Warner Brothers Releases a Blu-ray Tribute to the Staggeringly Impressive Career of Clint Eastwood Review

Few names are so singularly synonymous with Hollywood as Clint Eastwood’s. With a career spanning six decades, he has seen the rise and fall of Titans, watched cineplexes become iPhones, and stocked his mantle with five Oscars and three AFI statuettes for directing and producing in a career that began with iconic performances. As Warner Brothers releases their new 20 Film Collection, certainly Clint’s most eclectic to date, one can’t help but wonder what marvels are left up this master’s sleeve. No matter what inner reaches of the psyche he has left to examine, his body of work already rings immortal and he’ll be remembered and regaled as one of the true pillars of Hollywood, spanning the Golden Age to the new millennium. He reminds us of Tinseltown as it once was and comforts us by showing that good projects can still be made in what it is today.

Before addressing what is in this collection, perhaps it’s easier to briefly mention what’s not. The Man With No Name is the Man Who’s Not Here. The sweeping Spaghetti westerns that launched Clint’s career from the broad shoulders of Sergio Leone are owned by MGM, so they sadly don’t have a home next to his WB titles. Instead, fans can enjoy the later genre pieces The Outlaw Josey Wales and Pale Rider, along with Clint’s first undeniable masterpiece and Oscar darling, Unforgiven. The other oversights are less consequential but certainly somewhat mystifying; Letters from Iwo Jima has a place, but Flags of Our Fathers does not. Similarly, Harry Callahan brandishes his .44 Magnum in Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, and Sudden Impact, skipping over The Enforcer and neglecting the last entry in the franchise, The Dead Pool. The latter was always a favorite for its pointed social commentary on celebrity culture and an early appearance by Jim Carrey credited as James Carrey in the punk rockstar role of Johnny Squares.

The last vacancies worth noting herald from Clint’s World War II days. Opposite the Golden Era’s colossus Richard Burton, Clint bristled with American indignation and suspicion as Lieutenant Schaffer while the crack British commando team he’s been placed with journeys to the SS base in the peaks of the Alps in the expertly crafted Where Eagles Dare. On the flip side of the genre coin, Clint shines in Kelly’s Heroes, a zany 1970 heist film set in WWII, but undeniably born of an irreverent Vietnam-era sensibility. Leading a stellar ensemble that includes Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland, Clint breaks a rare toothy smile as he outsmarts Hitler and the Allies to make off with a bounty of Nazi gold. While both projects were made and released theatrically by MGM, Warner Home Video apparently has DVD/Blu-ray distribution and they would have made a nice addition. Both Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes were ironically included in the larger “35 Films, 35 Years” Collection that Warner Brothers released in 2010.

All told, Clint acts in fifteen of the titles and stays behind the camera for the final five. As it is Warner Brothers’ set, his most recent work is included almost in its entirety. This includes devastating achievements like Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, along with more suspect undertakings like Hereafter and J. Edgar. Only one downright misstep is included, by way of longtime Eastwood collaborator Robert Lorenz’s Trouble With the Curve. Very rarely has Eastwood’s work ever been anything short of commanding; his confidence behind the camera is patient and devastating. Only rarely has he fallen short of perfection, perhaps best evidenced in the confused direction of the rugby matches in Invictus; possibly attributable to a man who simply doesn’t know the precision and fluidity of a sport foreign to most Westerners.

With the only real critiques aside, this is an eclectic collection of a body of work that makes most of Hollywood’s outpouring of content markedly inferior by comparison. The joy of a visionary like Clint is that he allows one to be critical; the Kubricks and Coppolas, Scorseses and Spielbergs inspire conversation and debate with the quality of their products. Instead of walking out the theater with two hours successfully spent and nothing to show for it, the masters challenge us to take their projects beyond the darkened auditorium. Eastwood joins the most rarified of these prestigious minds in that his work has largely maintained its power and prowess. Coppola had his glory days and even Spielberg seemed to have momentarily lost his punch, but Eastwood soldiers on. Steely-eyed and uncompromising in his roles, his contrasting level headedness and sensitivity behind the camera make for a near infallible combination.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Along with the 20 films, there are two sizable documentaries examining the man, the myth, and the legend. The first is The Eastwood Factor, running 88-minutes and specifically focused on Warner Brothers’ lasting romance with Clint. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this piece was first made available back in 2010 and was included in the previous Warner Brothers 35 films set. Featuring Clint himself discussing his career and projects, it other wonderfully quiet moments of sincere sweetness with a man famous for machismo and rugged, uncompromising masculinity. One piece where he visits the costume displays of his old parts lands particularly poignantly. The second piece is Eastwood Directs and features a bevy of interviews with every figure in Hollywood worth respecting. From Sergio Leone to Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, and Costner and Swank to Freeman and Hackman, it’s a superb case study of experiences with a man who walked many paths in entertainment, excelling in all of them. The cherry on top is a small book of images abridged from Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker at Work. While hardly worth anything on its own, it’s a nice add-on to a superb package.

"Clint Eastwood - 20 Film Collection" is on sale June 4, 2013 and is rated R. Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller, War, Western. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Gene Hackman, Hilary Swank, Ken Watanabe, Kevin Costner, Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Tommy Lee Jones.

Kyle North • Staff Writer


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