Brannigan is a British-made film that just about allows Duke Wayne to carry off a tough-guy role at 68. He’s helped by a great supporting cast as well as superb backdrops of London: another time-capsule film.
Directed by Douglas Hickox, Brannigan afforded Wayne the chance to ape the Clint Eastwood style (he had turned down Dirty Harry) and allows a fresh twist by transporting his unchanging cowboy act to Blighty: a horse-wrangler out of water as it were... There are repeated moments in the film which play on this from attempts to get Brannigan to not carry his gun and to follow native procedures. There’s also a nice running contest between the character and his British counterpart, Commander Sir Charles Swann (Richard Attenborough) which plays up every known cliché about the “special relationship”.
|Judy Geeson and Duke|
Lieutenant James Brannigan is a Chicago cop who has his own way of doing thing but (you guessed it…) he gets results. He’s tracking down one particularly nasty crime lord, Ben Larkin (John Vernon), who has been caught trying to flee to England. Somewhat against his will – and to the audience’s delight – Duke…sorry, Brannigan is sent to bring him back. Somehow we sense that it’s not going to be quite that simple… and the old dog’s unconventional methods will be all the more so in London Town…
|Mel Ferrer and John Vernon|
|James Booth and Del Henney keep watch|
But there are some lively police-procedurals as Brannigan and co set about scaring the truth out of the likes of Brian Glover and Tony Booth (Cherie’s dad) not to mention the far less threatening Tony Robinson – “look kids it’s Baldric!”, “Who?”, “Er… the guy out of Time Team!”, “Oh yeah…”
|John Wayne and Tony Robinson|
There’s also a classic bar brawl at a pub in Leadenhall Market in which Attenborough joins Wayne in slugging it out on that violent but harmless way of every good-humoured scrap since The Quiet Man: glassing with a smile and mutually respectful manliness all round.
|Leadenhall Market shake-down|
|Jaguar E-Type on the attack|
The plot is well constructed as the main elements race to a satisfying conclusion as the double-crossing crosses over itself in the inevitable deserted offices of decaying docklands (probably now the home of gastro pubs and luxury flats).
Wayne still convinces and went on to make Rooster Coburn next, one of his better late period films. When I was younger I was less generous to his attempts to stay in the game but this was all he knew, from being an extra in silent films he worked for over 50 years in cinema.
Dusty verdict: Worth watching for the cars and the streets of 1974. There’s also a host of great British acting talent including cameos from Don Henderson and Lesley Anne Down. You can get the very reasonably-priced DVD here.
A couple of years later, The Squeeze showed a sleazier and more realistic side to London’s criminal classes, followed by others, but Brannigan helped keep the British crime flick alive at a time of struggle.
|Lesley Anne Down|
|Brian Glover meets Duke|