The Eiger Sanction (USA 1975)

A retired assassin, resigned to a life as an art professor and collector, one Jonathan Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) reluctantly agrees to take on the task of one last “sanction” when he learns that the targets are responsible for the death of an old friend. Discovering that one of the killers is among an expedition to climb the Eiger, he must discern the identity of the target and take him out, all whilst scaling the deadliest mountain in all of Europe. He must also show off his physique, know his wines and encounter some mean bitches along the way. In other words, Clint must try to be James Bond–but he doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi.

Of course Eastwood directed this one too (don’t laugh). But it is genuinely worrying to see the film dedicated to a man whose life was lost in its making. More of an insult than a tribute, it’s sad to consider that some poor bugger died for this: a woefully poor, interminably dull, painfully unoriginal, distressingly formulaic, achingly uninteresting, and indescribably unnecessary piece of “action-adventure” hokum. The supporting cast seemed especially inept to me. George Kennedy sometimes acts just like the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island, and Jack Cassidy’s bad guy looks like an out-of-work hair dresser who just stumbled onto the set. His homicidal rages seem more like harmless hissy fits. But mine’s not to reason why here at highteadreams. I just have to keep typing on, trying to make sense of Clint’s vanity here.

       (Let’s focus on the schmutter from Clint’s 1975 wardrobe…Pretty in red, isn’t he?)

Hemlock is like a prototype for Indiana Jones only he’s much darker. While Jones merely tries to redeem lost artifacts for the benefits of mankind (and therefore is an unreservedly good character), Hemlock murders people in cold blood to enlarge his own private hoard of expensive artworks. It is therefore difficult to really care whether he succeeds or fails. It actually becomes more difficult to relate to him as the movie progresses. After he leaves his former friend (a camp homosexual in full–on 70’s gay regalia: safari suit, cravat, small dog…) to die an agonizing death in the desert, any sympathy I had for him disappeared. And of course there is the question left ‘hanging’ (sorry for the pun) at the end as to whether Hemlock has intentionally ‘sanctioned’ (ie murdered) several innocent people on the Eiger.

      (OK Clint, are you going to take off that red polo neck sweater or do I have to get tough?)

Apart from such nastiness there is also a great deal of silliness of a formulaic kind. ‘Dragon’ is Hemlock’s boss: he’s a Nazi albino with an aversion to light who for some inexplicable reason is the head of the American spy network (how did that happen exactly?) He seems to belong to the world of Austin Powers. His sidekick is Pope, another crudely drawn caricature. As indeed is Jemima Brown as the sort of over-sexed black chick who were frequent in the early 70s blaxploitation cinema. The scenes where she beds Hemlock only to steal his money is one of the many unnecessary detours. Film students in 2019 might have a field day trying to psycho analyze why Clint is so misogynistic and homophobic in this flick. But I say that was then, this is now, and screw all the politically correct criticism. Just go with the flow. I mean, where else are you going to experience a dog character named Faggot and Eastwood uttering such immortal lines like: “I thought I’d given up rape but I’ve changed my mind.” Classy stuff.

      (Getting tough didn’t work. Seems like this Eastwood dude is seriously married to red.)



  1. Sounds like some horrific comedy gold lurks in this film, yet another to put on my to-watch list! Hilarious review.

    Liked by 1 person

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