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Eiger Sanction,The/C+,B

Universal/1975/129m/WS 2.35

     More than twenty years ago Clint Eastwood was doing some mean mountain climbing in flick called The Eiger Sanction. Investing some of the nastiness of "Dirty" Harry Callahan into his character, Eastwood’s Jonathan Hemlock has ice in his veins to go along with the frigid mountain action. He’s a killer and an art teacher with an avaricious desire for the finer things.
The Eiger Sanction

Top of the world, Clint! ŠUniversal

     The film opens with great panache in a European city detailing a microfilm exchange and a neat murder of an agent. Next we are introduced to Hemlock, a popular professor of Art History at an American University. Ah, but just like Indiana Jones several years later, Hemlock’s real life is mired in the internecine trails of international intrigue. The former US agency killer is called back into the game to perform another couple of sanctions or hits on enemy targets. Hemlock dispatches the first kill with dubious skill and is coerced into the next leg of The Eiger Sanction by the devious manipulations of the albino head of the secret agency
     The mountain climbing sequences at the Eiger in Switzerland are quite well made and are done on the actual location without the ubiquitous blue screen use, adding an element of danger to the proceedings The suspense mechanisms are really quite tame though. There’s a character named Miles Mellough who is dispatched rather easily early in the film by Hemlock. Screamingly gay, Mellough even has a dog named Faggot. The black woman added as a sexual partner for Hemlock is named Jemima, providing a platform for some bad Aunt Jemima jokes. Then there’s Pope, a hapless fellow agent dogging Hemlock’s heels and providing the latter with an opportunity for some convenient agency bashing.
     The romantic elements are bland and go on too long. They easily could have been eliminated with no adverse effect on the production. Even the training sequences in Monument Valley are repetitious and could have been tightened. Adapted from a Trevanian novel, The Eiger Sanction loses power in trying to recall too much of the novel. The Eiger Sanction does have more unmitigated racist attitude than any hundred films today. In fact, it’s refreshing to see a film in which its characters can display their warts without evaluation of marketplace PC.
     Eastwood is cool in the role of Hemlock. You can believe him in every circumstance. His mountain climbing is mind-boggling! George Kennedy offers a big, bravado performance as sidekick Ben Bowman. Jack Cassidy brings some fun to the role of Miles Mellough.
     The source material for this DVD transfer of The Eiger Sanction is unremarkable. Color vitality is quite good and the picture is consistently sharp. There are scenes that have been overenhanced to mine the most information out of the image. The result is image ringing and some straight edge break-up. Element grain is handed with skill. Recorded in Dolby Digital 2-channel mono, the sound is clean, dialogue easy to understand, and the music of John Williams excellent screen accompaniment.