The 'Clint Eastwood 20-Film Collection' consists of Blu-rays that have already been released individually by Warner Bros. Since High-Def Digest has already reviewed the majority of these titles, instead of providing full re-reviews of the discs, links to the original reviews are provided below where applicable.
Four titles in this set, 'Magnum Force,' 'The Gauntlet,' 'Firefox,' and 'Sudden Impact' have not been previously reviewed by High-Def Digest, so a little more detail about each one of those discs has been provided below.
Since the majority of these movies have gotten full reviews already, I have provided a few of my own personal reflections/views on each movie.
Finally, in terms of rating the overall set, I have averaged HDD's prior A/V and extras ratings (along with my own for the four films listed above and the extras unique to this set) to get those star ratings. However, when it comes to our "The Movie Itself" rating, I have used my own personal ratings for the 20 films in this set.
Eastwood was already a well-known actor by the time 'Dirty Harry' was released in 1971, but this is probably the role that helped turn him into a movie icon. Although the film is over 40 years old, it still holds up as a thrilling police drama. Of course, it's far less controversial now than it was at the time of its release (when famed movie critic Pauline Kael called it fascist), but the movie still has a lot of relevant questions to pose about how we treat victims versus how we treat those who do the victimizing. In latter sequels, Eastwood's Harry Callahan would become more of a "super cop," but here (and in the first sequel) he's still very human, and very determined to protect the innocent even it if means bending the rules. (Read our complete review of Dirty Harry.)
So many critics and moviegoers chastised the vigilantism of Harry Callahan in 'Dirty Harry,' that 'Magnum Force' is a not-so-thinly-veiled direct response to that outcry. Here, Harry discovers a group of cops on his own force that are serving as judge, jury, and executioner to alleged criminals, and the corruption may go all the way to the top. The cops involved assume that Callahan will support them, but Harry draws a line in the sand – showing he's far from the fascist many accused him of being the first time around.
I won't go as far to say that 'Magnum Force' is a superior sequel, but it's a darn good one. It is what all sequels should strive to be…taking the same lead character and testing his (or her) limits in a unique new way. Like 'Dirty Harry,' this is a very political movie, and a nice counterbalance to the original film. The first movie preaches more protection of the innocent, but the second film makes it clear where the limits to those protections should be.
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Fans of Clint's Westerns should be happy to hear that three of his best ones shot with Warner Bros. are part of this set. The first of these is 'The Outlaw Josey Wales,' which is the second Western Clint directed for the studio (the first being 'High Plains Drifter') and one that shows the beginnings of Clint's evolution into a great director. One of the things you'll note about the Westerns that Clint stars in is that there is usually very little given about his character's background. The viewer probably knows more about Josey Wales than any other Western character Clint has played, and even then all we know is that his wife and child were murdered. My only real complaint about the movie is the insertion of the Sondra Locke character (whom Eastwood was in a relationship at the time and therefore started finding roles for in almost all of his movies of that period), who really doesn't serve any purpose here. One wonders if Clint had to do the movie again if he'd streamline the story a bit more. Still, the film earns its reputation as one of the best Westerns of its era. (Read our complete review of The Outlaw Josey Wales.)
The first movie in this set that really seems out of place among the others is 1977's 'The Gauntlet.' This is a rather average affair with Eastwood playing a Phoenix cop assigned to bring a protected witness (Sondra Locke) back to Arizona from Las Vegas. The movie is essentially a "road" picture with the two constantly being chased by the bad guys, constantly bickering, and constantly blowing things up.
I suppose Warner Bros. included 'The Gauntlet' in this set due to the fact that it was a moderate hit with the public (it ranked 14th domestically in box office in 1977) and because it's an Eastwood-directed movie. It's a watchable enough film, but it pales to many of the other selections on this set. Still, it's notable to view Clint's further development behind the lens.
Every Which Way But Loose
Of all the Eastwood movies in this set, 'Every Which Way But Loose' is easily my least-favorite. I mean, the movie is just bad. We have Clint with an orangutan sidekick dating a country singer (Sondra Locke...again!) being chased around the countryside by a bunch of Nazi-wannabe bikers. About all I like is the theme song. Yet, can you believe this is actually Clint's most successful theatrical release by far (when adjusted for inflation)? Sadly, the film's success paved way for an even more moronic sequel. Thankfully, Warner Bros. has spared us by not including it in this collection. (Read our complete review of Every Which Way But Loose.)
