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The Steagle

The Steagle(1971)

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Paul Sylbert's onscreen credit reads: "Written for the screen and directed by." Although the onscreen credits include a 1971 copyright statement for Avco Embassy Pictures Corp., the film was not registered for copyright. Although Gene Milford is listed as the film editor in all of the Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items, only Thomas Stanford is listed onscreen.
       The Cuban Missile Crisis, which precipitates much of the action in The Steagle, occurred in 1962 when the Soviet Union, then headed by Premier Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, built secret intermediate-range missile installations in Cuba. Upon learning of the missiles, U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced a naval blockade around Cuba and proclaimed that any missile launched from there would incur immediate retaliation from the United States. Despite growing tensions and the threat of imminent nuclear war, on October 28, 1962 Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the installations, and disaster was averted.
       One of "Harold Weiss's" false identities is that of the son of George Guynemer, a French pilot who rose to fame during World War I for his unparalleled fighting record. The Steagle contains many real-life radio and television audio clips, including President Kennedy's initial speech to the nation about the Cuban situation.
       In June 1968, Hollywood Reporter reported that Binder/Howe Productions had purchased Irvin Faust's novel The Steagle, planning for Steve Binder to direct a film version, executive-produced by Binder, Bones Howe and Harry Colomby. In March 1970, a Daily Variety news item noted that Avco Embassy was producing The Steagle and would shoot interiors at the Warner Brothers Studio lot. Other contemporary news items list location shooting sites in Las Vegas, New York City and in Los Angeles, including at the Brown Derby, the Ambassador Hotel and in Hollywood.
       The Steagle was the only American feature directed by Paul Sylbert, a production designer and the twin brother of noted art director Richard Sylbert. According to the Hollywood Reporter review, Sylbert worked on the project for three years after acquiring the rights to Faust's book. The film marked the last for Minta Durfee (1889-1975). Married for many years to silent film comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the actress was a popular comedienne during the 1910s.
       Critics were divided in their response to the film; while Los Angeles Times called it "a stunning writing and directing feature debut," Variety criticized the "confusing and rambling storyline and frequently slow-paced and low-key direction."