July 9th: Wedded Bliss and Bullets

The Gauntlet

144. The Gauntlet (Clint Eastwood, 1977)

Who is Sondra Locke? Who is she really? I know her as the co-star of six of Clint Eastwood’s films during the course of their 14-year relationship and that their break-up involved some heavy duty litigation. The Gauntlet is the second film they made together and it’s pretty ordinary by Eastwood standards. Clint plays a run down cop, Ben Shockley, sent to Vegas to escort prostitute Gus Mally (Locke) to Phoenix for testimony in a supposedly unimportant case. Things start getting tasty when Shockley and Mally, start being hunted down and the chase is on. It sounds like it should be a breakneck action ride but aside from an excellently photographed chase between a motorbike and a helicopter it’s surprisingly pedestrian.

I always badmouth Sondra, because I’d heard she sued Clint after they split up for ruining her career. If Clint Eastwood puts you in six films I’d assume that would be a boost to anyone. Well it turns out it’s a tad more complex than that and if you fancy a read of the long lasting case then take a look here. Suffice to say that it certainly seems like they don’t get along so well anymore. Sondra also wrote a tell-all book about her time with Eastwood, claiming plenty of disreputable activity from the big fella. This isn’t a gossip blog though, so I’ll stick to the cinema.

The Gauntlet brought to my attention something that hadn’t really appeared to me before. I think Clint hates bikers. The biker gang he encounters in this are portrayed as renegade borderline rapists and thugs. They were similarly played in the fourth Dirty Harry film (with Sondra Locke) Sudden Impact. They were also reduced to bumbling incompetents in the two Philo Beddoe movies (with Locke in tow) Any Which Way But Loose and Every Which Way You Can. What is it about the bikers Clint?

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