Coogan's Bluff (1968) / Action-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for violence, nudity, sexuality, language and drug references
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee J. Cobb, Susan Clark, Tisha Sterling, Don Stroud
Director: Don Siegel
Screenplay: Herman Miller, Dean Riesner, Howard Rodman
Although still utilizing his Western persona, Coogan's Bluff marks the first Eastwood cop flick, and the first of five films he would do for director Don Siegel, the most notable of which would be his second cop film, and the one that would catapult him to superstardom, Dirty Harry. It's a bit of a one note film -- a fish out of water story of a rural Western man trying to adjust to fighting crime in the country's largest metropolis, New York City. Simple as it is, Siegel's wry sense of humor and Eastwood's trademark take-no-crap attitude elevates this into entertaining fare, with a formula successful enough to spawn the idea for a long-running television series based on the same premise, "McCloud".
Eastwood stars as Arizona deputy sheriff, Walt Coogan, whose latest case sends him out to New York City to extradite a man who committed murder while out in the western state. Initially working with the New York police, Coogan sees it as an open and shut job, but his quarry finds a way to escape, and the local law enforcement think Coogan is too far out of his element to assist them. Meanwhile, Coogan develops a flirtatious relationship with probation officer, Julie Roth (Susan Clark, who went on to play Mrs. Papadapolis on the popular TV series, "Webster"), who just so happens to be in charge of the girlfriend of the man he is trying to bring in.
Although it is fairly tame by today's standards, Coogan's Bluff did gain some mild controversy at the time of its release for its nudity, violence and drug quotient, and while they would seem gratuitous at first glance to some, in reality, the showcasing of New York's decadence and counterculture lifestyle is crucial to Coogan's disorientation when trying to collar his suspect in the seediest joints in town. The crazy atmosphere is also what makes the film fun, and who couldn't smile at hearing the Lalo Schifrin's trippy psychedelic song, "Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel".
Although Coogan's Bluff is one of Eastwood's lesser-known vehicles, it does serve as an important bridge between his wily Man with No Name character and the disgruntled cop persona of Harry Callahan. Coogan is a more upbeat blend of the two, but not strong enough in either direction to be very memorable, and obscurity resulted. While it pales in significance to the films it is surrounded by in Clint's filmography, this is solid entertainment for all of Eastwood's fans to check out.
© 2004 Vince Leo