This weekend I decided to watch some of the movies I had recorded on the V+ box ages ago and therefore enjoyed a Don Siegel double-bill of Coogan’s Bluff and Charley Varrick. I would have enjoyed it even more if they had not been recorded from ITV4 with its endless advert breaks, but you can’t have everything.
Like I said, both films were directed by Don Siegel. They also both featured cameo parts by him but another familiar face popped up in both – Albert Popwell. He must have been a bit of a favourite of Siegel’s because he also appeared in three of the Dirty Harry films – as three different characters.
I love those late 60′s/early 70′s American films. Without the benefit of enormous budgets and CGI they had to rely on good storytelling and decent cinematography, and a momentum that helps you skip over some of the more outrageous plot holes, which usually involve a woman being willing to jump into bed with someone they have just met in much the same way as they do in James Bond films.
Coogan’s Bluff is basically a Dirty Harry film in a stetson. Coogan has all the character traits of Harry, including his attitude to women, which seems to be shared by Joe Don Baker’s character in Charley Varrick. Varrick himself seems able to get over the death of his wife terribly easily, but I guess that is partly because the film is of its time but also because there is always something a little bit twisted about Siegel’s heroes. I’m sure I had to write dozens of essays about anti-heroes in Don Siegel films at school. Back then I did it because that is what our film studies teacher told us. I doubt that we had enough worldly experience to figure it all out for ourselves back then so its good return to these films thirty years later, work it out for myself, and realise we were actually being told the right thing back then.
I’m still amazed by the scene’s in Coogan’s Bluff with the helicopters landing on the Pan Am building. That must have been an amazing way to arrive in New York. Far more dramatic than taking a cab from La Guardia, to take a sort of civilian Chinook right into the heart of the city and land right on the roof of one of the tallest buildings. It led me to Wikipedia to make sure they really did that.