The Eiger Sanction (1975)

R | 129 mins | Adventure | 21 May 1975

Director:

Clint Eastwood

Producer:

Robert Daley

Cinematographer:

Frank Stanley

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Companies:

Malpaso Company, Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

       On 3 Nov 1972, HR and DV announced that executive producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck teamed with Universal Pictures to acquire the film rights to Trevanian’s first novel The Eiger Sanction (1972). As noted in his 19 Dec 2005 LAT obituary, “Trevanian” was a pseudonym for author-film professor Rodney William Whitaker, who went to great lengths to mask his identity throughout his writing career. Although Whitaker was not publicly connected to “Trevanian” until 1984, when his publisher revealed the association, he was credited onscreen in The Eiger Sanction as a screenwriter with the moniker “Rod Whitaker.” While HR noted that the author was also a mountain climber of international prestige like his character “Jonathan Hemlock,” the obituary made no mention of mountaineering and stated that Whitaker wrote The Eiger Sanction and its follow-up, The Loo Sanction (1973), to “spoof” Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” series. On 28 Nov 1972, HR announced that screenwriter Hal Dresner was hired to adapt the novel and production was anticipated to begin summer 1973.
       HR and DV announced the casting of Paul Newman in the role of Hemlock on 11 Apr 1973 and one month later, the 31 May 1973 HR stated that filming was set to begin in Switzerland and the U.S. in late 1973. According to the 31 Jan 1974 DV, Dresner and Trevanian had written two drafts of the screenplay, but Newman was dissatisfied with the results and implemented his “right of script approval” to opt out of the ... More Less

       On 3 Nov 1972, HR and DV announced that executive producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck teamed with Universal Pictures to acquire the film rights to Trevanian’s first novel The Eiger Sanction (1972). As noted in his 19 Dec 2005 LAT obituary, “Trevanian” was a pseudonym for author-film professor Rodney William Whitaker, who went to great lengths to mask his identity throughout his writing career. Although Whitaker was not publicly connected to “Trevanian” until 1984, when his publisher revealed the association, he was credited onscreen in The Eiger Sanction as a screenwriter with the moniker “Rod Whitaker.” While HR noted that the author was also a mountain climber of international prestige like his character “Jonathan Hemlock,” the obituary made no mention of mountaineering and stated that Whitaker wrote The Eiger Sanction and its follow-up, The Loo Sanction (1973), to “spoof” Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” series. On 28 Nov 1972, HR announced that screenwriter Hal Dresner was hired to adapt the novel and production was anticipated to begin summer 1973.
       HR and DV announced the casting of Paul Newman in the role of Hemlock on 11 Apr 1973 and one month later, the 31 May 1973 HR stated that filming was set to begin in Switzerland and the U.S. in late 1973. According to the 31 Jan 1974 DV, Dresner and Trevanian had written two drafts of the screenplay, but Newman was dissatisfied with the results and implemented his “right of script approval” to opt out of the production. The project remained in limbo until 31 Jan 1974, when DV announced that Clint Eastwood was contracted to both star in and co-produce the picture with his own Malpaso Company and Universal Pictures. Zanuck reported that Eastwood was the producers’ “earlier choice” for the role of Hemlock, but he was previously unable to commit due to conflicting arrangements. At the time of Eastwood’s official casting, the positions of director and screenwriter were yet unconfirmed, but on 29 May 1974, HR and DV announced that Eastwood was set to direct and principal photography was scheduled to begin 1 Aug 1974 at the Eiger mountain in Switzerland. Universal vice-president Jennings Lang was hired to supervise the production.
       While the 31 Jul 1974 HR announcement of Vonetta McGee’s casting stated that the filming start date had been pushed to 5 Aug 1974, the 12 Aug 1974 DV stated that principal photography would begin that day in Switzerland. Production was scheduled for thirty-two days in Kleine Scheidegg, the mountain pass between the Eiger and Lauberhorn mountains, followed by filming in Zurich, Switzerland, and U.S. locations including Monument Valley, AZ, Zion National Park, UT, and Carmel and Monterey, CA.
       As stated in various contemporary sources, including production notes in AMPAS library files and a Dec 1974 edition of Stars in Sports, Eastwood insisted on performing his own climbing stunts. He trained with mountain sequence photographer and mountaineer Mike Hoover shortly before production began in Yosemite National Park, CA, where he climbed the 1,200-foot “Lost Arrow Spire.” However, the Eiger’s north face and its treacherous “White Spider” section, with its perpetually icy surface and snowy vein “appendages,” was widely considered one of the most dangerous climbs in the world; many mountaineers had previously lost their lives trying to reach the top. Eastwood and his crew of professional climbers were transported to an elevation of 12,000 feet by a Swiss Air Rescue helicopter, then lowered onto the rock face by tether lines while the film equipment was carried up in slings and by train.
       On the second day of filming, British rigger David Knowles from the Dougal Haston International School of Mountaineering in Leysin, Switzerland, was killed in a rockslide; he was one of only a few crewmembers who had previously climbed the Eiger. Mike Hoover was also hospitalized with injuries during the incident, which occurred while ten crewmembers, including Eastwood, were scaling the Eiger to film the final sequences of the picture. The tragedy was reported in the 14 Aug 1974 HR, as well as the 19 Aug 1974 DV and the 21 Aug 1974 Var. After an impromptu wake for Knowles and a two-day stint shooting interiors, the crew returned to the Eiger.
       After approximately five weeks at the mountain, the production moved to Zurich and to the American Southwest, where photography took place at Zion and at Monument Valley. The scenes that depict Hemlock training for the Eiger climb include Monument Valley’s “Totem Pole,” a rock spire with an elevation over 5,500 feet. According to production notes, Eastwood performed the climb himself while George Kennedy was lowered onto the rock’s crest by helicopter. Shortly after the scene was filmed, the Navajo Nation deemed “Totem Pole” off-limits to future climbers. After completing principal photography in Carmel and Monterey, the picture made its last appearance in HR production charts on 27 Sep 1974.
       An 11 Apr 1975 memorandum found in AMPAS library production files announced that the role of “Felicity,” played by Claudine Auger, had been “eliminated” from the picture.

