Monday, May 16, 2011

The Eiger Sanction

A big "thumbs down" for this one.  The Eiger Sanction (1975) was a Clint Eastwood disaster.  It seems that Clint was trying to come up with some kind of a James Bond movie, and it turned out more like a cartoon.  This may have been his first time directing an action film.

The Eiger is a mountain in Switzerland.  Eastwood plays Dr. Hemlock, a college art professor and collector, and is a former C2 assassin, hired for one or two more jobs.  Of course, that money will help him buy more black market art, that he obviously can't show to anyone. 

The good - Most of the outside shots are beautiful, and the mountain climbing cinematography is excellent.  Eastwood did most of his own stunts.  The music of John Williams is always great.

The bad (I'll make a list.) -
  • One mountain climber was killed during filming. 
  • The head man at C2 (called Dragon) is, for some reason, an albino, and unable to go outside or be in bright light.  He has his blood replaced twice a year, and all this has absolutely nothing to do with the story.  Dragon is played by Thayer David (1927 - 1978) who could have played the part very well as a regular person in an office somewhere.  Think of his part in Rocky (1976) as the fight promoter.  He is imposing, and he smokes a big cigar.  Perfect!
  • The other C2 hit man (Pope) is totally incompetent and unbelievable.  Gregory Walcott (b. 1928) played that part.  With over 100 roles on IMDb, he is not well known to me, and probably did his best work in TV westerns as a Bit Actor.
  • Brenda Venus (b. 1947 as per IMDb, b. 1957 as per Wikipedia) is only in the film to take her shirt off.  She probably doesn't have much acting talent anyway, but we should be able to judge for ourselves.  She has no speaking lines.  Was she 18 or 28 years old?  Her own web site doesn't say her birth date.
  • Jack Cassidy is a decent actor and would have been fine in his role as the guy who had betrayed Hemlock years earlier.  Why did they make his character gay?  Was it only so he could have a more menacing bodyguard for Eastwood to kill?  (He killed both of them eventually.)
  • Why did the 'sanction' (C2 talk for 'assassination') have to take place while climbing a mountain?  There was no reason to risk the C2 operative's life that way, even if he was a mountain climber by hobby.  He could have just figured out who the bad guy was and finished the job in a safer location.  As it turns out, the target wasn't even on the mountain, plus there was another twist that I won't reveal.
Vonetta McGee (1945 - 2010) was another C2 employee, who fell in love with Hemlock.  She is best known as the love interest in Blacula (1972), and many regular TV roles.  She wasn't bad!

The rest of the cast though was pretty ho-hum, even George Kennedy whom I usually like.  The other three climbers at the conclusion of the film did come across as believable, and had more complex personalities than the rest of this film should have allowed. 

But even the climbing action wasn't enough to save this film.  If Eastwood had simplified the movie by removing the gimmicks, and allowed the story to take over, it would have been a much better film.

It is worth seeing, from an academic standpoint, but it is not worth owning unless of course, you are also a mountain climber.  The film crew were the last to climb the Totem Pole in Monument Valley, and those shots are also great.  But I would suggest reading the book.


  1. This lesser-known Eastwood movie is a guilty pleasure of mine. It's very faithful to the novel by Trevanian, accounting for some of the peculiarities you've noted which, if nothing else, provide some amusing dialogue.

  2. Thanks for your comment about the novel. I have not read it, but after seeing the movie, I may try to get it on my Nook. It would be an interesting comparison.

    What surprises me is why this film wasn't made tongue in cheek. It would have been better if they made some fun of themselves in the movie. Arnold did just that in Conan and True Lies, and the results were much better than if he had played the roles seriously.


Please add your thoughts, but they will be monitored so keep it on topic.