Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... FIREFOX

Only now does it occur to me.... that Clint Eastwood basically outsourced the villains of his Cold War caper FIREFOX to the Lucas/Spielberg industrial complex.

The Russian villains you see before you are: Kenneth Colley (Ken Russell veteran and "Admiral Piett" from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK),

Ronald Lacey ("Toht" from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK),

and Wolf Kahler ("Sgt. Gobler" from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK):

To balance things out, we have John Ratzenberger (CHEERS, "Major Derlin" from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), essentially reprising his role from EMPIRE (Rebel on an ice planet) as an American soldier fighting the Evil Empire from the North Pole.

Because I have to tip my hat to the outliers, another of the Russian villains is Klaus Löwitsch, a legitimately Great Actor who may bear some resemblance to Corbin Bernsen, but is in fact one of the most talented players to come out of the New German Cinema and a veteran of no less than five Rainer Werner Fassbinder films. It's probably not too much of a stretch for you to understand that he is completely wasted here.

Apologies, Mr. Löwitsch.

The film itself was a box office smash at the time, but today it plays like a second-tier, phoned in cold war thriller, á la Eastwood's own THE EIGER SANCTION or Peckinpah's THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND. Author Howard Hughes (AIM FOR THE HEART: THE FILMS OF CLINT EASTWOOD) probably sums it up best with, "Less a 'Firefox', it's more of a damp squib, or at best a smoldering turkey."

The opening is kind of a proto-COMMANDO, with shirtless Eastwood as a veteran in pastoral environs trying to enjoy his retirement when he's pulled out to do "one last job." In this case, the Last Job is stealing a top-secret Soviet fighter plane.

I guess there's an understated sci-fi aspect to the film with a "mind-control helmet" that pilots the Soviet plane via telepathy, but that's not even important, so you don't have to worry about it.

Also, for a Cold War actioner, there's not a lot of action. In fact, the entire plot could likely be reduced to about three scenes––therefore, I'm not sure why it runs 2 hours and 15 minutes. Ah, well.

It's also perhaps worth mentioning that the 'thrilling' dogfight is simplistic enough so as to prep us for the eventual Atari game tie-in; and despite using a superior "Reverse Blue-Screen" technology, it still looks inferior to the Battle of Hoth in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Out of the 39 completed films Clint Eastwood has directed, I have now seen 37 of them (for the curious, my only gaps are HEREAFTER and THE 15:17 TO PARIS). Only THE EIGER SANCTION, SULLY, and INVICTUS are as boring as this one. I prefer BREEZY, for godssakes. BREEZY.


Roger said...

When you're right you're right. I'm old enough to remember when this came out (I was an usher in a theatre where it showed). People flocked to this for about 3 days, and all came out shell-shocked and disappointed. "That's it?"

At the time the fact there were no credits at the beginning seemed to be quite modern and transgressive.

Keep up the good work! Roger

Sean Gill said...


Thanks, man––that's interesting to hear about the original audiences! I had to imagine that was the case.

Mongoose said...

I liked the novel a lot better, although I did appreciate the absence of beginning credits.