The addition of 'Firefox' in this set as a stand-alone disc is interesting, because I don't believe a single version has been available in Region A to date (if there was, it is no longer available). There is a 'Heartbreak Ridge/Firefox' combo disc available in Region A, but I'm pretty sure only other countries have seen a solo version of 'Firefox.'
Made during the heart of the Cold War, it's easy to see what drew the always-political Eastwood to both star in and direct 'Firefox.' While marketed as an action-adventure movie, in retrospect the film seems much more along the lines of a thriller - in many ways much like the Tom Clancy films that we'd see in the 1990s. Because of the time period in which it was made, 'Firefox' plays up on the whole "Evil Empire" view of the Soviet Union that was in place during the Ronald Reagan administration. It dates the movie, but it also makes it an interesting bit of history.
My immediate reaction to watching 'Firefox' again after having not seen it since probably the late 80s/early 90s is just how slow the movie moves. Today's audiences would never be able to tolerate the pacing here, and a movie that was considered a summer tentpole film in 1982, would be looked at as a fall drama by any studio putting out a similar title in today's market. In the Eastwood library of movies, 'Firefox' lies somewhere in the middle – not a rousing adventure, but certainly not a failure either. It's worth owning just to see how Eastwood (as director) deals with the politics involved in the plot.
The fourth and by far the darkest of the five 'Dirty Harry' flicks, 'Sudden Impact' is best known for giving us what is arguably the most classic one liner in all of Eastwood's movies (if you don’t know what it is, why should I spoil it?). Even though that early scene (where the line is delivered) is great, the rest of the film finds Harry Callahan as much more of a rogue cop than he was in the previous films. It also provides a Dirty Harry that is less sure of himself and his choices. This is the only one of the five 'Dirty Harry' movies that was directed by Eastwood, so it's probably no surprise that this one feels much different than all the rest.
Harry is drawn into the investigation of a serial killer, who turns out to be a rape victim (Sondra Locke, in her final appearance in an Eastwood movie) getting revenge on the men who assault both her and her sister. When Callahan figures out who is responsible, he's torn between his sympathy for the victims and his duty as an officer of the law.
The line he seemed to draw in 'Magnum Force' is ignored here, as Harry actually lets the avenging victim walk free at the movie's conclusion (not without good reason, but still). Because of its more somber tone, 'Sudden Impact' has always been my least-favorite of the 'Dirty Harry' films entertainment-wise, but it's also the only one of the five films that seems to exam Callahan's inner psyche.
'Unforgiven' will probably be remembered as Eastwood's best-directed Western, but 'Pale Rider' is a close second. Once again, we get a protagonist that we know virtually nothing about. We can't even be sure that he's human (the name of the movie is a Biblical hint). There's a lot of similarities to this film and 'High Plains Drifter,' as well as the Man With No Name trilogy of spaghetti Westerns Clint did early in his career. I'm a huge fan of movies that don't give all the answers to the audience, and 'Pale Rider' is one such film. Loaded with religious overtones and beautifully-shot scenery, this is one of the gems in this 20-film set. (Read our complete review of Pale Rider.)
Clint has played a lot of mean-spirited roles in his career, but I'm not sure there's anyone meaner (on the outside, at least) than Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway of 'Heartbreak Ridge.' Although set during the invasion of Grenada, this movie has a lot in common with Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, which would come out a year after 'Heartbreak Ridge.' Both movies feature a gruff training sergeant whipping his men into shape, and both movies' second half have those trainees going off to war. Eastwood's movie is more "popcorn" entertainment than Kubrick's, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's a very well-made film (and yet another with Eastwood in the director's chair). (Read our complete review of Heartbreak Ridge.)
As I discussed earlier this year in a Bonus View blog topic, 'Unforgiven' is one of those films that I didn't particularly care for the first time out, but grew to love later. As I explained then, I wasn't quite prepared for the journey Eastwood was taking us on with the character of Will Munny, and it took me a few viewings to really appreciate the film. I now consider it one of the best Westerns ever made and deserving of each and every Oscar it was awarded (including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood). (Read our complete review of Unforgiven.)
A Perfect World
If there's a movie in this set that never got the attention it deserved, it's 'A Perfect World.' Perhaps critics and award-givers weren't ready to heap kudos on Eastwood so soon after 'Unforgiven,' but I feel it's a movie that's every bit the Oscar-winner's equal. Kevin Costner gives one of the best performances of his career, and Eastwood's direction and sense of storytelling is top-notch. The film has things to say about violence, father/son relationships, and loss of innocence (not just for the boy in the film, but for the country as a whole – it's not a coincidence that the story is set a week before the JFK assassination). It's Clint's one unheralded masterpiece, and I'm glad Warner Bros. included it in this set. (Read our complete review of A Perfect World.)
