Where Eagles Dare is an adventure romp where realism is sacrificed for comic book excitement. Attack, has the similar ‘Hollywood’ type action scenes (on a lesser scale), with a psychological dimension that explores: class, power, and relationships. The inclusion of an incompetent US Army Captain feels almost subversive in a 1950’s American film – it’s much more in keeping with the Vietnam War era, the 1960s and 1970s. Where Eagles Dare uses the revelation of treachery as a surprising, but mainstream, narrative plot reversal. Attack uses the war genre as an intellectual swipe against the ‘establishment’.

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