EASTWOOD: AMERICAN ICON COLLECTION

Published July 4, 2009

Clint. Say it soft. Say it low. Say it with a squint.

I’m a big Clint Eastwood fan — if you’ve read my reviews of Dirty Harry: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition or Gran Torino, you already know this. Having recently picked up a 4-movie DVD package entitled Clint Eastwood: American Icon Collection, I didn’t expect to be writing about it. Reason being, I thought this bargain-priced set was just another quick cashing in by a studio (in this case, Universal) of films that were gathering dust in their vaults. So what a pleasant surprise to discover that this one was actually terrific.
Eastwood: American Icon
Containing Play Misty For Me, The Eiger Sanction, Coogan’s Bluff and The Beguiled, this collection is a must for Eastwood aficionados. Obviously, the cream of this particular crop is …

Play Misty For Me (1971) — In his directorial debut, Clint stars as a radio disc jockey who becomes the victim of psychotic obsession when he tries to end a torrid affair with a fan (Jessica Walter). Does this film hold up after nearly four decades? Yeah, boy. Not even countless imitators like Fatal Attraction can tarnish the brilliance of the original. Tense, creepy, and the ultimate cautionary tale for those with loose morals and looser belts: be careful whose bed you climb in — that pretty face could be hiding your worst nightmare.
GRADE: A

The Eiger Sanction (1975) — Clint directs and stars in this action thriller about a professional assassin who is forced out of retirement in order to avenge a friend’s murder in the Swiss Alps. Ever tried to imagine Eastwood as James Bond? This film answers that question. While the plot does not bear close scrutiny, and some of the performances are downright silly (like Thayer David — Jergens, the fight promoter from Rocky — as the Blofeld-esque Dragon), the real stars of this movie are the Swiss Alps and Monument Valley, Arizona. Both locales are used brilliantly — filled with breathtaking visuals and some of the most amazing stunt work I’ve ever seen … by Clint himself. Not a green screen (or any CGI obviously) in sight.
GRADE: B

Coogan’s Bluff (1968) — Clint stars as a soft-spoken, straightforward Arizona lawman whose unorthodox methods of capturing an escaped murderer anger a tough NYC police lieutenant. This was the first pairing of Clint with director Don Siegel and, while obviously dated, is the perfect transition film from the actor’s legendary spaghetti westerns to his iconic portrayal of Dirty Harry three years later (also directed by Siegel). This movie was the inspiration for the TV series McCloud (1970 – 1977), starring Dennis Weaver.
GRADE: B

The Beguiled (1971) — In this psychological thriller of love, betrayal and hidden passions, Clint stars as a wounded soldier who finds shelter in an all-girls academy during the Civil War. Eastwood’s third film with Siegel is one of his strangest, but what happens to Clint’s Union soldier while under the bed care (ha!) of these young women (led by an excellent Geraldine Page) is the stuff of nightmares. Especially what they do to his leg … yeeesh!
GRADE: B

CLINT EASTWOOD (1993) painted by Andy Williamson — acrylic vinyl
Clint Eastwood
All films are widescreen and nicely transferred. Misty and Eiger get their own discs, while Coogan and Beguiled share a third (single-sided). But the kicker here is the bonus content on the Play Misty For Me disc (which is identical to its previous solo release). Play It Again … A Look Back at Play Misty For Me (49:20) is an excellent 2001 Making Of doc (directed by über-documentarian Laurent Bouzereau) featuring new interviews with its makers and cast. Very well done. Be warned however, if you’ve never seen the film, this doc is pretty spoilerific … watch the film first. The other, shorter features: The Beguiled, Misty, Don and Clint (6:13, with more spoilers), Clint Eastwood on DVD (1:26), Clint Eastwood Directs and Acts (2:03), not to mention Photo and Poster montages, and theatrical trailers, make this DVD set a must have for Clint fans. Amazon currently has this at only $12.49! Disc One of this set is worth that purchase price alone — to get these other three films too is all gravy, baby.
BONUS CONTENT: B+

By the by … each of these films contain dialogue, characters and situations that are so glaringly un-PC as to be startling in this new millennium. The black stereotypes (like Eiger Sanction’s Jemima Brown), gay caricatures (especially in Misty and Eiger), and seduction of Clint by teenage girls (in Beguiled) are shocking to be sure. And yet, right or wrong, they seem to fit in the late 60s/early 70s time capsule that these films represent. But come to think of it, which of Clint’s films aren’t edgy and controversial? None, that’s how many. Somehow coming from Clint (“That’s mighty white of you,” heard in more than one of his movies) — the epithets are strangely diffused. If one needs a final discourse on racism in Eastwood movies, one need only watch Gran Torino.

Bottom line, this is a terrific (and terrifically priced) package — highly recommended.

OVERALL GRADE: A-

ONE FINAL NOTE: Speaking of “imitators” … it occurs to me if you take the psychotic female fan of Play Misty For Me and cross it with the wounded man held captive in The Beguiled — again, especially with what they do to his leg, yeeeesh! — you get Stephen King’s Misery. Hmmmm. (Sorry Steve, you’re my favorite, but in 1971 I’m thinking both of these films made quite an impression on you.) Even the “Annabelle Lee” reveal in Play Misty For Me is similar to the film version of Misery when Sheriff Buster figures out about Annie Wilkes from a Misery quote. Not in the book, so thank you William Goldman. As Chuck Berry and Richard Matheson can attest: There truly is nothing new under the sun.

WORDSLINGER’S SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: Yes, I did paint the above portrait (and the one below). To see more, check out ThePaintslinger.

CLINT EASTWOOD AS DIRTY HARRY (2009) – painted by Andy Williamson
Dirty Harry