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Eiger Sanction (Special Edition), The
Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, 1975's The Eiger Sanction, based on the novel by Rod Whitaker, introduces us to Dr. Jonathan Hemlock (Clint Eastwood), a former government assassin whose specialty was to do away with, or sanction, anyone that the government suspected of having killed an American agent. When an American agent is killed, he's called upon by his old boss Dragon (Thayer David) to pick up the old tools of his former trade and get to work, but he opts not to and finds himself being blackmailed. See, Hemlock made a lot of money doing what he did, and he spent a lot of that money amassing a very valuable art collection, one that the I.R.S. would love to know about should he decide not to cooperate. With little recourse, he agrees to do one last job.
Of course, there's more to this than just pulling off a simple hit. Before you know it, he's been double crossed and a foxy agent named Jemima Brown (Vonetta McGee) is causing him problems. On top of that, he learns that one of his old army pals has been found dead under some rather suspicious circumstances. Hemlock winds up having to travel to Switzlerland, Eiger Mountain, specifically, to find a member of a climbing team tied in with all of this and needing to be taken out. He connects with his old pal Ben Bowman (George Kennedy) to train, and he's off, but again, there are plenty of twists, turns and double crosses that he'll have to deal with before he can finish this job for good.
The Eiger Sanction is as predictable and cliché-ridden as it is genuinely entertaining. Eastwood is not stretching as an actor here, he's the tough guy through and through and he plays the part quite well. At this point in his career, he'd obviously made a name for himself in roles like this, and the screenplay seems tailor made to his strengths as an actor in this regard. No problems here, the movie is a fine vehicle for its director/star. We also get a pretty strong supporting cast, with lovely Vonetta McGee vamping it up wonderfully (we wind up wishing she had a bit more screen time than she gets) in a good role, and the always fun to watch George Kennedy does just fine as Eastwood's old pal and, somehow, climbing expert type. Jack Cassidy, Heidi Brühl, Thayer David and Reiner Schöne are also good in their supporting roles and look for seventies B-movie queen Candice Rialson in the film as a pretty young art student.
Eastwood paces the movie effectively enough. Again, we kind of know where this is all headed before it gets there, which does take some of the suspense out of the film that really should have been one of its key ingredients, but production values are strong across the board. It's clear that Universal put a bit of money into this, as it's a very attractive looking film. The locations work really nicely and give the film an exotic, and sometimes very dangerous, flair that works in its favor. The cinematography from Frank Stanley and an uncredited William N. Clark is uniformly strong and it helps to class up the picture considerably. Throw in a score from the legendary John Williams that is, if not in the upper echelon of his body of work, a more than solid effort and you can see how this shapes up nicely enough. A bit more originality injected into the screenplay and the story would have gone a long way but you certainly could do a lot worse than this one, and if you're a fan of either Eastwood or seventies action/conspiracy thriller pictures, then the odds are pretty good that you'll find a lot to like about The Eiger Sanction.
The Eiger Sanction arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 with the feature given 38.5GBS of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a new 2k master, the picture quality is very strong on this disc, there's a lot of appreciable detail noticeable throughout the movie and color reproduction looks excellent. We get nice, deep black levels while shadow detail is pretty nice in the film's darker scenes. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, and there are no problems with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues.
A 16-bit English language DTS-HD options is provided in 2.0 Mono format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems with the audio here, it sounds clean and properly balanced. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion the score sounds quite strong and the sound effects are punchy when they should be while dialogue stays easily discernable from start to finish.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Film Critic Nick Pinkerton that covers a lot of ground including Eastwood's work both as leading man and director on this picture. He talks about the studio's involvement, the screenplay and the novel that it was based on, the supporting cast, the score, the locations, the editing and quite a bit more. It's thorough and interesting.
Kino also provides a new interview with Actor Reiner Schöne thar lasts for thirteen-minutes. He speaks here about getting the part in the film, offers up thoughts on his character and talks about working with Eastwood and the others on the production.
We also get a nine-minute archival interview with Actress Heidi Brühl who speaks about her work on the film. A vintage eight-minute promotional reel is also included, which includes some nice vintage talking head and behind the scenes footage.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film's original theatrical trailer, 4 TV spots, 5 radio spots, a poster and image gallery, menus and chapter selection options.
As to how the release is packaged, the first pressing comes with a limited edition slipcover that features the original poster art on the front, in addition to a reversible inner cover sleeve that has that same poster art on the front and an alternate poster image on the reverse.
The Eiger Sanction is hardly a classic, but it's a pretty entertaining mix of action and adventure with some nice cinematography and solid production values. Kino's Blu-ray release is excellent, presenting the movie in great condition and with a nice selection of extra features old and new. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.