My sister-in-law, an avid skier and mountain climber who’s living in Switzerland for a year, recommended the movie The Eiger Sanction for a good laugh. In case you aren’t familiar with the film (and I wasn’t), it stars Clint Eastwood as a professor/fine-art collector/former assassin (!) who is pulled out of retirement to perform one last assignment. His target: a member of a team of mountain climbers planning to scale the Eiger in the Swiss Alps.
The movie came out in 1975 and is based on the bestselling spy-spoof novel of the same name by Trevanian, the pen name of Rod Whitaker. It’s worth seeing for its humorously bad lines alone, which are made even funnier with Eastwood’s gravelly delivery.
Some examples of its awesomely bad dialogue:
“I’ve grown very tired of waiting for you to step up behind me—and relieve me of existing.”
“All and all it’s a very shabby piece of research obscured by involuted style. Shabby research I can stand, but involuted style really makes my a** drag!”
And my favorite:
“Dragon, you have a talent for describing the undescribable.”
You can see just what I mean by viewing the trailer of The Eiger Sanction, featuring Eastwood as “Jonathan Hemlock, collector of art and women”:
Maybe, as Laura Miller suggests in her recent article “Bad writing: What is it good for?,” you can learn what not to do by taking in less-than-stellar dialogue. Or perhaps you’d prefer advice for writing good dialogue as well as six tips for writing better dialogue.
Feel free to post your favorite bad dialogue—from movies, books or plays—in the comments.
—Sarah C. Lange, associate editor