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It may not be their most memorable collaboration, but Coogan's Bluff kicked off a five-film run for Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel in 1968 that culminated in classics Dirty Harry and Escape from Alcatraz. This lean drama sees Eastwood playing Walt Coogan, an Arizona deputy sheriff who travels to New York City to extradite James Ringerman (Don Stroud), a killer on the run. The film stumbles over dated sexist stereotypes and glorified police brutality, but Coogan is a clear predecessor to Eastwood's no-bull police detective Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry. Definitely a product of its time, unspooling as the 1960s dwindled toward a perceived lawless close, Coogan's Bluff still is, thanks in large part to its legendary star, an entertaining, if slightly embarrassing throwback.
Once local outlaw Ringerman flees his jurisdiction, Coogan quickly flies to Manhattan to overstep his authority. New York City detective McElroy (Lee J. Cobb) tells Coogan the man is in the hospital and only a local judge can authorize extradition. Coogan knows Ringerman will flee or fight, so he bluffs his way into a local prison and hijacks the prisoner for transport, only to be ambushed by Ringerman loyalists before catching a flight home. With the killer on the loose, Coogan cons probation officer Julie Roth (Susan Clark) into giving up information on Ringerman's girlfriend, who Coogan suspects will lead him to Ringerman. From there, Coogan tears across the city, kicking ass and ignoring procedural and jurisdictional norms.
If you do not look too deeply into the politics and beliefs of Coogan's Bluff, it stands as an entertaining, knock-around police drama. Eastwood is in typically fine form, bossing Clark's P.O. Roth around and dominating her at every turn. Coogan is sort of the "MAGA" battering ram to Ringerman's hippie liberal killer, and the film proposes that drugs have fried the fugitive's brain into violent submission. Roth feigns progressive ideals, but the film makes it clear that she is attracted to Coogan's blunt-force personality. As a character, Coogan embraces a boots-and-cowboy-hat persona, and spends much of the film throwing punches, screwing local broads and generally (and ironically) pissing off authority. But it does reason that Coogan has some valid points here, as Ringerman is a dangerous dude that New York City authorities consistently underestimate.
I cannot say that Coogan's Bluff is going to come close to passing a P.C. test in 2021, but I am also not one for starting fires where none need be set. Siegel keeps a quick pace throughout the film's 94 minutes, and there is little down time during the narrative. The film never takes itself too seriously, fully embracing its fish-out-of-water lead and never putting too large an obstacle in Coogan's way. Siegel became known for gritty, often cynical cop and tough-guy dramas, and Coogan's Bluff is no exception. Part cop thriller, part drama, part modern Western, the film is worth a look for fans of the director or Eastwood.
Released on Blu-ray by Universal back in 2015, I assume Kino recycles this decent 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image from that disc. Fine-object detail and texture are reasonable, and close-ups reveal abundant facial detail and the nuances of costumes and sets. Colors are bold and nicely saturated, and black levels are acceptable, with minimal black crush. Skin tones are highlights are pleasing, and edge halos are absent. There is some minor print damage in the form of scratches and speckles, and I suspect this is an older master.
The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is not flashy but it gets the job done. Dialogue is clean and I did not notice any distortion or clipping. Effects are reasonably resolved and balanced appropriately with dialogue and score. Light ambience wafts to the surrounds. The disc includes English SDH subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Kino certainly bests Universal in the packaging and extras department. The disc arrives in a standard case with two-sided artwork that is wrapped in a slipcover. Unlike the previous barebones Blu-ray, Kino's release includes the following extras: an Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox; an Audio Commentary by Sledge Hammer! Creator Alan Spencer; The Killer is Loose: Interview with Don Stroud (8:41/HD); vintage At Home with Clint Eastwood Interview (7:53/HD); a Poster and Image Gallery; Trailers; Radio Spots; and bonus trailers.
This 1968 film marks the first of five collaborations between Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel, and, while this fish-out-of-water cop drama has not aged especially well, Eastwood exhibits sparks of his future Dirty Harry detective here. Kino seems to have recycled the transfer and soundtrack of a previous Blu-ray release but has added a number of bonus features. Recommended for fans of the director or Eastwood.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.