This pre-DIRTY HARRY teamup between Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel starts with Clint as sheriff’s deputy Coogan tracking a Navajo wife-murderer through the desert. The wide angle, the windy quiet and the cowboy hat tell you it’s a western, except Coogan rides in in a Jeep. He has a shootout with the suspect, captures him and then goes to visit an old girlfriend, leaving the man chained up on the porch like a dog. His boss storms in to chew him out while his girl is bathing him – Coogan asks the sheriff to pass him the soap.
The movie’s about Coogan having to helicopter from Arizona to New York City to pick up a prisoner. He wears the hat, boots and a bolo tie, so cab drivers try to rip him off and everybody asks if he’s from Texas.
Unfortunately when he’s transferring the prisoner he gets hit over the head and loses him, so he has to stay in New York to catch the bastard. As you can see on the poster to the right here it’s basically the Clint of the westerns clashing with NYC. But I don’t want to call it a fish-out-of-water story because this fish is so strong he pretty much creates water around himself. He turns New York into a western. This was his first major role outside of westerns, so I guess he had to ease himself slowly into the modern day. Sticking one toe in the hot tub.
The bad guys are obnoxious flower children, precursors to DIRTY HARRY’s Scorpio. The scene that really shows you Siegel hates hippies is “The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel.” I think that’s the name of the club (there’s a neon sign that says that) but it’s also the song that the stupid hippie band is performing, singing “Pigeon-toed orange peel / Pigeon-toed orange peel! / Love is real, love is real!” in that same righteous tone they would sing a platitude that actually made sense. A woman, naked except for body paint, is lowered from the ceiling and tries to make it with Coogan. He runs into Albert Popwell (the “punk” of “Do you feel lucky, punk?”). Next thing you know he’s in a pop art apartment fucking his fugitive’s girlfriend (Tisha Sterling).
It’s more jokey than DIRTY HARRY, lots of snappy dialogue. But it’s also got good action, especially the outstanding bar fight that predicts OUT FOR JUSTICE like Clint’s own Mayan calendar. They gang up on him but he uses some clever dodges, pool sticks and cue balls to even the odds. He throws a guy through a window – at the end of the scene you see a pair of legs still hanging through. Definitely an all time classic fight.
The one aspect of the movie that’s kind of fucked up is his relationship with a social worker played by the mom from “Webster.” It’s the usual professional-woman-turns-her-nose-up-but-eventually-is-charmed-by-him-despite-or-perhaps-because-of-his-crude–manners-and-outdated-womanizing, except he really betrays her. On a date he notices her files so he steals the one on the fugitive’s girlfriend and takes off. Poor gal’s in the kitchen stirring the spaghetti sauce when he ditches her, gets a girl she was trying to keep out of jail into trouble, and has sex with said girl. And she knows this. She calls her patient a “little girl” and knows Coogan left her date and had sex with this girl instead of having the dinner she made.
Okay, fine. Protagonists can do terrible things, sometimes that’s more interesting than being a boy scout. The part I have a problem with is that she forgives him! At the end of the movie she’s chasing after his helicopter blowing kisses at him. No way, man. Not cool. I swear, Coogan’s behavior and her response to it came this close to taking away women’s right to vote. That’s how far they set things back.
Other than that though this is a very fun movie. But I’m not sure what he’s bluffing about.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.