In my opinion, the mountain-climbing action thriller genre offers slim pickings in terms of solid entertainment, Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit, Deadly Pursuit and K2 are all pretty average.
But there is one picture that stands out -- 1975’s The Eiger Sanction.
Clint directs himself as the improbably named Professor Jonathan Hemlock, former professional assassin, now full-time academic, where he lectures and bats off the attentions of his female students. Hemlock is blackmailed by his albino ex-Nazi former boss (Thayer David) to carry out one last hit (sanction) -- or his tax affairs are investigated and secret art collection impounded.
This eventually leads Eastwood to the Eiger (Ogre) in Switzerland, where one of the international climbing party he joins is the target. Trouble is, he doesn’t know which one it is, which makes the task of climbing the mountain even more fraught.
The movie plays in parts like a comedy, with Hemlock/Clint deliberately stirring up a hornet’s nest of the stereotypes he encounters -- Gays, Native Americans, African-Americans, officious Germans, randy French housewives, the aforementioned Nazi (ex) albino and others on his journey to the peak.
I’ve got to admit, despite the cringe-making moments, some of this is pretty funny, particularly Hemlock’s clash with Jack (father of David) Cassidy’s extravagantly homosexual Miles Mellough, a former friend and associate in the sanctions business:
Excuse the sound/picture quality:
The picture is notable for it’s palm-sweat inducing climbing scenes, which Eastwood wanted to be as authentic as possible (including performing all his own stunts), which unfortunately resulted in death and injury on the shoot, some blaming the director’s impatience and lack of detailed planning.
The movie is based on the first of two rather arch thrillers by the writer Trevanian (yep, just one word), The Eiger Sanction (1972) was followed by The Loo Sanction the following year. This has yet to be adapted, but as the opening paragraphs involve a man being slowly rectally impaled on a church spire, I guess that there will have to be some re-writes involved.
BONUS: It sports a very classy score by John Williams: