The Eiger Sanction (1975)

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Released 13-Jun-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Web Links
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 123:29
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Clint Eastwood
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Clint Eastwood
George Kennedy
Vonetta McGee
Jack Cassidy
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music John Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
German
Dutch
Czech
Polish
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    During the late 1960s and all through the 70s, Clint Eastwood made a huge name for himself in both his Spaghetti Western appearances and as the quintessential anti-hero personified by his roles in the Dirty Harry movies. Back to that in a moment.

    The Eiger Sanction was a book that, seemingly, had all the right ingredients for a successful transition to the big screen; exotic locations, lots of action and some spectacular mountain-climbing. The problem was that the source material was more black comedy than serious action thriller and the movie never reached any great cinematic heights as a result.

    The original novel, penned under the name Trevanian, was written by Roger Whitaker, an American born in Japan in 1925. A teacher of communications at the University of Texas, Whitaker originally conceived The Eiger Sanction as a parody of sorts of the novels by Robert Ludlum. He maintained that The Eiger Sanction, and the lesser-known The Loo Sanction, were written in a way to make the Hemlock character 'caustic' and 'detached'. Eastwood's innate acting style, which underscored his success with 'Dirty' Harry Callaghan should have made him the ideal choice for Jonathon Hemlock, only somehow he falls a little flat. His interaction with the other characters in the movie is meant to be cold and aloof - the callous assassin - but there is a little too much fire in his portrayal. It somehow just misses the mark the book had intended, but for all that The Eiger Sanction remains an entertaining piece of work with some excellent scenic shots.


    Professor Jonathon Hemlock (Clint Eastwood), a retired operative with a covert government agency known as C2, works as an Arts teacher and is called out of retirement after one of C2's agents is assassinated while carrying plans for a germ warfare device. Dragon (sanguinely played by Thayer David), the head of C2, a total albino who has low tolerance to direct light and the cold (his office is maintained at a constant 90°F), offers Hemlock $10,000 and a Pissarro painting currently on the black market to 'sanction' (exterminate) the two enemy agents that have stolen the plans. Hemlock only agrees to a single termination in return for a letter from the IRS protecting his art collection and $20,000.

    After successfully terminating his quarry, Hemlock is 'induced' into undertaking the second sanction by a combination of the theft of the additional $10,000 and his letter of coverage from the IRS, plus the added knowledge that the agent originally killed was his old friend Henri Bach (who saved his life in Indo-China). The reason Hemlock is coerced into the second sanction is because the killer is suspected to be a mountain climber, one of three who is currently planning an ascent of the north face of the Eiger mountain, a mountain that has twice before nearly killed Hemlock. Hemlock's assignment is to find out which of the three is the assassin, or if that proves impossible, to terminate all three climbers.

    There are some excellent supporting roles in the cast. George Kennedy is Ben Bowman, Hemlock's friend and former climbing buddy who gets him into shape and also commands the base camp on the climb. Jack Cassidy is perfectly cast as the outrageously campy Miles Mellough, who was responsible for the betrayal of Henri Bach and is offered up as a sacrificial lamb to Hemlock. Veronica McGee is the naivé Jemima Brown tasked with keeping tabs on Hemlock, and Gregory Walcott is the racist Pope, who constantly tries to best him, but fails miserably.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original theatrical aspect ratio of this movie was 2.40:1. This transfer is presented in a measured aspect ratio of 2.43:1, which is fairly close to the original theatrical aspect ratio. The biggest problem with this transfer is that it is not 16x9 enhanced, one of the biggest gripes I have with any DVD release. The movie is just simply squashed into too small a space and it really suffers because of it.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp, but much fine detail is often lost because of the lack of 16x9 enhancement and the compressed nature of the picture. Shadow detail ranges from fair to poor with the outdoors scenes being the best on offer. Many backgrounds simply blur due to overly poor lighting in many scenes, leaving you with the impression of a dark and dingy movie, and the less said about the grain the better! To paraphrase an old rhyme; 'grain grain go away, come on back some other day'. The whole movie is cursed with it although after a time you got used to it (almost). Low level noise does not appear to be an issue.