      End credits include the following statement: “Monument Valley, Arizona location through the courtesy of the Navajo Nation.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 May 1975
p. 4784.
Daily Variety
3 Nov 1972.
---
Daily Variety
11 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1974.
---
Daily Variety
29 May 1974.
---
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1974.
---
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1974.
---
Daily Variety
14 May 1975
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 1974
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 1974
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1975
p. 4, 6.
Los Angeles Times
23 May 1975
p. 1, 17.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 2005.
---
New York Times
22 May 1975
p. 32.
Stars in Sports
Dec 1974.
p. 20.
Variety
21 Aug 1974.
---
Variety
14 May 1975
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Malpaso Company Film
A Jennings Lang Presentation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr, United States
Unit prod mgr, Switzerland
1st asst dir
2d asst dir, United States
2d asst dir, Switzerland
Unit mgr, Switzerland
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Mountain seqs photog
Mountain seqs photog
Mountain seqs photog
Mountain seqs photog
Mountain seqs photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
2d grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Stillman, United States
Stillman, Switzerland
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir, United States
Art dir, Switzerland
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed, United States
Asst ed, Switzerland
SET DECORATORS
Set dec, United States
Prop master, United States
Prop master, Switzerland
COSTUMES
Ward des
Cost supv
Ward man, Switzerland
Ward woman, United States
Ward woman, Switzerland
Seamstress
SOUND
Sd rerec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist, United States
Hairstylist, Switzerland
Cosmetics
PRODUCTION MISC
Our grateful appreciation to the Climbers:
Leader of expedition
Our grateful appreciation to the Climbers:
Climbing adv
From the Dougal Haston International School of Mou
From the Dougal Haston International School of Mou
From the Dougal Haston International School of Mou
From the Dougal Haston International School of Mou
From the Dougal Haston International School of Mou
From the Dougal Haston International School of Mou
And from Scotland
Dial coach
Secy to The Malpaso Company
Scr supv
Transportation capt, United States
Prod secy, Switzerland
European prod organization
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian (New York, 1972).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 May 1975
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 21 May 1975
Los Angeles opening: 23 May 1975
Production Date:
12 August--late September 1974
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures
Copyright Date:
21 May 1975
Copyright Number:
LP46966
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex recording systems
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
129
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24238
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

