Review

  • A rural Arizona deputy sheriff (Clint Eastwood) comes to the Big Apple to extradite a prisoner (Don Stroud) while tangling with the chief detective (Lee J. Cobb) and flirting with a probation officer (Susan Clark). Tisha Sterling plays the thug's drug-addicted girlfriend.

    Directed by Don Siegel, "Coogan's Bluff" (1968) is a crime drama/thriller with bits of droll amusement (e.g. New Yorkers constantly making references to Texas, Wyatt, the O. K. Corral and the like). It inspired the TV series McCloud, which aired from 1970-1977; and also was the prototype for Siegel & Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" (1971). The two teamed-up for three other films: "Two Mules for Sister Sara" (1970), "The Beguiled" (1971) and "Escape from Alcatraz" (1977).

    This was the blueprint for Clint's post-Leone cop character, which dominated crime cinema for the next 25-30 years (and arguably longer), including winners like "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (1974) and "The Gauntlet" (1977). "Coogan's Bluff" may not be as compelling as some of these later movies, and it's certainly dated by comparison (an interesting period piece to view mid-60's Manhattan), but it is entertaining despite the unpalatable depictions of the seedy side of Gotham.

    Speaking of the sordid elements, this was 'cutting edge' at the time and nigh shocking to those not living in the Big City. Eastwood's character, Coogan, will do whatever it takes to bring his man in, even something immoral with a 17 year-old teenager. While he's confident and has several admirable traits, there's also a darker, unpredictable edge.

    There's been some confusion about the eponymous bluff. Although the movie mentions the landmark promontory in upper Manhattan in a deleted scene, it literally refers to Coogan's bluffing his way into the hospital ward to apprehend his prisoner and get out of town, which sets up the events of the rest of the picture. If there's any doubt the lieutenant detective (Cobb) plainly references his bluff.

    In addition to Susan Clark and Tisha Sterling, the female cast includes Melodie Johnson (Millie in the first act) and Meg Myles (Big Red).

    The film is trim at 1 hour, 33 minutes, and was shot in the Mojave Desert, Manhattan and Universal Studios.

    GRADE: B.