COOGAN’S BLUFF(director: Don Siegel; screenwriters: Herman Miller/Dean Riesner/Howard Rodman/based on a story by Mr. Miller; cinematographer: Bud Thackery; editor: Sam E. Waxman; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Clint Eastwood (Walt Coogan), Lee J. Cobb (Lt. McElroy), Don Stroud (Ringerman), Susan Clark (Julie Roth), Tisha Sterling (Linny Raven), Tom Tully (Sheriff McCrea), Betty Field (Mrs. Ringerman), Melodie Johnson (Millie), Rudy Diaz (Running Bear), David F. Doyle (Pushie), Marjorie Bennett (Mrs. Fowler), Louis Zorich (Taxi Driver), Eve Brent (Hooker); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Don Siegel; Universal; 1968)
“A wry humored cop thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first film Don Siegel (“Riot in Cell Block Eleven”/”Madigan”/”The Killers”) made with Clint Eastwood is a wry humored cop thriller about a country boy lone-wolf rogue deputy who comes to the big city and surprises the city slickers by outsmarting them at their own ‘cops and robbers’ game and beating the city’s bureaucratic red tape. It’s based on a story by Herman Miller, and is tautly written by Mr. Miller, Dean Riesner and Howard Rodman. This film, which has the artificial look of a TV program (too many exteriors were shot on the backlot of Universal), inspired the hit TV show McCloud, as well as revolutionized the slick, comical and violent way mainstream crime dramas were made—being a precursor to Dirty Harry (1971).

Arizona Deputy Sheriff Coogan (Clint Eastwood) is the self-reliant rural lawman who captures in the desert the rifle-toting renegade Navajo who killed his wife on the reservation and instead of bringing him in right away for arrest, cuffs him to his girlfriend Millie’s front porch so he can get a quickie. But an irate Sheriff McCrea comes upon the scene and immediately gives his deputy the dirty assignment of the extradition of NYC resident Ringerman (Don Stroud), a dangerous felon wanted in Arizona—someone Coogan arrested. Coogan, the strapping handsome deputy, comes by taxi, where’s he’s cheated on the fare, to the shabby 23rd precinct at 104th Street to pick up Ringerman. It’s a landmark area in Manhattan, now a slum, that has parks that overlook the old Polo Grounds, where the NY Giants once played baseball before moving to San Francisco—an area ironically known to old-time baseball fans with great nostalgia as Coogan’s Bluff. The harried, cynical Lt. McElroy (Lee J. Cobb) informs him that his prisoner is being treated at Bellevue Hospital from an overdose of LSD and cannot be moved until the doctors release him. Killing time with incompetent do-gooder probation officer Julie Roth (Susan Clark), someone he met in the precinct house, hoping to get in her pants, the deputy soon becomes impatient with her phony concerns for her cases and that the sexually liberal broad refuses to jump in the sack with him, and bolts away from her to bluff the attendants at Bellevue into handing Ringerman over to him. At the airport, he’s jumped from behind by Ringerman’s Hollywood-styled hippie freaked-out teenaged girlfriend Linny Raven (Tisha Sterling) and beaten unconscious by a pool hall owner thug named Pushie (David F. Doyle). With his gun stolen and the Arizona sheriff notified, Coogan is taken off the assignment and warned by McElroy to go home. But the determined Coogan uses his country boy smarts to get on the trail of Ringerman, which leads to him visiting Ringerman’s sleazy mother (Betty Field), a psychedelic-themed nightclub called The Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel, getting into a blood-drenched brawl fought with billiard balls and cue sticks with around a dozen thugs in a pool hall and knocking several of them unconscious—including a bloodied Pushie, and forcing the demented Linny, coincidentally one of Julie’s jailbird clients, to lead him to Ringerman’s hiding place in the Cloisters. Armed with the deputy’s stolen gun, Ringerman attempts to escape by motorcycle but is chased down in the park by the vigilante Coogan and tackled before being pummeled. Just then McElroy and his men arrive, and the deputy makes a citizen’s arrest. It ends with the self-satisfied deputy taking his prisoner back to Arizona from a helicopter atop the Pan Am Building, that will take him to the airport.

The main thing that occupies Siegel’s raunchy film, is the interaction of the quiet heroic cowboy-dressed Coogan and his disapproving reaction to the cantankerous hard-bitten New Yorkers (who mockingly call him either “Wyatt,” “Buffalo Bill,” or “Tex”) and its perverted hippie scene, which offered no resemblance to the peace-loving hip city hippies but nevertheless had a most amusing kookiness to it.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”