Dr. Jonathan Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) is tired of killing for a living, but the ruthless government agency he works for needs his services again, and they'll use any kind of manipulation they have to in order to get him to take one last job. They eventually convince him to take on a dangerous undercover mission that involves climbing the Eiger--and the most dangerous aspect is that he doesn't know which of his fellow climbers is the enemy assassin he's supposed to "sanction." THE EIGER SANCTION is Eastwood's exciting journey into the world of the James Bond-style spy thriller. Eastwood was attracted to the script by the opportunity it afforded him to film exciting climbing sequences in the Swiss Alps, and these well-made sequences are the high point of the movie. Eastwood insisted on doing almost all his own climbing. The plot, vased on the novel by Trevanian, is entertainingly far-fetched; its main purpose seems to be getting Hemlock on that mountain, so it succeeds. Eastwood gets strong supporting help from George Kennedy as his aging climbing buddy, Ben Bowman; Vonetta McGee as the provocatively named Jemima Brown, the woman he's not sure he can trust; and, most amusingly, Jack Cassidy in a hilariously over-the-top performance as Miles Mellough, a flamboyant gay double agent.
College art professor, mountain climber, hired assassin--Clint Eastwood is all these and more as the director and star of this action-adventure picture set high in the Swiss Alps. He plays Jonathan Hemlock, a retired hit man who is drawn back into action by a U.S. secret intelligence organization known as the CII. He's doing it all for the love of art though: His reward for assassinating two enemies of the CII is a priceless Pissarro to add to his collection of stolen art.
The film was shot in the Bernese Oberlands of Switzerland and in Monument Valley, Arizona.
While filming a simulated rock slide on the Eiger early on in the shoot, a young climber, David Knowles, was killed when he was struck on the head by a falling rock. Eastwood considered canceling the production but, partly at the urging of the other climbers working on the film, decided to continue.
THE EIGER SANCTION was the last film Eastwood made for Universal before establishing his long-standing relationship with Warner Brothers.
Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough) is the father of former teen idols David and Shaun Cassidy. He was also once married to Shirley Jones, who played David's mother on the 1970s TV series THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY.