Wednesday, September 12, 2007

CLINT EASTWOOD WESTERN ICON COLLECTION

Upon his return to the New World, Eastwood continued to tread the prairies and deserts of the cinematic West for various studios. Universal has collected the three that he did for them and packaged the films into another of their low-cost "Franchise Collection" sets. In this case, it’s the CLINT EASTWOOD WESTERN ICON COLLECTION, which includes HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973), JOE KIDD (1972) and TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970).

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, directed by Eastwood himself, is the best of the three, a macabre, downbeat Western nightmare, with Clint as a nameless stranger bent on avenging the death of a lawman by ruthless gunmen – and punishing the townspeople who made no effort to stop it. Spooky, possibly supernatural (or possibly not) DRIFTER is pretty harsh stuff, even today. A minor classic.

JOE KIDD is a routine, somewhat uninvolving oater, despite being directed by THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’s John Sturges and being based on a solid Elmore Leonard novel. Eastwood is good as usual, and Robert Duvall and John Saxon both turn in decent performances, but somehow it never quite comes together.

TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA teams Clint with Shirley Maclaine as an unusual nun in a decent little Western adventure directed by Don Siegel (DIRTY HARRY). I had avoided this one for years, ‘cause I’m not a fan of MacLaine, but it’s not bad. The leads have some decent chemistry, the plot is solid, and the climax is appropriately explosive. Not Clint’s best, but a decent time-killer.

Universal’s "Franchise Collection" 2-disc package has DRIFTER and KIDD on disc 1, and SARA on the second disc. Each film is given a decent 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and Dolby Mono sound. The only extras are the original theatrical trailers.

Once again, a bare-bones, budget release from Universal, who clearly don’t give a damn about their older library titles beyond just getting them out there with the least possible effort. DRIFTER, in particular, is really deserving of a Special Edition treatment – I’d love to get a definitive answer to Eastwood’s intentions re: the possible supernatural elements of the flick. But that’s not likely at this point, unless there’s a major shake-up over at Universal Home Video before the aging Eastwood passes away….

Worth getting, but only because this is the only way to (legally) get these particular Eastwood films on DVD in quality widescreen versions.

BUY: Clint Eastwood Western Icon Collection (High Plains Drifter/Joe Kidd/Two Mules For Sister Sara)