WAR EAGLES by Carl Macek (ISBN 978-1-932-43174-2)
In 1939 Merian C. Cooper, the producer and director of KING KONG, was at MGM working on a Technicolor special effects film that was intended to far outdo KING KONG. The film being made was to be called WAR EAGLES. The plot was to involve a lost race of Vikings who ride eagles the way cowboys ride horses. The Vikings riding the soaring eagles were to war with an unnamed Germanic country that was using airships to bomb the United States. The airships had rays that crashed airplanes by interfering with their electrical systems. And an American hero and his Viking friends were riding/flying eagles, animated by Willis O'Brien, to fight the menace. That was how the movie was planned.
However, that year World War II broke out and Cooper, a life-long adventurer, left filmmaking to join the Flying Tigers in China. MGM scrapped the WAR EAGLES project without Cooper. For years the film that might have been has been legendary and the subject of fan curiosity. In 2008 Carl Macek, a producer of the Robotech TV series, took what was known of the WAR EAGLES plot and wrote a novel, also called WAR EAGLES, consistent with what he knew. In 2011 David Conover and Philip J. Riley wrote the non-fiction WAR EAGLES: THE UNMAKING OF AN EPIC, which included finding more about the plotting, much of which unsurprisingly was quite different from Macek's version.
Macek's novel has become an artifact of a period before the plotting had been better researched. The novel, Macek's first, is written in a very pulpish style with one-dimensional characters. There are some anachronisms. For example, characters discuss radar, which existed at the time but was a military secret and would not likely be in common knowledge.
Macek's main character in his version of the story is Brandt. Perhaps somewhat based on Merian C. Cooper, Brandt is an Army Air Force pilot who tests a new plane endangering FDR who is giving a speech at the Worlds Fair. Having his flying privileges taken away, Brandt leaves the service and goes to work for a private aircraft company. On a publicity and exploration flight, going from pole to pole, he crashes his plane in unexplored territory and finds a lost race of Vikings who have tamed and saddled eagles to fly. Brandt has little trouble winning over the Vikings he discovers and they become close friends. The Vikings speak English and apparently Brandt wonders how this became their main spoken language. It is left as a loose thread and I don't remember it being picked up again. It was, no doubt, just an author's expedient.
One thing does become clear from Macek's novel. There is no real personality character who would have been animated for WAR EAGLES. We care about King Kong and Mighty Joe Young in their respective movies. They are each really the main characters of their films. In WAR EAGLES Brandt breaks and befriends the largest of the eagles. "Lindy", as the big eagle is named (for Charles Lindbergh), might have a little personality, but it is unlikely Cooper and O'Brien could have done much to make Lindy much of an audience attraction. Eagles are just too different from humans. And though there are dinosaurs present in the lost world of Vikings and eagles, they make only a brief appearance. The flying humans on eagle-back may be an interesting image for a few minutes of film, but Macek fails to make the story of any real interest and molding the images into a compelling story that could stand beside THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND that same year would probably have been nigh onto impossible.
People interested in film history might find some interest value in Macek's molding of the touches into a novel, but the book is pallid entertainment by itself and is perhaps a misleading look at what the result of the Cooper-O'Brien project. It is not really
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper