THE EIGER SANCTION (USA, 1975) ***
Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Jennings Lang / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 21 May 1975 (USA), 21 August 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 12 August – late September 1974; Running Time: 129m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker (based on the novel by Rod Whitaker, as Trevanian); Executive Producer: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck; Producer: Robert Daley ; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Art Director: George C. Webb, Aurelio Crugnola; Set Decorator: John M. Dwyer; Costumes: Glenn Wright, Charles Waldo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: James R. Alexander, Robert L. Hoyt; Special Effects: Ben McMahan.
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough), Heidi Brühl (Mrs. Montaigne), Thayer David (Dragon), Reiner Schöne (Freytag), Michael Grimm (Meyer), Jean-Pierre Bernard (Montaigne), Brenda Venus (George), Gregory Walcott (Pope), Candice Rialson (Art Student), Elaine Shore (Miss Cerberus), Dan Howard (Dewayne), Jack Kosslyn (Reporter), Walter Kraus (Kruger), Frank Redmond (Wormwood), Siegfried Wallach (Hotel Manager), Susan Morgan Cooper (Buns), Jack Frey (Cab Driver).
Synopsis: A classical art professor and collector, who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend.
Comment: Saddled with a weak by-the-numbers script this spy thriller is considerably bolstered by the superb mountain climbing footage and Eastwood’s star power. Eastwood also performed his own stunt work adding a sense of authenticity and he directed the climbing sequences with considerable skill, managing to create a tense climactic ascent of the Eiger. Kennedy shines in a support role as Eastwood’s climbing buddy, as does Cassidy as a gay assassin. Great use is made of Monument Valley and Swiss locations and John Williams provides an evocative score.
Notes: The scenes that depict Hemlock training for the Eiger climb include Monument Valley’s “Totem Pole,” a rock spire with an elevation over 5,500 feet. According to production notes, Eastwood performed the climb himself while Kennedy was lowered onto the rock’s crest by helicopter. Shortly after the scene was filmed, the Navajo Nation deemed “Totem Pole” off-limits to future climbers. Twenty-six-year-old British climber David Knowles died on the Eiger during the production.