Director: Don Siegel
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee J. Cobb, Susan Clark, Don Stroud, Tisha Sterling
Plot: An Arizonian cop (Eastwood) heads to New York to capture an escaped convict (Stroud), but ends up being held back by the state’s official way of doing things.
Ah, the 60s were a simpler time. The problem with visiting older films such as Coogan’s Bluff is that your feminist radar starts blaring sirens every two minutes. Eastwood’s chauvinistic detective saves Susan Clark’s probation officer from sexual harassment only to force his tongue down her throat one scene later. A girl gets a slap on the behind when Eastwood gets annoyed with her. One girl gets thrown across the room. Moments like that are likely to unfairly condemn Coogan’s Bluff, but please bear in mind that we, humanity, didn’t really know any better.
Coogan’s Bluff, sexism aside, is quite an interesting film, because it is the first appearance from Clint Eastwood outside of Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. What we get is a neat blending of the two genres that made Eastwood the hero he is – a cop thriller with essences of the cowboy film. Eastwood plays an Arizona cop, who has walked out of a Western film, cowboy hat covering his scalp and heeled boots on his feet. He also symbolises an older time, struggling to understand the methodical system of the New York city cops, when he sees a criminal that needs catching. Surely it is a case of knocking on doors and punching suspects, until the job is done? The undeniable sense is that Coogan’s Bluff is Dirty Harry before Siegel and Eastwood thought up Dirty Harry. The essence of the franchise is there, a cop who doesn’t like playing by the rules and Eastwood’s dry charisma is on fine form. While Dollars definitely put Eastwood in the public eye, Coogan’s Bluff gives us more a chance to see the actor at his best. The Man With No Name was a silent, brooding figure – Coogan is a wise-cracking hero, purring insults and compliments constantly throughout. While, as I previously said, the old-timey casual sexism will likely stop him from being the kind of action hero you completely fall in love with, but there is definitely more to Eastwood’s acting credentials than a nameless scowler. The story is a tad by-the-numbers, time wasted building up a forgettable romance between Eastwood and Clark (Clark plays a character that will frustrate the feminists to no end), so the action side of things is relegated to a few set-pieces. There is a fun punch-up over a pool table and Siegel goes full throttle for a finale motorcycle chase, but this is easily outmatched by Eastwood’s later efforts (Dirty Harry-lite if you will). Coogan’s Bluff will probably be remembered as a fond early appearance from Clint Eastwood, rather than a classic cop movie you need to track down.
Final Verdict: Old-fashioned and a tad under-cooked, but there is fun to be had in this early Eastwood cop thriller.