The Gauntlet (film)

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The Gauntlet
The gauntlet.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Frank Frazetta
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Robert Daley
Written by
Music by Jerry Fielding
CinematographyRexford L. Metz
Edited by
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
December 21, 1977
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5.5 million [1] [2]
Box office$35.4 million [3]

The Gauntlet is a 1977 American action thriller film directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Sondra Locke. The film's supporting cast includes Pat Hingle, William Prince, Bill McKinney, and Mara Corday. Eastwood plays a down-and-out cop who falls in love with a prostitute (Locke) whom he is assigned to escort from Las Vegas to Phoenix in order for her to testify against the mob.

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of events that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero. Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common action scenes in films are generally, but not limited to, explosions, car chases, fistfights, and shootouts.

Thriller film Film genre

Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible.

Clint Eastwood American actor, filmmaker, musician, and politician

Clinton Eastwood Jr. is an American actor, filmmaker, musician, and politician. After achieving success in the Western TV series Rawhide, he rose to international fame with his role as the Man with No Name in Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy of spaghetti Westerns during the 1960s and as antihero cop Harry Callahan in the five Dirty Harry films throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These roles, among others, have made Eastwood an enduring cultural icon of masculinity.



Ben Shockley, an alcoholic cop from Phoenix, is given the task to escort witness Augustina "Gus" Mally from Las Vegas. His superior, Commissioner E.A. Blakelock, says she is a "nothing witness" for a "nothing trial." Mally protests that they are both set up to be killed in a hit, which a jaded Shockley doubts. Mally reveals herself to be a belligerent prostitute with mob ties and is in possession of incriminating information concerning a high figure in society.

Her suspicions are confirmed when the transport vehicle is bombed and Mally's house is fired upon. Shockley and Mally are then pursued across the open country with no official assistance and with the police force regarding them as fugitives. They kidnap a local constable, who they then let go, as Mally knows there'll be another hit. The constable dies at the hands of several men armed with machine guns. They eventually run into a gang of bikers whom Shockley threatens with his revolver, then confiscates one of their motorcycles and takes off on it with Mally.

Car bomb improvised explosive device

A car bomb, lorry bomb, or truck bomb, also known as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), is an improvised explosive device placed inside a car or other vehicle and then detonated.

It is revealed that Shockley's boss, Commissioner Blakelock, wants both of them dead, because Mally knows about Blakelock's secret life. Assistant District Attorney Feyderspiel is involved with the plot to kill Shockley and Mally. Both of them are also blamed for the death of the constable.

The two ride into a town where Shockley and Mally are ambushed by a helicopter filled with cops sent by Blakelock who pursues the two onto the open road, firing at them from above. During the high-speed pursuit, the helicopter crashes and explodes. The two ditch the damaged motorcycle and hop on a train on which, coincidentally, the same two bikers whose machine they had "borrowed" are riding. The bikers attack and assault Shockley and attempt to rape Mally. The wounded Shockley grabs hold of his gun and subdues the bikers, knocking them and their girlfriend off the train. Shockley and Mally both realize that going back to Phoenix will be suicide, but it's the only way to prove their innocence.

The two hijack a bus and outfit it with a crude set of armor made from scrap steel. They are about to enter Phoenix when Maynard Josephson, an old friend of Shockley's, warns the two of a gauntlet of armed police officers that Blakelock has set up to "welcome" them. Josephson convinces Shockley to turn himself in to Feyderspiel whom he thinks is an honest broker. As the pair follow Josephson out of the bus, Josephson is shot dead from a nearby building, and Shockley is hit in the leg.

With no other option, the two return to the bus and enter the town. The bus is shot at as it runs the titular "gauntlet" of hundreds of armed officers lining both sides of the road, until it reaches the steps of City Hall, finally immobilized. The two emerge from the riddled bus and surrender, but Shockley uses Feyderspiel as a shield, in order to have him confess that Blakelock is corrupt. The enraged Blakelock shoots at both Shockley and Feyderspiel, wounding the former and killing the latter. Blakelock is in return shot dead by Mally. Realizing Blakelock's crime and having witnessed his wanton killing of Feyderspiel, the rest of the assembled officers do nothing to stop the pair as Shockley and Mally walk away safely from the gauntlet.