xIn Zurich, Switzerland, an American spy codenamed “Wormwood” retrieves a section of microfilm, but when he hears intruders, he swallows the top-secret footage and the prowlers cut his throat to get the film. Elsewhere, in New York City, an art professor, and former mountain climber, Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, delivers a speech to his graduating class and rebuffs the advances of a pretty blonde student. Returning to his office, Hemlock is confronted by an agent named Pope, who tries to intimidate the professor into meeting with “Dragon,” director of the U.S. government’s CII secret service and Hemlock’s former boss. As Pope leaves, Hemlock opens a note that offers him a Pissarro painting for the well-below market value of $10,000 and the phone rings with a call from Dragon. Tempted by the painting, Hemlock goes to Dragon’s covert office, where the ailing, albino CII director charges him to “sanction” the two men who murdered Wormwood. Hemlock refuses, claiming that he is a “retired” assassin and Dragon threatens to expose Hemlock’s multi-million dollar art collection of black market acquisitions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Doubling his usual fee, Hemlock agrees to “sanction” just one killer for $20,000 and demands that Dragon legitimize his art collection with certification from the IRS. In Zurich, Hemlock pursues killer Garcia Kruger by climbing the man’s office building and throwing him out a window. On an airplane back to New York City, Hemlock is seduced by a flight attendant named Jemima Brown, but after an evening of lovemaking at Hemlock’s home, he awakens to find her gone. As Jemima phones to reveal that she is one of ... +


