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The Eiger Sanction

Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 124 mins . M15+ . PAL


I seem to attract those ice-capade movies. The Eiger Sanction is one of Clint Eastwood's early directorial features. He is put into a strange situation; he is a big star after the 'Dirty Harry' series and his directorial work was crippled by the fact that he was often directing his own features. It is often hard to separate the actor from the director. In fact, I often came away feeling how much this film looked like something from Don Siegel ("Dirty Harry").

The 'Eiger' is a popular mountain in the Swiss Alps. As popular as it is; it's a killer. A 'sanction' in the parlance is an agency assassination.

Eastwood is an aging mountain-climbing art professor who is a government contract killer for some unnamed US agency. This agency wants his special brand of killing. Eastwood is reluctant to come out of retirement; he's happy as Dr. Johnathan Hemlock PhD.

Unfortunately his taste for Matisse and Picasso leaves him no choice. Uncle Sam also likes to use the Internal Revenue Service as a gentle persuader.

This is a James Bond spoof with all the familar roles. George Kennedy is his trainer. Eastwood and Kennedy are reprising old roles in their depiction of these characters. Eastwood is all fists and wisecracks and Kennedy is a big jolly oaf.

The female characters are like Bond girls - eager to sleep with Eastwood but with a 'heart of gold'. All are secondary to the story.

The enemy is faceless and cardboard and often innocent. The real enemy is the US government controller and their agents. The Donald Pleasence character is played by a pink eyed albino who delivers his orders from a darkened room that looks like a developing lab. He has that distinctive 'Austin Powers/Dr. Evil' laugh.

His right hand man is a offensive, racist, sexist buffoon who gets a richly deserved beating from Eastwood.

The climax is staged on the Eiger. One of the three climbers is a spy who is a courier for an stolen American germ warfare formula. Is it the Frenchman, German or Austrian?


Eiger is framed 2.35:1 non-anamorphic. This is about the worst widescreen format on DVD as it wastes vertical resolution on a massive scale.

I've often heard that older films do not benefit all that much from anamorphic presentation but I suspect that that is poppycock as many older films are presented 'anamorphically' resulting in a pleasant production.

Be that as it may, Eiger is quite well transfered with excellent colour and contrast. I would note that this 1975 and there is a proclivity towards bright clothing. Like any snow movie, there is use of bright jumpsuits as well. Eastwood and Kennedy often wear strong primary coloured shirts that are vibrant and strongly saturated on this feature.

The black levels and details are relatively poor however that is generally at the start of the movie. The end sequences at the Eiger are well shot with good contrast and a faithful rendition of the mountain. The whites and grays are suitably rendered and they do look good even compared to the modern 'Cliffhanger' and the recent 'Vertical Limit'.

The only thing I object to is the slight edge enhance however this limits itself to the bright-ish sequences in the American Rockies.

Good detail on closeups (especially face, with Eastwood looking a particularly grizzled 35 years old!), however expect some poor levels of detail on wide shots.

Of course you expect the usual flecks, scratches and slight grain for a 1975 feature.

"Extravagant but effective... "


Sounds is Dolby 1.0 at 96k/s. I like putting the processor in Dual Mono mode to 'spread' the mono across the wall.

This is a dialogue heavy film so I'll focus on that. Generally excellent diction although I must admit that I am so used to the way that Eastwood delivers his lines that I could almost lipread. The only times I could not understand things were when bit players delivered dialogue quickly or 'unscrutably' (hey this is 1975!). Good sync'ing and no glitches.

Sound effects were effective and of good fidelity however how much 'hit' can mono have? Almost no bass or treble resulting in my poweramp and floorstanders falling asleep. My processor was getting bored as well.

The music is by John Williams however I only noticed the music during the 'Eiger' sections at the end. This is a very sparse movie score-wise with the majority of the movie being unscored.


A fairly no-frills DVD. Static menu shots which are cartoony or artists' renditions. A relatively poor trailer of similiar technical attributes as the main feature.

A standard cast bio and a few pages of production notes. Interestingly, a film crew member died on the Eiger during principal shooting which highlights just how difficult this shoot was. It was all 'on location' due to the fact that special effects were not possible in 1975.


I don't expect many people will want to pay full price for this. I would expect that the completist Eastwood fans would like this to complete his back catalog. The slow but deliberate pacing works and the characters are overblown yet quite colourful in a 1975 'James Bond' kind of way.

It's certainly not his best work however I find both the direction and acting to be quite acceptable and Eastwood delivering Eastwood whether he's a spy, cop, soldier or cowboy.

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      And I quote...
    "I hope you didn't "sanction" all three of them..."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • Projector:
          Panasonic 1024x768 LCD Projector
    • Decoder:
          Sony TA-E9000ES
    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
    • Speakers:
          Mission 763
    • Centre Speaker:
          Mission 75c
    • Surrounds:
          Mission 760
    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
    • Audio Cables:
          rca coaxial SPDIF
    • Video Cables:
          VGA connector
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