(director: Clint Eastwood; screenwriter: Hal Dresner/Warren B. Murphy/Trevanian (Rod Whitaker)/novel by Trevanian; cinematographer: Frank Stanley; editor: Ferris Webster; music: John Williams; cast:  Clint Eastwood (Dr. Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Thayer David (Dragon), Heidi Brühl (Mrs. Anna Montaigne), Brenda Venus (George), Jean-Pierre Bernard (Montaigne), Michael Grimm (Meyer), Reiner Schoene (Freytag), Walter Kraus (Kruger), Gregory Walcott (Pope), Dan Howard (Dewayne); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Dailey; Universal Pictures; 1975)

“Though one of Clint’s weaker efforts as director, it’s perhaps saved by the breathtaking visuals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Clint Eastwood (“Jersey Boys”/”Hereafter”) directs and stiffly stars in a misfire Euro-spy thriller set in the Swiss Alps. It’s based on the novel by Trevanian, who writes the rocky screenplay under the name Rod Whitaker with Hal Dresner and Warren B. Murphy. Of note, a sanction refers to a kill mission for the mysterious C-2 intelligence agency that retaliates when one of its spies is killed. 

Clint Eastwood stars as the American version of James Bond, Dr. Jonathan Hemlock. He’s a retired assassin for a secret government international intelligence agency, a mountain climber and an art professor whose art collection include rare masterpieces from Pizarro, Klee, El Greco, Mataisse and at least 17 others. When an agent is assassinated in Zurich, the unscrupulous albino head of his government agency, the Dragon (Thayer David), who must live in darkness in an underground temperature controlled room, forces Hemlock out of retirement to assassinate the two agents responsible, one known living in Zurich and the other is unknown but for a limp, by handsomely paying him and giving the IRS a favorable tax statement on his valuable art collection.

After throwing the first spy killer (Walter Kraus) out a Zurich office building window, Hemlock finds he must train in Utah with an old pal, the former mountain climber, Ben Bowman (George Kennedy), to climb the dangerous North face on the Eiger Mountain in the Swiss Alps. The three other mountain climbers, all foreigners, the arrogant German Freytag (Reiner Schoene), the aging Frenchman Montaigne (Jean-Pierre Bernard) and the agreeable Meyer (Michael Grimm). Supposedly one of the climbing team is the spy being pursued.

While preparing for his mission, Hemlock romances the soul sister Jemima (Vonetta McGee), a stewardess used by his agency.

The best conceived character is a gay spy played with both menace and laughs by Jack Cassidy, who names his pet dog Faggot (which might be less offensive than the name of  Jemima).

Things are trite and overlong, but the action picks up in intensity during the thrilling mountain climb at the climax. Though one of Clint’s weaker efforts as director, it’s perhaps saved by the breathtaking visuals.

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REVIEWED ON 5/12/2017       GRADE: B-