Release Date(s)1968 (August 3, 2021)
Studio(s)The Malpaso Company/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
After Clint Eastwood’s star-making performances in the Dollars films, and the same year that Hang ‘Em High and Where Eagles Dare was released, he starred in what would ultimately be a proto-Dirty Harry film of sorts, Coogan’s Bluff. Directed by Don Siegel, who would turn out to be a major influence on Eastwood as a director, the film’s story of a cop coming into a new town and causing mischief is a pretty standard genre exploit. Later films like Brannigan, Beverly Hills Cop, Black Rain, and Hot Fuzz all used this as their central premise. But in Coogan’s Bluff, Eastwood and Siegel attempt to shake up the movie cop persona with mixed results. Walt Coogan hails from Arizona (not Texas), and though he seems like he’s the smartest guy in the room and always has the upper hand, he isn’t, and he doesn’t. He makes mistakes, sometimes has his ass handed to him by the bad guys, and is an epic skirt-chaser who doesn’t get the girl in the end. Actually, Coogan’s Bluff is rife with rampant and deplorable sexism, so much so that it pushes beyond cringe and goes full on into uncomfortable territory. When Coogan helps a young woman by thwarting the advances of what he perceives to be a sexual deviant, he aggressively puts the moves on her immediately and inappropriately afterwards. It’s kind of disturbing and doesn’t hold up in today’s society at all. The film also doesn’t really have much of a forward momentum behind it, but a series of interesting or entertaining scenes, eventually petering out with a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion. All of the performances are good, including Eastwood’s, but Coogan’s Bluff doesn’t hold up as well as many of his other films.
Authority-defying and womanizing Arizona deputy sheriff Walt Coogan (Eastwood) is sent to New York City to pick up a dangerous prisoner, James Ringerman (Don Stroud), in order for him to stand trial. Arriving in town in a cowboy hat and boots, he’s given the runaround by nearly everybody he meets. The local police force, including lieutenant McElroy (Lee J. Cobb), gives him constant static about picking up the prisoner. Eventually Coogan goes behind their backs and takes Ringerman to the airport himself, where he’s ambushed by Ringerman’s friends and left unconscious. Now determined more than ever to catch Ringerman, despite being told that he’ll be arrested for impersonating a New York police officer for doing so, Coogan hits the city’s streets.
Coogan’s Bluff was shot by director of photography Bud Thackery on 35 mm photochemical film using Arriflex cameras and spherical lenses, and framed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio for its theatrical exhibition. The new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics appears to use the exact same master—likely taken from an interpositive—as the previous Universal US Blu-ray release. It’s a nice-looking master with good contrast and high levels of detail. Grain isn’t quite as refined as a more modern transfer, but it’s healthy enough without appearing chunky or digitally scrubbed. There’s a bit of mild flicker in a couple of moments, but textures are decent and images are mostly crisp. The color palette offers a nice of variety hues, from the barren and open vistas of Arizona to the varied locales of New York City. There’s nice depth to be had in the blacks, while flesh tones appear natural. Stability is never an issue, though minor lines running through the frame, occasional scratches, and speckling are leftover, which varies depending upon the condition of the scene at hand. And though this is sourced from the same master, it’s been color corrected to appear slightly darker, but only by a few degrees.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. The single channel audio source offers wider spacing than most. Dialogue exchanges are more than clear, sometimes too clear when overdubs occur during scenes featuring loud noise, which are painfully obvious. Sound effects and Lalo Schifrin’s excellent score have plenty of impact as well. Unfortunately, there are minor dropouts throughout, which are so quick and spread out that they can be imperceptible at times. Other than that, it’s fine a track.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by Alex Cox
- Audio Commentary by Alan Spencer
- The Killer Is Loose (HD – 8:41)
- At Home with Clint Eastwood (HD – 7:53)
- Image and Poster Gallery (HD – 78 in all – 7:54)
- Radio Spot (HD – :58)
- Teaser Trailer (HD – :58)
- Trailer (HD – 2:12)
- A Fistful of Dollars Trailer (HD – 2:26)
- For a Few Dollars More Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:29)
- The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Trailer (HD – 3:23)
- Two Mules for Sister Sara Trailer (HD – 2:36)
- The Beguiled Trailer (HD – 2:43)
- Play Misty for Me Trailer (HD – 1:53)
- Joe Kidd Trailer (HD – 2:23)
- High Plains Drifter Trailer (HD – 2:31)
- Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Trailer (HD – 2:10)
- The Eiger Sanction Trailer (HD – 2:50)
As always, it’s great to hear actor, director, and Western fan Alex Cox speak, and for his audio commentary, he comments upon the film as he watches it and provides plenty of valuable insight into the film’s creation. He tends to go quiet in between thoughts, but the overall track is well worth listening to. The second audio commentary features screenwriter Alan Spencer (Sledge Hammer!) who humorously and admirably provides anecdotal information about the film, its star, and other members of the cast and crew. It too is a great listen. At Home with Clint Eastwood is a vintage interview with Clint from around the time of the release of Two Mules for Sister Sara. The poster and image gallery contains 78 stills of posters, lobby cards, home video artwork, production stills, and press photos. In The Killer Is Loose, actor Don Stroud talks about his work in the film, his relationship with Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel, shooting scenes on a motorcycle and in Bellevue, meeting Lee J. Cobb, seeing the finished film, and how it affected his career. The rest of the extras consist of a radio spot, the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers, and a series of trailers for other Clint Eastwood-related Blu-ray 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 Italian poster art on the reverse—inside a slipcover featuring the same US poster art.
Seemingly the final film in the catalog of Clint Eastwood films that Kino Lorber will be releasing on Blu-ray in the foreseeable future, Coogan’s Bluff is a troubled but no less entertaining film. It cemented a relationship between an actor and a director for several films to come and, for its time, established Eastwood as a box office draw on his home turf. With a decent picture and a great extras package, it’s another essential release for film fans.
- Tim Salmons