Clint Eastwood: The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection

Clint Eastwood: The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection
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From 1968-75, Clint Eastwood was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. This box set of seven films from Universal from this era displays the many sides of Eastwood: action star, romantic lead, fledgling director and, of course, Western anti-hero. Like most box sets, the results are a mixed bag, and in this case, the bonus features are disappointingly scarce. Don't expect Dirty Harry, either (that was Warner Brothers).
 
Eastwood's westerns are bundled into one slim Blu-ray case and all else into another, making this a compact package to sit on your shelf. Among the westerns, Joe Kidd and High Plains Drifter, especially, recycle Eastwood's Man With No Name persona from the spaghetti Westerns that made him an international action star. They're decent movies, but nothing special — at least the video and audio transfers are crisp. Two Mules For Sister Sara is more interesting, because it shows off a more sensitive side to his tough guy persona as Eastwood protects a nun (a miscast Shirley MacLaine) working with a group of Mexican revolutionaries against the French.
 
The other movies range from lousy to daring. The Eiger Sanction is a spy thriller that sees Eastwood play a secret assassin for the U.S. government, but the albino as evil mastermind is a tip-off that this is a hokey picture. Not much better is Coogan's Bluff, in which Eastwood plays a cowboy deputy sheriff who collects a fugitive in 1968 New York. Hippies are bad people, the film ham-fistedly suggests, and cowboys are good guys.
        
Balancing that out is The Beguiled, in which Eastwood plays a wounded Yankee soldier nursed back to health and kept prisoner. Eastwood as lover comes out in this film, which unexpectedly veers into Southern Gothic. Well-written (by Albert Maltz) and directed (by longtime Eastwood collaborator Don Siegel), The Beguiled is like nothing else in Eastwood's career.
 
The highlight of this set is Play Misty For Me, Eastwood's directorial debut from 1971. Eastwood plays a completely different character: a jazz DJ in smalltown coastal California who is stalked by a deranged woman. Jessica Walter steals the film as the psycho lover, but Misty is nicely shot and assembled by Eastwood's team. His directing style is spare and rough around the edges, but the drama feels real, which sets it in stark contrast to most of the macho posturing in the rest of this box set. Only the Misty disc offers any bonus features, most notably an insightful 50-minute retrospective featurette from 2001 that explains the film's creative process.
 
However, these bonus features are simply carried over from the existing DVD release. Also, I wish the Misty transfer was less grainy and that there were bonus features for, say, The Beguiled. This set is really for Eastwood completists; general movie lovers should seek out Play Misty For Me and The Beguiled individually.

(Universal)