We’ve lost count of the number of Clint Eastwood box sets that have been released over the years. This new set claims to be ‘the definitive 40-film, 40-disc set’ and it is definitely the best offering so far, although, because it only contains the movies Eastwood made during his Warner Brothers years, there are some frustrating omissions. Surely no Clint Eastwood set can claim to be ‘definitive’ unless it includes The Beguiled, Play Misty for Me, The Man with No Name Trilogy and even (ahem) Paint Your Wagon? But, despite those gaps, this is still a pleasingly comprehensive overview of the actor/director’s remarkable movie career.
The discs are neatly arranged in four cardboard folders within a sturdy, good-looking box (don’t you just hate when they put DVD’s inside cardboard folders?) and each folder covers its own particular era: 1968-1980 gives us Where Eagles Dare, Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Every Which Way but Loose, Any Which Way You Can, and Bronco Billy. 1982-1989 contains Honkytonk Man, Firefox, Sudden Impact, Tightrope, City Heat, Pale Rider, Heartbreak Ridge, Bird, The Dead Pool, and Pink Cadillac. 1990-2002: The Rookie, White Hunter Black Heart, Unforgiven, A Perfect World, The Bridges of Madison County, Absolute Power, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, True Crime, Space Cowboys, Blood Work. 2003-2016: Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Invictus, Hereafter, J. Edgar, American Sniper, Jersey Boys and Sully.
All the films are in fine shape, although many of the offerings in the first two folders suffer from noticeable image softness, no doubt due to their age. It certainly doesn’t look as if any of the movies in this set have been remastered. But the most recent movies look terrific, with strong detail and great sound.
As you can see from the list, there are arguably more than a few turkeys within this selection. No matter how many times they re-issue Bronco Billy and the Honkytonk Man, we’ll never be convinced that either of those films are worth your time of day, and Every Which Way but Loose and Any Which Way You Can are definitely movies of their time. Eastwood is a fine actor, but he’s not a natural comedian, and when a star of his stature is upstaged by a gurning orangutan it’s not a pretty sight. Still, those two films are worth watching for the wonderful Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby) who steals every scene she’s in, and there’s a kind of daffy charm to the whole affair. Beware the theme song to Every Which Way But Loose, though. It’s a mindworm and you won’t get it out of your head for days. And while we’re on the subject of Eastwood films that don’t quite make the grade, can we please include City Heat and Pink Cadillac, both of which wear out their welcome pretty quickly.
But that still leaves about 85% of this collection to enjoy. The uber-violent (for their time) Dirty Harry movies are still fantastic entertainment, and as a continuing series there’s hardly a bad apple in the bunch (unlike similar franchises like the awful Death Wish films) and Pale Rider and Unforgiven never cease to be magnificent. It’s also pleasing to see the collection takes us right up to date with the Eastwood-directed Sully, which really deserved to do better at the box office, although UK fans have paid a heavy price for its inclusion. The US version of this set omits Sully and Jersey Boys but contains Million Dollar Baby, the underrated gem Trouble with the Curve, and two fantastic documentaries – the Eastwood Factor and Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story – which it would have been very nice to see on this side of the pond. Maybe there were licensing issues, but why oh why do UK viewers always seem to come out worse when it comes to DVD and blu-ray specs? Maybe Dirty Harry Callahan should get on the case…
CLINT EASTWOOD 40 FILM COLLECTION / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: CLINT EASTWOOD, VARIOUS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW