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USA 1975
Directed by
Clint Eastwood
129 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Eiger Sanction

Espionage thrillers with a definite article in their title are usually pretty cheesy fare (think The Ipcress File, 1965, and The Holcroft Covenant 1985). Standard ingredients are a sub-Bondian anti-hero, a sociopathic villain, some exotic locations, one or two (one good, one bad) hot babes, a few lame stunts and so on. The Eiger Sanction, based on a novel by Rod Whitaker using the alias Trevanian, ticks most of the boxes.

Clint Eastwood, who also directed the film for his own Malpaso production company, plays the ludicrously-named Jonathan Hemlock, an art history professor and former government black ops assassin who is lured back from retirement in order to whack a couple of hitmen who killed one of the secret agency’s spies.  

First you have to get over the idea of Eastwood as an academic then you have to sit through the rote plot that sees him in tough guy mode bantering with the equally-ludicrously named agency boss, Mr Dragon (Thayer David) an ex-Nazi albino and his sleazy lackey Gregory Walcott), before taking out one of the hitmen in perfunctory style then being tricked into taking on a second hit.

This is humdrum stuff but about midway the film turns into a showcase of Eastwood’s mountaineering skills, first in Monument Valley and then the north face of the Eiger. Along the way he beds a dark-skinned hottie (Vonetta McGee) with her one line in banter and deals with a turncoat former colleague (Jack Cassidy), a florid homosexual with a leg-humping lapdog called Faggot and a bodyguard who never speaks (and has no acting skills)

Whilst being routine in most respects the exception to the usual fare is the stuntwork with Eastwood doing his own climbing at considerable risk (there was one death among the production crew on the Eiger). Although this is impressive it is confined to a lot of second unit footage that hardly compensates for the lack of thrills of the spy vs. spy kind.

Available from: Via Vision - Madman




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