Brannigan (1975) John Wayne Smashes Through London Dirty Harry Style

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!!

17 thoughts on “Brannigan (1975) John Wayne Smashes Through London Dirty Harry Style

    • Goodness I haven’t watched that one since it was released. It really was rather bad! Enjoyed watching that YT clip though. Cheesy music and all. POW. Tommy ‘Machine’ Gunn! That Rocky speech is pure ace LOL. The Rocky words of wisdom were the backbones of those films. 🙂

      Well I never knew Tommy Morrison was related to The Duke. I just looked at his fight card, really impressive.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice write up, Mikey. Like you I enjoyed Brannigan when I was a kid. Other than that, I never was a big John Wayne fan, but I admire a few films he was in. Didn’t care for Brannigan, but I thought McQ was decent.
    That walk of his was contrived. He walked rather clumsily and an acting coach told him to point his toes downward when he stepped. Wayne practiced and exaggerated what the acting coach told him to do and voila! the John Wayne walk was born.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Pam. Seeing it with mature eyes you can’t help but notice all the silly bits and loss of logic. McQ is the better film but Brannigan wins big on the fun factor.
      Thanks for the info on the walk. I didn’t know it was created. Couldn’t of done his hips much good! It’s almost comical but so unique to him. The nod, the walk and his voice making up the full John Wayne package.

      Have you seen his swan song The Shootist (1976)? I was put on to it when I first started this blog. It’s a perfect movie and a wonderful send off for him. The best line from John Wayne “make like that’s a nipple” then shoves a gun in a rustlers face. LOL.. You can tell he’s not well and the whole seeing this tough frail but still headstrong man is really moving. A very good film.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah, The Shootist is a great film. It may be my favorite John Wayne film. Don Siegel was the perfect director for Wayne, especially at that point of his career. They shared similar social and political views, so Wayne trusted him and gave a truthful, soulful performance befitting his stature and fame.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I love now knowing that Pam, thank you. It all fits into place perfectly. I hadn’t thought about the relationship side of the two, having similar views. giving that natural performance. Remember Jimmy Stewart as the aged doc having to give Wayne the news of his illness. Those two old boys together too. You know what I so want to watch it again. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Your thoughts synchronised with mine to a spooky degree on this one. I loved this as a child too, although looking back, I’m not really sure why.

    When you had the pic of Judy Geeson I thought “Ah, the lovely Judy Geeson”. And then you introduced her in exactly the same way. Then you mentioned Lesley Anne Down and I thought “oh, Lesley Anne Down, who looked great in her undies in The First Great Train Robbery”, and, whaddayaknow, you thought of exactly the same thing! Then I thought “Did he spot Baldrick?” Yes he did!

    I watched it again last year for the first time in years, and yeah it is pretty silly in places, but fun. Tony Robinson was a real surprise as I didn’t know he was in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha I love that Jay! We have such a similar journey in movieland. Hehe so funny that you were thinking all those points and I’d ticked off the same thoughts. “oh, Lesley Anne Down looking great in her undies” 🙂

      I too had a great surprise seeing that it was Tony Robinson. It’s weird because I knew what the youngster looked like under his helmet from seeing it all those years back but had no idea it was him. It was a real treat resulting in the classic point and leg slap “It’s blooming Baldrick!”

      Yep it really rather fun. I like that Richard Attenborough seemed to have a great time. I didn’t mention it in the review and only just crossed my mind was the Hit-Man was rather odd. I know he was meant to be but they really didn’t do anything with him. He just drives around in the most unique flash looking sports car with makes so much noise that everyone hears him coming LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nobody forgets seeing Lesley Anne Down slip out of that corset!

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen Tony Robinson in a film before. And then seeing him in a John Wayne film … it’s just a combination you would never think might actually have happened. The film does have an interesting supporting cast all round.

        The hitman was odd, but he did have a cool black E-Type. They obviously decided that was all he needed.


  3. I think I’ve mentioned this before on your site, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen ‘Brannigan’, though I think I’ve seen ‘McQ’. I just can’t wrap my mind around Wayne in anything but a Western or a war film…and being an Eastwood fan, I’m glad he (or Sinatra, or McQueen, or Newman) chose not to play Dirty Harry. And I just watched that clip of the bar fight…good lord, it looks straight out of a 1930s Western!

    And yeah, seeing Wayne play a detective in a true 1950s noir film might’ve been pretty cool.


  4. Fun film as you say but McQ the better of the two. We’re bang on about this one. Attenborough can always say he’d been in an old fashioned pub brawl with the best there ever was even if it didn’t belong in the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. McQ and Brannigan are entertaining movies but, yes, Wayne was way too old to play the action hero (elderly Harrison Ford can pull it off, but not Wayne). I much prefer him in The Shootist, where Wayne embraces his age — Wayne is brilliant as the old gunfighter trying to die in peace.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah he way too old but it didn’t bother me tbh. Just watching him waddle around London made me smile.
      You so right on The Shootist. I saw it a few years back and was blown away. Gave it sharp shooting 10/10. Loved it so much. What a swan song to go out on!!!!
      Best line from John Wayne “make like that’s a nipple” then shoves a gun in a rustlers face. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

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