Sondra Locke American actress

Sandra Louise Anderson, professionally known as Sondra Locke, was an American actress and director. She made her film debut in 1968 in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Locke went on to star in such films as Willard, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Every Which Way But Loose, Bronco Billy, Any Which Way You Can and Sudden Impact. On each film, she had worked with Clint Eastwood, who was her companion for 13 years. Locke's autobiography, The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly – A Hollywood Journey, was published in 1997.

Pat Hingle Actor

Martin Patterson Hingle was an American character actor, who appeared in hundreds of television shows and feature films. His first film was On the Waterfront in 1954. He often played tough authority figures. Hingle was a close friend of Clint Eastwood and appeared in the Eastwood films Hang 'em High, The Gauntlet, and Sudden Impact. He's also remembered for his role as Gotham City's police commisioner Jim Gordon in the Batman film franchise from 1989 to 1997.

William Prince (actor) American actor

William LeRoy Prince was an American actor who appeared in numerous soap operas and made dozens of guest appearances on primetime series as well as playing villains in movies like The Gauntlet and Spontaneous Combustion.


Written by Dennis Shryack and Michal Butler, [1] the film was originally set to star Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand; Brando subsequently withdrew and was replaced by Steve McQueen. [4] However, differences between McQueen and Streisand ultimately led to their joint departure in favor of Eastwood and Locke. There was some pre-production discussion of transforming the Ben Shockley role into a down and out Dirty Harry portrayal [5] The Gauntlet was filmed in Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as in nearby deserts in both states. [1] For the house scene, it was built at a cost of $250,000 and included 7,000 drilled holes that would include explosive squibs for its demolition. [2] The helicopter chase scene included a helicopter that was built without an engine for the crash sequence. [2] To simulate the gunshots from the gauntlet of officers at the end of the film, the bus was blasted with 8,000 squibs. [2] From the total budget of $5.5 million, $1 million was spent on the various action sequences. [1]

Dennis Shryack was an American screenwriter whose credits included The Gauntlet in 1977, Code of Silence (1985), starring Chuck Norris, and Turner & Hooch (1989), which stars Tom Hanks and Beasley the Dog. Shryack also co-wrote the screenplay for Pale Rider in 1985, directed by Clint Eastwood, which became the highest grossing Western film of the 1980s, taking in the $41 million. Shryack often collaborated on screenplays with other writers, including penning seven films with Michael Butler, as well as partnerships with Michael Blodgett on Turner & Hooch and Run in 1991.

Marlon Brando American actor, film director, and activist

Marlon Brando Jr. was an American actor and film director. With a career spanning 60 years, during which he won the Oscar for Best Actor twice, he is well-regarded for his cultural influence on 20th-century film. Brando was an activist for many causes, notably the civil rights movement and various Native American movements. Having studied with Stella Adler in the 1940s, he is credited with being one of the first actors to bring the Stanislavski system of acting and Method Acting, derived from the Stanislavski system, to mainstream audiences.

Barbra Streisand American singer, actress, writer, film producer, and director

Barbara Joan "Barbra" Streisand is an American musician, actress, and filmmaker. In a career spanning six decades, she has achieved success in multiple fields of entertainment and has been recognized with two Academy Awards, ten Grammy Awards including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Grammy Legend Award, five Emmy Awards including one Daytime Emmy, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Kennedy Center Honors prize, four Peabody Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and nine Golden Globes. She is among a small group of entertainers who have been honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award – though only three were competitive awards – and is one of only two artists in that group who have also won a Peabody.