    The colour palette used is fairly dark and bland at the beginning of the movie. There was little vibrancy in many scenes, with the transfer offering up unintentionally dark and moody interiors and ill-lit streets and alleyways. Worst of all is Dragon's office, utilising almost nothing but a single light bulb and some red halo lighting. Much of this was probably deliberately done for effect, but it does detract overall from the quality of the movie. Various outdoors scenes are more appealing and there was definitely more colour on offer as the movie moves into the Alps (as well as lots of white snow and blue skies).

    There were three other major problems with this transfer. Grain I've already noted, but there were copious amounts of aliasing, moiré effects and film artefacts. The aliasing, like the grain, is endemic throughout the transfer. I'll only list a few examples of it due to the incredible amount of it spread throughout the transfer. At 9:21, all the lines in Hemlock's office break up. At 44:54, the rock face that Hemlock is running up almost 'separates' with the amount of aliasing. At 48:13, check out Hemlock's shirt, and at 69:28 the jeep coming towards you looks like it is blinking. There were also many instances of moiré artefacting, especially on any Venetian blind or car grill. Two particularly bad examples are at 3:01 on the side of a van and at 67:07 on Miles' shirt. As for film artefacts, they simply occur endlessly throughout the movie. Most are the the standard black and white specks you often see, but there are also little line marks and what looked like dirt marks as well.

    There is quite a considerable array of subtitles to choose from. The subtitles are fairly easy to read, unlike the opening titles which were a mess. Utilizing an horrendous choice of font, the opening titles were further made unreadable by over-compression. The subtitles occupy the lower black letterboxed portion of the screen and are in white.

    The RSDL layer change occurs at 63:40. At first I thought it was a missing frame, because it occurs mid-scene and happens as George (one of the trainers Bowman uses) enters Hemlock's room. Since there is no audio at this point, the layer change is only noticeable because of the visual jar. It doesn't disrupt the flow of the film, but the effect was a bit unfortunate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound for this movie is a real letdown. Being presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 only without even an attempt at front channel separation was a real blow. With everything centred in the middle, the dialogue and music sound very 'tinny', similar in effect to watching a small television. Highly unsatisfactory overall.

    The audio comes in a variety of flavours; English, German, Italian, French and Spanish, all in Dolby Digital 1.0 at the very low bitrate of 96 kilobits per second. I listened to the English version whilst sampling the others for volume levels. The Italian soundtrack has a consistent low level 'hum' through it which occasionally made itself heard and was very annoying. The French soundtrack was the loudest of all on offer.

    The dialogue was easily understandable, even by Thayer David who spoke with a very raspy voice. Audio sync was never an issue.

    The music was surprisingly by John Williams, although you'd never know it. Often coming across as more ambient in nature, there were fair slices of the movie that had little or no music at all. There were the natural dramatic moments, but given the fact that the entire soundtrack takes place in the centre channel, there wasn't much chance for an appreciation of the finer nuances on offer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Production Notes

    These are fairly standard but interesting notes concerning the making of the movie.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Very brief and almost useless unless you are into Filmographies. Clint Eastwood rates two mentions as primary actor and director and the notes for each are the same.

Theatrical Trailer

    With a running time of 2:41 and presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the trailer suffers from the same overdose of film artefacts, scratches, hairs, marks, and so forth as the movie itself.

Web Links

    Very standard stuff. You could simply go to Universal Studios and bypass this section altogether.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version misses out on;

    The Region 1 version misses out on;     Given that reviews of the R1 version detail many of the same problems I've noted above, including oversaturation both of red and greens, if you are going to buy this disc the Region 4 version is definitely the one to buy.

Summary

    The Eiger Sanction was a movie from my youth that I was looking forward to reviewing, but found it to be a bit of a letdown. Releasing it at the same time as Vertical Limit has to be a bit more than coincidence. The great pity is that the source material was obviously inferior and this is a rushed-to-DVD effort in the same way as the Region 1 version was. The storyline is reasonably good, even if it fails to hit the mark and it does entertain reasonably well for the full two hours. This wasn't a movie that bored, so a bit of effort would have made it a decent addition to any DVD collection. Caveat Emptor!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Monday, June 18, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
pissarro - cztery REPLY POSTED
wow! even i've been censored now! - cztery