June 2nd, 2009

COOGAN’S BLUFF (1968) ***

Coogan (Clint Eastwood) is a laid back cop from Arizona who comes to New York City to extradite a psychotic criminal (Don Stroud).  A crotchety detective (Lee J. Cobb) gives Coogan the runaround so he takes it upon himself to get the nut out of Bellevue and bring him back home.  The psycho ends up knocking him out and escaping so Coogan has to go around busting people’s heads until he gets his man.

 

Taken on its own terms, Coogan’s Bluff seems at first glance like a relatively minor film in Clint Eastwood’s oeuvre.  It’s a fine-tuned pseudo-western that has a fair amount of action, but it suffers from some lackadaisical pacing and a so-so ending.  But before I start to criticize the film too harshly, I have to take into account that this was the flick where Clint made a smooth transition from westerns to cop movies.  It’s also an important film because it’s a prototype of the modern cop genre in that Coogan has his own Pre-Plot-Mini-Adventure.  You all know the Pre-Plot-Mini-Adventure.  Usually, the P.P.M.A. has the hero participating in a cool action sequence early in the film that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot and only serves as an introduction to our hero and to show how much of a badass he is.  (In this particular P.P.M.A., Clint tracks down a crazy, half-naked drunken Indian brandishing a semi-automatic rifle.)  Although P.P.M.A.’s are nothing new (the James Bond movies started the trend earlier in the decade), I believe this was the first time we got to see one in a modern cop movie.  Coogan’s Bluff is also significant for being the first big screen pairing of Eastwood with director Don Siegel, who would go on to direct four more movies for Clint, including the seminal Dirty Harry.

 

Like I said before, the flick has its share of faults.  The biggest one is that Coogan pussyfoots around too much.  I mean most of the time he’s busy poontanging around with some secretary trying to get laid while he should be out on the streets getting his job done.  Luckily, he does take the time to rough up some hippies in a nightclub and gets to kick the crap out of some dudes in a pool hall.  Coogan’s also the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to choke a bitch either, so he’s got that going for him.

 

Clint is excellent in this flick and helps it sail along through the more sluggish passages.  He dials down the gruffness of The Man With No Name and adds some nice touches of light comedy in with his performance and creates a fully three-dimensional character.  He also has considerable chemistry with co-star Susan (Webster) Clark, and I quite enjoyed their snappy romantic banter.  (Even though he should’ve been out catching the maniac that HE let getaway!)  The score by Lalo (Dirty Harry) Schifrin is also pretty badass too.

 

Clint’s next was Where Eagles Dare.