The Gauntlet (1977) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

One thumb down, one thumb up.

Scoop's comments in white:

Imagine the worst grade-z movie you've ever seen where nothing makes sense, no scene follows logically from any other scene, or bears any relation to anything in the real world. Take one of those super stinkers like Hardcase and Fist. Then add a real budget, and one of the biggest superstars in the history of films, and you get an idea of The Gauntlet. The plot is so bad you aren't even going to believe it when I tell you.

Clint is a dumb, down-on-his-luck, alkie cop who is selected by the police commissioner to bring a nothing witness back for a nothing trial. At first, he thinks that he got this assignment because they won't trust him with any real police work. The reality is far more ominous. The witness is actually a critical element in the case against a mob boss, and that same testimony is also expected to sink the very police commissioner who chose Clint for the job! It works like The Producers. In order for the commissioner to end up on top, he had to assure that the witness transportation would fail, and in order to do that he had to choose the dumbest, most incompetent cop in history. Enter Clint.

Clint goes to Los Vegas to get the witness, and when he arrives they tell him they don't have a guy named Gus Malley for him to transport. They do, however, have a woman named Augusta Malley. I guess they didn't have any of those sexual protection laws in 1977,  because nobody seems to mind that he is a male cop selected to transport a female, although unaccompanied by a female cop. 

Malley immediately looks at him and says "they sent this run-down loser?", even though she (and we) are looking at a clean-shaven Clint, only 47 years old, 6'4", in great physical shape, still one of the best looking men in the world. She was right, of course, but how could she know? She could have said that if she had seen him ten minutes earlier in the film, but not as she sees him then. He looks like Dirty Harry. I guess she read the script, where it said he was a broken down alkie, or maybe she watched the earlier scene with us.

Augusta is a college-educated hooker who knows that the mob wants to kill her. In fact, it is so well known that the Vegas casinos actually have odds against her safe arrival. (You can get 100-1 if you bet on her to make it safely to the trial.) Clint, possessing an IQ only slightly higher than a cherrystone clam, finally gets it in his mind that perhaps he should be cautious when he sneaks the woman out of police HQ in an ambulance, particularly when he finds himself in the middle of a chase scene where several people make several attempts to take them out.

Now, Clint and the girl both realize that every mobster in town is trying to kill them, so where do they go? Take a guess. They go to the girl's house at her one and only long-established address. Boy, that's pretty crafty, eh? Nobody will ever think to look for them there. Clint calls the police force to report his predicament, and the house is soon surrounded by cops. Clint thinks that's OK until the cops start shouting "OK, Rocky, we've got you surrounded. Come out or we start shooting.", and then they literally blast down the entire little house with the force of about 50,000 bullets. Of course, like all two-bit hookers who live in block and stucco houses in the middle of a desert, the hooker has a secret tunnel exit, and they escape the inescapable trap.

They then hijack a police car, and head for the Arizona state line. Clint calls his own police force this time, thinking that the Vegas force is corrupt and in league with the mob. Of course, it never dawns on him that his own police force is the problem, but the hooker gets the idea, so they send the hijacked cop alone to the rendezvous, to see if it's a trap. It is. The dumb cop blindly drives up to the escort at the state line, and he is blown away by another 50,000 rounds of ammunition, plus fighter jets and tanks, while Clint and the hooker watch from the middle of the desert. 

Now Clint and the 'tute are stuck in the middle of nowhere with no transportation, and every cop in two states trying to kill them. No problem, they figure if Moses could make it 40 years in the desert, so can they. They decide to walk to safety, and on their way, they spot some Hell's Angels. Perfect. Clint waves his gun at them, steals one of their bikes, and soon they are biking to Phoenix, except that somebody finds out, and now they are battling choppers with rocket launchers and tactical nuclear weapons. As any military strategist knows, a chopper is no match for a motorcycle in an open desert, and Clint soon manages to trick the pilot into driving into the only electrical wires between Vegas and Phoenix. Needless to say, there is nothing else in the desert which the chopper could possibly hit. He only had to avoid one obstacle, about 25 feet in the air. If he had maintained a constant altitude of 50 feet, he would have been safe, because there is nothing that tall in the desert, but no-o-o-o, so he gets tangled in the wires.

Through a concatenation of circumstances, Clint and the whore have to switch to a freight train. They hop into an open boxcar, one of many boxcars on the first train in any direction, and guess who is in that very same car? Yup, the Hell's Angels whose bike Clint stole. Of course, the bikers didn't know who they were dealing with, so Clint and his call girl soon outsmart and outmuscle them, and the Clintmeister is well on his way again. Now you'd think this would be a pretty good way to travel, since nobody knows where they are except a couple of Hell's Angels who are now walking through the desert on foot, but in the next scene we see Clint and the strumpet walkin' along the railroad tracks, like Andy 'n Opie. 

They stop in a small town, grab some food and a quick bath, and are back on their way by hijacking a Greyhound bus at gunpoint.