Frank Frazetta painted the super-stylized promotional billboard poster for the film. The poster features a "muscled colossus Eastwood, brandishing a pistol, and scantily clad Locke, her clothes teasingly shredded, clinging onto her hero". [6]

Frank Frazetta American illustrator and painter

Frank Frazetta ; February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010) was an American fantasy and science fiction artist, noted for comic books, paperback book covers, paintings, posters, LP record album covers and other media. He was the subject of a 2003 documentary.


Box office

The Gauntlet grossed $35.4 million at the box office, [3] making it the 14th highest-grossing film of 1977.

Critical response

Although a hit with the public, the critics were mixed about the film.

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and called it "classic Clint Eastwood: fast, furious, and funny. It tells a cheerfully preposterous story with great energy and a lot of style, and nobody seems more at home in this sort of action movie than Eastwood." [7] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a movie without a single thought in its head, but its action sequences are so ferociously staged that it's impossible not to pay attention most of the time." [8] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote, "At the very least, Eastwood periodically tries something different, and if the price of that is a run of formula programmers, let it be." [9] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four and stated, "This is a very stupid movie. Supposedly, it's all meant to be in good fun. And true, the script does have the dialog of a comic book. But there is not one bit of wit in the film." [10] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times declared, "Until it overreaches in its final minutes, Clint Eastwood's 'The Gauntlet' succeeds in making the fantastic credible. Indeed, the getting there is so outrageous and witty that those who admire Eastwood's laconic style behind the camera as well as in front of it are likely to overlook that flawed finale. At any rate, there's plenty going on at all times to please action fans." [11] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "If 'The Gauntlet' improves on Eastwood's customary box-office success, I hope it will be ascribed to the glimmers of old-fashioned romantic devotion and the expressions of support for middle-class stability and respectability that have been allowed to mitigate the usual nihilistic mayhem." [12] Judith Crist of the New York Post thought that the film was "a mindless compendium of stale plot and stereotyped characters varnished with foul language and garnished with violence." [6] David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, "You don't believe a minute of it, but at the end of the quest, it's hard not to chuckle and cheer." [13]

The film has a score of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews. [14]


The Gauntlet
The Gauntlet (Soundtrack).jpg
Soundtrack album by
RecordedSeptember 13 & 15, 1977
The Burbank Studios Hollywood, California
Genre Film score
Label Warner Bros.
BSK 3144

The film score was composed and conducted by Jerry Fielding featuring soloists Art Pepper and Jon Faddis and the soundtrack album was released on the Warner Bros. label in 1978. [15]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [16]

The AllMusic review by Donald A. Guarisco states: "All in all, The Gauntlet is a strong, consistently engaging album that is well worth a listen for any soundtrack buff whose tastes lean toward the 'crime jazz' sound". [16]


See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Hughes, p.63
  2. 1 2 3 4 Munn, p. 161
  3. 1 2 "The Gauntlet, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  4. Eliot (2011), p. 298
  5. McGilligan (1999), p.279
  6. 1 2 Hughes, p.65
  7. Ebert, Roger. "The Gauntlet". . Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  8. Canby, Vincent (December 22, 1977). "Screen: Eastwood 'Gauntlet'". The New York Times . 51.
  9. Murphy, Arthur D. (December 21, 1977). "Film Reviews: The Gauntlet". Variety . 20.
  10. Siskel, Gene (December 22, 1977). "Lots of bullets fly, but 'Gauntlet' is full of blanks". Chicago Tribune . Section 2, p. 5.
  11. Thomas, Kevin (December 21, 1977). "'The Gauntlet' Lives Up to Its Title". Los Angeles Times . Part IV, p. 15.
  12. Arnold, Gary (December 21, 1977). "A Mellowed Eastwood". The Washington Post . D1.
  13. McGilligan (1999), p.273
  14. "The Gauntlet, Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes . Flixster . Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  15. Discogs album entry accessed February 2, 2016
  16. 1 2 Yanow, Scott. More for Les at the Village Vanguard – Review at AllMusic . Retrieved February 1, 2016.