Release Date(s)1975 (November 10, 2020)
Studio(s)The Malpaso Company/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
With three films under his belt, Clint Eastwood climbed (no pun intended) back into the director’s chair to adapt the 1972 novel The Eiger Sanction, choosing to shoot it on location in Switzerland despite the adverse conditions and the dangers of mountain climbing. Essentially a spy thriller of sorts, the film goes off the beaten path with a focus on character instead of plot, making for sometimes awkward but compelling moments between the cast. The price of admission is the harrowing footage of climbers actually climbing the titular rock face, considered in that era to be one of the most perilous to ascend. The film did decent business at the box office in 1975 but garnered an initially skeptical critical reaction. A favorite of many thanks to repeated TV airings and home video releases, it has grown in estimation critically since, partly due to Clint Eastwood’s popularity and his continued success as a respected director.
Jonathan Hemlock (Eastwood) is a self-retired assassin and former mountain climber with a penchant for collecting fine art. He is summoned back to the C2 agency by its leader Dragon (Thayer David), an albino forced to live in darkness in order to be kept alive. Informed that a former agent and personal friend has been killed, Hemlock is sanctioned to find and kill two hit men with a guarantee that it will be his final job, that he will be paid well, and that the IRS will declare his art collection legal. Along the way, he meets Jemima (Vonetta McGee) who keeps him informed of C2’s activities, falling in love with her in the process. Since one of the potential targets is a mountain climber, he seeks the help of his old climbing buddy Ben (George Kennedy) to get in shape and scale the Eiger mountain in Switzerland, which he has attempted twice before and failed. However, going up the mountain’s north face with three other men who could be killers proves to be a difficult and deadly task.
Previously only available in the US in a compilation release, The Eiger Sanction comes to Blu-ray for a second time from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, sporting a new 2K master of what appears to be an interpositive element. It has a slightly softer appearance, but appears organic with plenty of detail on objects, faces, and structures. It also carries an extraordinary color palette with bold swatches of red, blue, and green, as well as natural skin tones. Blacks levels are quite deep, though most of that comes from filming with low light levels and built-in crush. A deep scan in 4K of the original camera negative would likely have yielded more detail in the shadows, but it’s difficult to discern that in a film with such a specific look. It’s stable throughout with mild speckling, occasional thin lines running through the frame, and other minor damage popping up sporadically. In all, much improved over its previous incarnation.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English. The audio is fairly narrow, though John Williams score and other occasional uses of music have decent push to them. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise while sound effects have a surprising amount of impact, particularly those recorded on location during the film’s climactic ascent up the Eiger. There are also no leftover instances of hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
The following extras are also included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary by Nick Pinkerton
- Freytag’s Ascent with Reiner Schone (13:15)
- Archival Interview With Heidi Bruhl (9:26)
- Vintage 8-Minute Promotional Reel (8:19)
- Poster and Image Gallery (42 in all – 7:11)
- Radio Spots (5 in all – 2:45)
- TV Spots (4 in all – 2:16)
- Trailer (2:50)
- Coogan’s Bluff Trailer (2:12)
- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Trailer (2:10)
The audio commentary with film critic Nick Pinkerton is a tad stiff, but he speaks at length about the background on and making of the film, providing plenty of valuable information. In Reiner Schone’s interview, he discusses how he auditioned by attempting to be a convincing mountain climber, Eastwood making him feel comfortable to play the role as he wanted, the difficulties of the mountain climbing scenes, the death of professional climber David Knowles, an unexpected blizzard during filming, and his admiration for Eastwood. In the archival interview with Heidi Bruhl by Pepe Ludmir they discuss both her backgound and the film itself. The promotional reel highlights selected scenes from the film and discusses its plot. The poster and image gallery contains 42 stills of posters, lobby cards, home video artwork stills, publicity stills, and behind-the-scenes photos. The rest of the extras consist of five radio spots, four TV spots, and a trailer for the film, as well as two Clint Eastwood related trailers for other releases by Kino Lorber. The disc is housed in a standard amaray case with reversible artwork—the original US poster art on the front and the original German poster art on the back—inside a slipcover featuring the original US poster art.
This new release of The Eiger Sanction is a welcome upgrade over the previous bare bones (outside of the film’s trailer) Blu-ray release from Universal themselves. Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray provides a sharp-looking presentation with a nice selection of bonus materials, making it an essential purchase for fans of Clint Eastwood.
- Tim Salmons