With one sharp bash, a flat footed size eleven hits the door. It flies through the air, the hinges ripped completely off. “Knock knock” says the man. His silhouette stands as wide as the door. A familiar figure. He has that slight nod of the head we know him for but it’s his gait that always gives him a way. Does anyone stand and walk like this man? He certainly was unique. Of course we all know him as the good ole cowboy but here he’s playing Dirty Harry’s Dad
Inside the room Angell (Arthur Batanides), covered in ink, is frozen in shock for a few seconds. He suddenly realises who it is. Lieutenant James Brannigan (John Wayne). He’d been caught red handed. The printing press spat out dollar bills. The cop looks at the money. He grabs a sheet. He comments on the good work. The tough Chicago Police Lieutenant screws it up and nets it in the bin. He speaks direct and firmly with his gravelly voice. “Where’s Larkin?” Brannigan has no concern for the counterfeit money. “Where’s Larkin?“. He takes out a sidearm concealed in a plastic bag. Clean, untraceable, no serial number, no prints. He points it at the felon’s head. “You got five seconds to tell me where“. Angell’s cocky from 5 to 2 then instant panic and sweat sets in. “No wait, I don’t know! You gotta believe me!” Brannigan gives him the benefit of doubt and tells him to cool it. He flings the bagged gun on the table, turns and phones HQ.
The counterfeiter eyes up the gun and then Brannigan. He goes for it. “Turn around big man.” With a sly, devious smile Angell fires off two rounds. Two empty rounds. The big man calmly turns and says. “Oh, you know something, I don’t think it’s loaded.” Panic sets back in as he knows he’s going down. “You dirty lousy mick. You got no rules YOU GOT NO RULES!” He throws the gun at him. Brannigan ducks whilst grabbing a four by two of timber and puts a kibosh to Angell’s screaming face. He grabs a lamp cord and ties his hands. Angell starts to come round. “Listen Brannigan, you’re dead! There’s a contract out on you!” The cop sways back to him, leans down and picks up the revolver concealed in the plastic bag. Throwing it next to the hogtied man “Try explaining that to your parole officer.”
There was only thing Lieutenant James Brannigan wanted and that was Larkin. Soon he’d find out how far he would have to go to get his man. With half the Chicago police department looking for Brannigan he’s finally picked up and taken to the airport. Captain Moretti (Ralph Meeker) has it all ready for him. It’s good news. Larkin had been caught. The only slight problem was he’d been captured in London. Jim Brannigan was being sent to London to extradite this notorious American gangster, Ben Larkin (John Vernon). So off flies the big man to jolly ole England and the adventure beginnings.
Tagline – Big Jim Brannigan takes on London – Chicago Style !
Along for the ride is the lovely Judy Geeson who plays Detective Sergeant Jennifer Thatcher. Unfortunately she doesn’t get to do a lot but drive Brannigan around London. Judy Geeson has been in The Eagle Has Landed (1976) played a sexy and kooky model in Hammerhead (1968) falls in love with a bomb disposal officer in the brilliant series Danger UXB (1979) and starred alongside Dickie before in 10 Rillington Place (1971)
Richard Attenborough plays Commander Sir Charles Swann. He’s the upper class head of the Metropolitan Police Department. He might come across stuffy and a little snooty but the fella isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. As the film goes on he seems to have great fun with the character. Taking every opportunity to catch Brannigan out for bending the rules with his brash Yankee ways. They have a good respect and camaraderie together.
It’s also good to spot a few familiar Brit faces pop up in small roles. Like Brian Glover as Jimmy The Bet. Among many things he will be best remembered as “That’s enough” in An American Werewolf in London (1981) and those Tetley Tea Bags adverts from our youth. Then there’s Lesley-Anne Down who plays a rather saucy young lady called Luana. She’s been known to look lovely in a corset in The Great Train Robbery (1978) or flirting with Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976). And one last spot. Tony Robinson as an innocent looking motorcycle courier. Of course he will always be much loved as the legendary Baldrick from Blackadder and The Sheriff in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men.
A few things I’ve learnt along the way.
- Directed by Douglas Hickox who had made the atomic monster movie The Giant Behemoth (1959), the Vincent Price and friends horror comedy Theater of Blood (1973) the great prison escape movie Sitting Target (1972) and Zulu Dawn (1979) to name a few.
- It is said that John Wayne really wanted the role of Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry (1971) and after it’s success was eager to do a gritty cop movie. The result was McQ (1974) with Brannigan hastily followed the year after. Both featured the same producers Arthur Gardner, Jules V. Levy and John’s own son Michael Wayne.
- It’s a shame that he only did the two cop films as John Wayne fitted the part well I thought. However great the man was as a cowboy it would of been nice to have seen him in more detective roles. I’d of loved to seen him in some film noir.
- The screenplay and story was in part written by Christopher Trumbo the son of Dalton Trumbo. Dalton had been blacklisted as part of the Hollywood Ten for having Communist views. It is said that John Wayne might of had a part of getting him blacklisted?
- The soundtrack by Dominic Frontiere and The London Symphony Orchestra is pretty ace with a few memorable tracks filtered throughout. Unfortunately it was never released on vinyl though it did get a CD issue from La-La Land Records in 2003.
I’d really loved this film as a kid. It had been a long time but I still liked it on watching it again. More in a nostalgic way. However it has strange moments of slap stick antics as it flips between the tough American cop fitting into our pompous British ways. One set piece near the end of the film sets up a spectacular pub fight for no real reason other than having a big brash bout of fisticuffs. It’s completely ridiculous. Screaming big breasted landlady, market traders, navy officers, drunks of all sorts and a posh bower hatted banker who gets repeatedly punched in the face. Right in the center is John Wayne firing his big fists into faces and Richard Attenborough bouncing up and down giving the old one two with Queensbury rules. Dickie looked like he was having a right blast. I can imagine it was a fun scene to have filmed however it just seemed so comical for the film.
I think McQ edges Brannigan as a tough cop movie but Brannigan is a lot more fun. I’m pleased he didn’t get to be Dirty Harry but I’d have loved to have known what it would of been like.
Thanks for having a read. Feel free to let me know your memories/thoughts on this one if you wish. All the best and God save the Queen!!