xIn Zurich, Switzerland, an American spy codenamed “Wormwood” retrieves a section of microfilm, but when he hears intruders, he swallows the top-secret footage and the prowlers cut his throat to get the film. Elsewhere, in New York City, an art professor, and former mountain climber, Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, delivers a speech to his graduating class and rebuffs the advances of a pretty blonde student. Returning to his office, Hemlock is confronted by an agent named Pope, who tries to intimidate the professor into meeting with “Dragon,” director of the U.S. government’s CII secret service and Hemlock’s former boss. As Pope leaves, Hemlock opens a note that offers him a Pissarro painting for the well-below market value of $10,000 and the phone rings with a call from Dragon. Tempted by the painting, Hemlock goes to Dragon’s covert office, where the ailing, albino CII director charges him to “sanction” the two men who murdered Wormwood. Hemlock refuses, claiming that he is a “retired” assassin and Dragon threatens to expose Hemlock’s multi-million dollar art collection of black market acquisitions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Doubling his usual fee, Hemlock agrees to “sanction” just one killer for $20,000 and demands that Dragon legitimize his art collection with certification from the IRS. In Zurich, Hemlock pursues killer Garcia Kruger by climbing the man’s office building and throwing him out a window. On an airplane back to New York City, Hemlock is seduced by a flight attendant named Jemima Brown, but after an evening of lovemaking at Hemlock’s home, he awakens to find her gone. As Jemima phones to reveal that she is one of Dragon’s “couriers” and to order the professor to return to CII offices, Hemlock realizes that she has stolen the money and IRS statement earned from the Zurich sanction. Returning to Dragon’s office, Hemlock demands his agreed upon remuneration, but Dragon insists that Hemlock assassinate Wormwood’s second killer. When he reveals that Wormwood’s true identity was Henri Baq, a man who once saved Hemlock’s life, the professor accepts the assignment. Dragon explains that CII has not yet ascertained the target’s name, but they know he occasionally walks with a limp and will soon join an expedition to climb the treacherous north face of the Eiger mountain ridge in the Swiss Alps. As a former mountain climber, Hemlock is the only agent capable of joining the team. Noting the perils of the journey, Hemlock demands $100,000 and vows it will be his last sanction, but Dragon offers him a “bonus” – Hemlock can also kill Miles Mellough, who exposed Hemlock and Wormwood to their enemies. At the time, Hemlock was nearly killed, but he was rescued by Wormwood. It is believed that Mellough was indirectly involved with the Wormwood killing because it was he who handed over the microfilm to the other side. Returning home, Hemlock is greeted by Jemima, who brings him a painting and claims that her seduction was not part of the assignment. Insisting on the importance of their mission, Jemima reports that the stolen microfilm contains a formula for “germ warfare,” but Hemlock argues that Dragon is a former Nazi and that the U.S. is as culpable as its enemies. When Hemlock calls Jemima a prostitute, she leaves in anger. Sometime later, Hemlock visits his mountaineering mentor, Ben Bowman, whose desert climbing school has been transformed into a singles’ resort. Hemlock learns that Bowman has already joined the Eiger team as a ground guide and trains with a beautiful Native American girl named George. Mellough arrives at the resort to propose a deal: he will reveal the identity of Wormwood’s second killer if Hemlock promises to end his vendetta. Unwilling to forgive Mellough, Hemlock fights the agent’s bodyguard, Dewayne. Later, Hemlock is seduced by George, who tries to stick him with a syringe and a fight ensues, leaving Hemlock unconscious. When the professor comes to, Bowman explains that the girl was bribed by Mellough. Hemlock takes revenge by shooting Dewayne dead and abandoning Mellough in a remote desert. Later, in Switzerland, Bowman appeals to Hemlock to call off the climb, then introduces him to the team of potential targets: Frenchman Jean-Paul Montaigne, who is accompanied by his wife, Anna; the Austrian Anderl Meyer; and the German Karl Freytag. Despite poor weather conditions, Karl insists the team leave immediately and explains his “new route” up the Eiger rock face. Although Hemlock points out that Karl’s unchartered course leaves no possibility for retreat, the men agree to follow the plan. Before they leave, Jemima reports to Hemlock that the killer’s identity remains undetermined. When the agent Pope arrives and insults Jemima, Hemlock beats the agent, seizes his $100,000 cash payment, and retrieves a gun from Pope’s hotel room. The next day, as the team embarks, Pope tells Jemima that the assignment is a hoax; Wormwood was a pawn in the government’s plan to transfer fraudulent information about germ warfare to the enemy. Upon his assassination, CII orchestrated retaliatory sanctions so the enemy would be convinced that the microfilm’s “secrets” were real. Meanwhile, on the Eiger, Jean-Paul is knocked off the cliff in a rockslide, but Hemlock pulls him to safety as Bowman watches from a telescope back at the hotel. After the climbers spend the night in snow, they awaken to find Jean-Paul dead from a concussion and Hemlock plans a treacherous escape route. Meanwhile, Ben Bowman realizes a shift in the weather threatens the climbers and spearheads a rescue effort through a mountain tunnel but Jemima reveals that Hemlock’s mission was predestined to fail. As the mountaineers rappel down the icy cliff, Anderl and Fretag fall to their deaths. Although Hemlock also slips, he remains suspended on a rope and dangles thousands of feet above ground at the entrance of the tunnel. Looking inside, Hemlock sees Bowman limp toward him and realizes that his friend, not the deceased climbers, is his real target. When Bowman throws Hemlock a rope and orders him to cut the cable holding him from above, the professor entrusts the killer with his life and severs the line. Bowman pulls Hemlock to safety. As the men ride a train down the mountain, Bowman explains that he accepted the Wormwood assignment because he was indebted to Miles Mellough, but he was unaware that Wormwood would be killed. Bowman reveals that Hemlock’s trainer, George, is actually his daughter, who was addicted to drugs until Mellough cured her. Back at the hotel, Hemlock convalesces with Jemima and receives a congratulatory telephone call from Dragon, who is unaware of Bowman’s involvement in the Wormwood assassination and assumes that Hemlock killed all three men because he could not discern which was the real killer. When Jemima leaves, Bowman begs his friend to keep the secret and Hemlock agrees. +

Legend
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Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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