Now here's the beauty part. They reinforce the bus, send their exact route to the commissioner, and tell him they're coming in. Exactly why they do this isn't completely clear. Obviously, they could have snuck into town quietly, incognito, but Eastwood is bent on proving that he's really the stud that the commissioner thought he wasn't.

The harlot believes it, because she calls up Caesar's Palace and lays down five grand at 100 to 1 that they will make it. That's five hundred large if they get there safely.

The commissioner, meanwhile, lines the streets with policemen. In the final few blocks, the bus has to pass through a police gauntlet. Policemen are lined on both sides of the streets, blasting wildly away, and there are additional cops blasting away from the rooftops and windows. Despite a hailstorm of bullets going into a metal bus, 

  • none of the cops ever shoots any of the cops on the other side of the street, even though some of them just barely nick the front and back of the bus! (One inch more, and they kill a fellow officer)
  • no ricochet ever hurts any cop, any bystander, or even breaks any storefront windows
  • over several city blocks, none of the cops ever manage to shoot out the tires and make the bus immobile

The bus makes it to the courthouse steps, where it finally stalls out when it's a few steps up. Cops continue to blast away at it after it stops. 

Until Eastwood opens the door.

Then the unwritten code kicks in - the code that says you can kill a guy with 100,000 rounds of ammo if he's in a bus, but as soon as he steps out of the bus, he's free to go. 

Unfortunately, the commissioner has been watching from his office, and he doesn't subscribe to the unwritten code. So he and the evil DA step out to kill Clint and the hooker personally, in broad daylight, on the courthouse steps. Although the four of them are surrounded by the same 1000 cops that were shooting at them a few seconds ago, none of the cops does anything except the brilliant tactic of forming a circle around four people who are blasting away at each other. None of the policemen seem to think this is a dangerous tactic, and their faith is justified, since none of them is hit by an errant bullet.

Then, another part of the unwritten code kicks in. Remember -all of these policemen had orders to kill the hooker, and had been diligently trying to do so moments earlier. But as soon as she killed the police commissioner before their eyes, that automatically invalidated all of his official police orders, and she was free to walk up the steps to the courthouse. With the deference and respect that the police traditionally show for a strumpet who kills the police commissioner, their ranks parted for her like the Red Sea for Moses.

The end.

You know how I usually make up stuff to enrich the narrative a bit? Didn't happen here. That's what really happened, except for the tactical nukes, tanks, and fighter jets.

This movie may hold a record. I don't know if they have a Guinness Record for the most rounds of gunfire expended during a movie shoot, but this one must be a serious contender. This might win even if it competed against documentary footage of the battle of Stalingrad.

Is it a bad movie? Well, it isn't a good one, even if you're a hardcore Eastwood fan, like me. They just keep repeating the mass shootouts over and over and over ad nauseum, until I was completely bored with it, especially knowing that Eastwood was obviously going to make it there safely eventually. On the other hand, you might get caught up in the fun of it. It is absolutely mindless, but so is a roller coaster ride, and people still ride roller coasters for the thrills. And some of the banter is pretty damned funny. Just make sure you check your brain at the door before entering the theater.

Sondra Locke demonstrates the facial exercises that made her WWF coaching so effective.


  • According to IMDb, the movie was originally to be made with Steve McQueen and Barbra Streisand. When McQueen bowed out, Eastwood optioned it for Malpaso as a starring/directing vehicle for himself. 
  • Eastwood directed this mediocre movie only a year AFTER he made his very impressive western, The Outlaw Josey Wales. It would be almost two decades before he would make another film of a quality comparable to Josey (Unforgiven). 
  • Of Clint's 22 films as a director, The Gauntlet is rated fourth from the bottom at IMDb


Sandra Locke shows her breasts in a scene where she distracts the Hell's Angels from beating Eastwood to death.

Then we see her breasts again from the side-rear while she prepares to take a bath.

 Tuna's comments in yellow:

The Gauntlet (1977) is directed by and stars Clint Eastwood as a Phoenix detective sent to Las Vegas to escort Gas Mally back to testify. First surprise, Gus is a woman (Sondra Locke). Second surprise, there is a betting line, and the odds are over 100 to 1 that she will not live to testify. Eastwood realizes that he was picked because the police commissioner never thought he could do the job. The two of them battle the mob, the police, and a biker gang, and eventually run a Phoenix police gauntlet of in a bus.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • mediocre transfer, no meaningful features

Eastwood's character is none too bright, closer to the end than the beginning of his police career, and has a drinking problem. Locke is bright and street wise, and not initially impressed by Eastwood. About half way through, she finds things to admire about Clint, and saves his life by seducing some bikers into raping her rather than beating on Clint. All we see are her breasts in this scene. She also shows breasts from the side getting ready for a bath in a hotel room. Scoring this one is not easy. Using our "crossover appeal" letter grade, it is a C, a solid genre effort. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the film as great escapism with some suspense.

Locke lived with Eastwood from 1977 to 1990, and co-starred with him in six films.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.9 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is at best a C (Tuna), or maybe even a D (Scoopy).

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