So once again we have survived.

Coogan’s Bluff

tn_coogansbluffThis 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.

mp_coogansbluffUnfortunately 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.
This entry was posted on Saturday, January 30th, 2010 at 10:22 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

22 Responses to “Coogan’s Bluff”

  1. Vern – “Coogan’s Bluff” is a real promontory (glorified hill) up in Manhattan that used to overlook the Polo Grounds (home of the New York baseball Giants). And I believe the finale takes place there.

    I think it was someone being cutesy with the puns.

    Yeah this is DIRTY HARRY prototype, it has the attitude with the kick-ass cop stuck dealing with red tape and clash of hippie culture with Clint’s old middle American values, etc. But real rough around the edges, without that unique flavor and spark which gave us DIRTY HARRY.

    If you want my theory what BLUFF is lacking, its the bank robbery scene, or such a sequence where a larger-than-life guy (plus larger-than-life gun) really shocks and awes you with the badassry. I.E. chewing a hotdog while stopping a crime. Coogan on the other hand, tough guy but nothing unique or special to him. Hell even that opening scene bad guy looks like a 50s Hollywood western Indian.

    I’m surprised you didn’t touch upon the ending, which with Siegel’s long wideshot of the girl on the rooftop…this is him saying that the City is the new West. More subtle than the plot of the “cowboy” going into contemporary NYC to do his brand of justice.

    BLUFF also inspired that TV show MCCLOUD with the same exact plot. And ran a pretty long time in the 70s, interesting considering one would think you would run out of ideas with the gimmick eventually.

  2. Did Clint do any comedies? Those Every Which whatever movies I guess. It’s weird because a lot of his movies are really funny, just more in a “Can you believe what a bad motherfucker this is?” kind of way.

  3. Brendan – Yeah pretty much, though THE ROOKIE obviously tried (and failed) to tap into the LETHAL WEAPON/48 HRS. buddy cop action/comedy formula.

    Would his cameo in the (shitty) kiddie comedy CASPER count?

  4. How about SPACE COWBOYS? My video store keeps that one in the comedy section, perhaps ironically.

  5. Jareth – I would think that would be more Adventure than Comedy, but I guess there is comedy in the ole geezers trying to cut it with the prime rib astronauts.

    SPACE COWBOYS is a weird situation for me. I really enjoy many parts of that movie, most of the cast is appropriate, but something about prevents me from saying that it is a “good” movie.

    And I think the problem might be Tommy Lee Jones. Great actor, he doesn’t do anything wrong, but….I just don’t buy him being part of that same generation as Eastwood and James Garner* and Jack Bauer’s dad. Yeah I know I should leave baggage behind with Jones being Al Gore’s roommate at Harvard. Those guys went through Korea, Jones went through Vietnam.

    But yeah, I think he’s just too young for that part. It’s too distracting. Maybe more my fault than the movie’s (which is technically decent). Also think funny in retrospect how Republican Eastwood in COWBOYS has the Americans pissed at the Russians for violating the ABM Treaty. Which a year or so later, Dubya wiped his ass with, wadded it up, and threw it at Putin.

  6. *=You know how some actors appear in any movie, you just enjoy their presence in general, regardless of said film’s substance? Garner is one of them.

  7. Brendan, I think you’re forgetting a little movie called PINK CADILLAC.

  8. I like Space Cowboys. I appreciate that Clint obviously wanted to make a movie that is “just” entertaining. And holy shit, it IS entertaining! (Not to mention that it has the most uplifting, sad ending I’ve ever seen.)

  9. “Unfortunately when he’s transferring the prisoner he gets hit over the head and loses him”
    I’m kinda disappointed this didn’t lead to an amnesia plot.
    Isn’t telling New York to get out of town a paradox?

  10. anyone for city heat while we’re at clint comedies?

  11. afterhours – You know, one good thing about Eastwood is that him and bad movies rarely are mentioned in the same sentence.

    CITY HEAT is one of them.

  12. RRA: Wasn’t it in SPACE COWBOYS where the voices of the principal cast members were dubbed onto the performances of actors playing the characters’ younger selves? So we’d have Old Clint doing the voicework for the actor playing Young Clint? That was some fucked up shit.

    I might be remembering that wrong.

  13. Jareth – No you were right. Funny enough, the guy who played Young Clint was the Bond villain in DIE ANOTHER DAY, you know where the madman Korean went all Michael Jackson under the knife to become a British cracker? He obviously played post-op, not pre-op.

    BTW with Mr. Majestyk bringing up PINK CADILLAC, I realized I never saw that Eastwood title. So I watched it today through Netflix Instant, and…..it’s not good.

    It really tries to be like those monkey comedies, more like MOONLIGHTING meets MIDNIGHT RUN I guess but it doesn’t work. Alot of “jokes” aren’t funny (hey his car got covered in chicken shit! HAHA…no) and Eastwood has no comic chemistry with the ex-Playboy model / ex-Steve Martin’s squeeze. She was funny in THE JERK, and Eastwood obviously is comic gold in other movies.

    But neither are funny here. I appreciate Eastwood wanted to go off-beat and have fun by impersonating personas outside his Dirty Harry dayjob. I hope he did because I didn’t really. Though he looked good as a rodeo clown.

    That said, I did laugh when Clint the bounty hunter is chasing one of his targets, the fugitive girl in his car stops him by hitting him. She gets out, all celebrating and shit, then the guy gets up, tosses her to the ground, and steals the car.

    Also why does the skinhead villain sound like someone who’s both constipated and smoked a carton of cigarettes?

  14. I didn’t know Bernadette Peters was a Playboy model. Maybe I’m too invested in her character in PENNIES FROM HEAVEN to think of it as possible. She was really good in that film.

    PENNIES FROM HEAVEN should have been the beginning of a great trend: spectacularly depressing movies. Christopher Walken would have danced in many of them.

  15. Jareth – Sorry “model” isn’t the right word. She did pose for Playboy during her career heyday, so I guess that makes her technically a “model.”

  16. Have to say that this is actually my least favorite Clint movie. The pacings off and the action was no good.

    That said its worth watching for The Pigeon Toe Orange Peel part, if only because I literally couldn’t believe I was watching it.

  17. RRA – I found Peters’ Playboy cover shot on Google. I also saw a photo that compares her appearance from 1985 to 2008. The woman hasn’t aged. It’s like she’s still her HEARTBEEPS character.

  18. I always thought of The GAUNTLET as kind of a black comedy by Eastwood. You’re supposed to laugh when things get so shot up they fall over, like that house. It’s not a good movie but as a kid I was fascinated and kinda’ scared when all those cops lined up and shot the hell out of that bus. Now it’s just ridiculous.

  19. Clint Eastwood’s comedies: PAINT YOUR WAGON (also a musical), EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOSE, ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN, CITY HEAT, PINK CADILLAC. I would also say that THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT is also a comedy, but some might disagree on account of the ending, which plays darker then the rest of the movie. Which in itself is nothing unusual among later 60s and the 70s comedies.

  20. AsimovLives – Yeah you’re right about THUNDERBOLT, & LIGHTFOOT, which maybe isn’t usually considered a comedy because its more seen as a buddy picture. And also Jeff Bridges got an Oscar nod for it.

    Then again, technically all that would also apply to EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE. Except the Oscar part.

    “Go Fuck a Duck!”

  21. Clyde was robbed of his supporting actor Oscar.

  22. Was this the page, Jareth?

    http://news.makemeheal.com/bernadette-peters-plastic-surgery/445

    Wow, hot sixty-year-old. Stay out of the sun, kids.

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