The New Mexican Connection

In this large-scale analysis of Coogan’s Bluff, the action is divided between New York and New Mexico, the connection between the two is a wanted man last seen by McCloud in Taos and just arrested by him after a shootout outside a Manhattan delicatessen.

The crime was bank robbery using explosives, which killed three people. A peace demonstration innocently served as the cover with shouting and bonfires. Back in Taos with his prisoner, McCloud gets a call from a man in Chris Coughlin’s apartment saying she’s been kidnapped, free the prisoner or else.

McCloud immediately flies to New York, a tail is put closely on the nominally freed suspect. The police search every inch of the apartment for clues, someone turns the doorknob, all draw pistols, in walks Chris, accompanied by the pop singer Jimmy Roy Taylor and his manager, Winn Hollis, who has commissioned her to write a book about his client. They’ve been in Connecticut all weekend.

At first, Chief Clifford is more than inclined to drop the whole matter, but McCloud takes the inference that the threat may be realized at any moment, and the Chief concurs.

Meanwhile, a TV journalist is raking the department over the coals because of shootings by Clifford’s own stakeout squad designed to protect small businesses. These men are Detectives Grover and Simms, and Marshal McCloud. A remarkable training film (POV handheld camera) tests the officers’ discernment of the right time to fire at a menacing suspect, but the adverse publicity is affecting Grover and Simms. McCloud, on the other hand, comes in for a particular tonguelashing when the would-be kidnapper takes some potshots at him in the park at night and the Marshal returns fire, only to perforate some trash cans (“were they acting in a threatening manner?”).

In Albuquerque, the bank robber and his partner meet at the Lost Dutchman Motel (the former hitches a ride in a gaudily-painted VW van), or rather the partner arrives first and leaves a bomb in a briefcase. The New Mexican connection is blown to smithereens.

It gradually dawns on McCloud that it’s not a case of blackmail and payoff between partners, but of a professional killing arranged by the actual partner in the bank robbery, to silence a witness.

The recording studio where Jimmy Roy Taylor is wrapping up a session provides a pivotal clue. Chris Coughlin is there, McCloud arrives to ride shotgun. He marvels at the sound editor deftly splicing tape, remembers hearing Chris’s voice on the phone (“I’m all right”) that first night in Taos when the hit man called. One of her taped interviews must have been the source.

Sure enough, it was Winn Hollis. The poor devil never made a dime until Taylor came along, and then the kid tells him about “a cheap robbery” he had committed. Such golden eggs, such a cooked goose.

Hollis and Chris and McCloud are riding through Manhattan at night in a stagecoach (an alternative to the hackney) when this all comes out, Hollis and McCloud scramble over a gun, their fisticuffs carry them to the roof of the stagecoach dragged headlong by the startled horses past theaters, shops, restaurants, etc.

Murray Hamilton’s TV scribe is a minutely accurate study in manner (if not in matter) from models of the national news. Rick Nelson (as Jimmy Roy) sings “I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout You” and “Garden Party”.

Chief Clifford explicitly states the theme of Coogan’s Bluff, “if McCloud would only learn to work through channels!”