The Eiger Sanction (Clint Eastwood) 1975

Clint Eastwood plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock who is a government assassin. During his off time, he is a professor, mountain climber, an art collector, and a lothario. He is brought back for the trademark “one last job” to get revenge for the death of a friend. The only knowledge Hemlock knows is that the assassin will be climbing the Eiger soon and that he has a limp. Hemlock quickly has to get himself into shape for this killing or ‘sanction’ as they are officially called.

Now many will compare this to James Bond or Indiana Jones. I’ll actually reference my Sahara review and say it is closer to Clive Clusser’s Dirk Pitt. Pitt was an extension of Cussler’s real life diving exploits and adding spy intrigue. Hemlock here seems to be James Bond with a mountain climbing interest. Yeah, it seems rather lame, but this movie is about climbing up the Eiger to kill someone.

This movie is very over the top and I can see people being confused as to how to take it. I have read some calling it dated (which it is) and a movie in which you see Eastwood’s ego at its largest. We see Eastwood showing off his physique constantly, Eastwood once again as the gruff badass, and women falling over themselves to bed him. But I am almost firmly convinced this is just a pure satire of James Bond and Bond off shoots. In this movie, the M equivalent (here called Dragon) is an albino who can’t take any kind of direct light and has to have his blood replaced constantly. You have African American and Native American Bond girls which are the cause of some rather awkward race jokes, You also have an over the top gay villain who even calls his dog “faggot”.

The acting is a little hit or miss. Eastwood is miscast in this role. Sure, he does the physical work well and is comfortable when he has to grunt out one liners. The problem is when he plays the suave professor of art. Watching Clint play the intellectual Don Juan while muttering out lines in a Dirty Harry voice was a little unsettling. Thankfully after the first third they drop that pretense and just focus on the action. Actually the best performance is by George Kennedy who plays a long time friend of Hemlock. It really says something when Eastwood is out acted by a smaller supporting role but its that good.

I will give credit to Eastwood behind the camera though. The final third is when the characters climb the Eiger and it is shot extremely well. Anyone that has seen their fair share of MST3K knows the deep hurting when they hear the words “rock climbing” but this is actually interesting. The photography is beautiful and the climbing scenes are as interesting as they should be.

Overall this is a fun little movie. The plot is so over the top it is funny and the action is very good. There are flaws, but nothing that really cripple it. This is a forgotten movie in Eastwood’s catalog and it is a bit surprising. This is entertaining but probably got lost in the shuffle between Eastwood’s Western period and his Dirty Harry period.


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