The Eiger Sanction

The Eiger Sanction” is one of my favorite climbing movies. Released on May 21, 1975 in the United States and through out the summer in other countries, the movie didn’t do great business and was considered a flop. There are many issues with the content and the plot but, when viewed as a product of 1975 Hollywood, the film seems typical of many middle-budget works being released at the time. Watching it today can remind you how the term “politically correct” didn’t really exist then. Cringe worthy scenes abound.

Clint Eastwood stared in and directed the picture and even did many of his own climbing stunts.

The climbing team and safety riggers used for spectacular shots in Utah, Arizona, and Switzerland were a “who’s who” of the early 1970s climbing community. Mike Hoover, Bev Clark, Dougal Haston, Eric Bjornstad (uncredited), John Cleare, and others helped to make the climbing shots surprisingly realistic for a Hollywood production. The camera work was unique and at times it is obviously shot with a climbers eye for mountain detail. One of the criticisms I have read relating to the film is that the climbing scenes dragged a bit and the pacing was too slow and this could certainly be true for a non climber. I tend to find the middle of the film a little tedious at times (during the canyon running scenes and the whole “George” sequence) but hey, Clint needed a little skin in there. It was the 70s after all.

Vertical Archaeology has two autographed photos in our archives, George Kennedy and Reiner Schöne. Academy Award winner George Kennedy played Ben Bowman an old climbing buddy of Eastwoods Dr. Jonathan Hemlock. Kennedy is my favorite character in the movie! He has the best quotes by far. Reiner Schöne played Karl Freytag the cocky young self appointed leader of the climbing team. His character is the hyper-aggressively driven member of the team; willing to push into dangerous terrain and succeed at all costs. Spoiler: it doesn’t end well for him… or anyone really.

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