The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coogan's Bluff

With work picking up some of late, I haven't been watching as many movies, but in my effort to see all of Clint Eastwood's movies I watched Coogan's Bluff today. For a very basic review, think of Dirty Harry in New York and you've got this movie. Don Siegel, the same director as 1971's Dirty Harry, directs here too so this is almost like a dry-run for the rogue cop movie that took the country by storm.
Piute county Deputy Sheriff Walt Coogan out of Arizona is good at what he does, but in doing his job he tends to piss people off, including the sheriff. So after one such incident, he's sent on a mission to New York City to extradite a prisoner. But arriving in NY, Coogan gets fed up with all the procedures and rules he'll have to follow to get custody of the prisoner, a hop-head named Jim Ringerman. Coogan bluffs his way into the hospital Ringerman is at after he took some LSD. But on the way to the airport, he escapes with some help from his girlfriend. Now Coogan's on his own in a city he can't stand, and nothing's going to stop him from bringing his man back.

Director Siegel had a specialty for tough, gritty movies where guys were guys and that's how it was. Coogan's Bluff definitely falls into that category. The movie has a rough feel to it and seems to have been shot on a lower budget. At times, it tries too hard including one long sequence at a rave. The scene almost calls out 'hey, look, this is how the late 60s were!' Toward the end of the movie, it's almost like Siegel and Co. realized they didn't know how to finish the movie and the story/plot becomes disjointed. A cool action sequence at the end makes up for it though.

Two action scenes stand out here, helped in great part by Eastwood doing many of his own stunts. One has Coogan taking on a group of six or seven thugs in a pool hall. It's a pretty vicious fight as pool cues and balls are flying, as are some of the thugs. The finale action is an exciting motorcycle chase near the Cloisters Museum in Manhattan, another case where you can clearly see Eastwood on the bike.

Joining the cast is Lee J. Cobb, a great character actor who made a career out of playing crotchety old guys who complain about everything. Cobb plays Lt. McElroy, the NY police officer who must work with Coogan even if he does disagree with his methods. Susan Clark plays Julie Roth, a probation officer who Coogan meets and takes a keen interest in in more ways than one. Don Stroud, who would play a rival of Eastwood's again in Joe Kidd, is good in a smaller part as Ringerman, the drug-addicted prisoner trying to avoid extradition back to Arizona where he committed an unidentified crime. Tisha Sterling has a memorable part as Linny Raven, Ringerman's girl who you're never quite sure what her motives are.

The DVD is a good deal but a bit of a disappointment. The widescreen presentation is there and looks good, but no special features at all. Still, it's worth it for the movie alone, even just to see a dry-run of Dirty Harry.

Coogan's Bluff (1968): ***/*****

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