After a string of movies that were as meaningful as they were entertaining, 'Space Cowboys' is just about having fun. Teaming up with some other older actors of his generation (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner), there's nothing deep or meaningful about this film and one can't help but feeling a bit letdown by the material. But 'Space Cowboys' shows that Eastwood isn't above doing "lesser" material if it sparks his interest and believes it's something he'd enjoy making. It's not a great movie, but it is an enjoyable trip. (Read our complete review of Space Cowboys.)
I know a lot of critics like to refer to 'Unforgiven' and 'Million Dollar Baby' as Clint's two masterpiece movies, but for my money, 'Mystic River' is his best film, hands down. Taken from the novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of three Boston men, one of which was sexually abused when he was a young child. Old wounds resurface when one of the children of the grown men is found murdered. Shot just in a matter of weeks by Eastwood, the film is moody, atmospheric, and features some fantastic performances (Sean Penn and Tim Robbins both brought home Oscars for their roles). Plus, the last shot of the movie is one of those ambiguous closings that will stay with anyone who has seen it. (Read our complete review of Mystic River.)
Million Dollar Baby
I was one of the lucky few who went into 'Million Dollar Baby' thinking it was a simple "sports movie"…which it is, until about half-way through when Eastwood pulls the rug out from under the audience. Then it becomes a film about fathers and daughters, and what constitutes life. It's a moving, haunting, and powerful film. While Clint has made some good movies in the latter part of his career, as of this writing, 'Million Dollar Baby' is his last "great" movie. (Read our complete review of Million Dollar Baby.)
Letters From Iwo Jima
Eastwood got the idea for 'Letters From Iwo Jima' when he signed up to direct Flags of Our Fathers (not part of this set, since it was a DreamWorks release) and realized he needed to tell the Japanese side of the story as well. The result is a powerful film that is told (appropriately) entirely in Japanese (with English subtitles), which meant while the movie was actually better than 'Flags of Our Fathers,' it wasn't a very marketable film and it may actually be Clint's least-seen movie (but also one of the best-reviewed). (Read our complete review of Letters From Iwo Jima.)
Although Clint has denied it, there's a lot of Harry Callahan in Walt Kowalski. He's a guy who's too old to worry about being politically correct anymore, and he'd just as soon shoot you than talk to you. Of course, we discover that there's actually some morality deep down inside ol' Walt, although he'll have to pay the ultimate sacrifice to clean up his neighborhood. Until 'Trouble With The Curve' came around, it looked like this might be Clint's final on-screen performance and it would have been a great swan song for him. As it stands, 'Gran Torino' will probably be the final film Clint directs himself in, and that's almost as good. (Read our complete review of Gran Torino.)
InvictusHis third film with Morgan Freeman and his first of back-to-back movies with Matt Damon, 'Invictus' tells the story of Nelson Mandela's effort to reunite his country through its rugby team (Damon plays the team's captain). Much like 'Million Dollar Baby,' this is a sports movie that really isn't a sports movie, although this time around we are provided with a much more uplifting ending. But that's also the downside to the film, as the finale is predictable (especially if you know your history) and somewhat clichéd. 'Invictus' is a good movie overall (thanks to great performances by Freeman and Damon) and certainly a "crowd-pleaser," but at this stage in his career it didn't seem to be a project Clint should be devoting his time toward. (Read our complete review of Invictus.)
Now here's a movie I just didn't get. 'Hereafter' tells the story of a few different characters, all who have had some sort of near-death experience or involvement, and then weaves their tales together. There's nothing particularly wrong with the direction here (it's actually nice to see what Eastwood does in a movie that requires more intricate special effects than most of his releases), I just didn't buy into the story, and don't think the performances are very strong either (Matt Damon as a clairvoyant is particularly unconvincing). Other critics disagree with me (including our own here at HDD!), but I consider 'Hereafter' one of Clint's more recent failures. (Read our complete review of Hereafter.)
J. Edgar'J. Edgar' got almost as many poor reviews as 'Hereafter' did, but it's a movie I enjoy quite a bit. This is the first (and so far only) film Eastwood has done with Leonardo DiCaprio, and the combination of a great actor teamed with a great director overcomes any minor issues with the script. I appreciated the fact that Eastwood doesn't pull any punches when it comes to some of Hoover's more reprehensible actions, but also shows a more private, thoughtful man. The film pretty much bombed with both critics and moviegoers, but I honestly believe it will become more appreciated as time goes on. (Read our complete review of J. Edgar.)
Trouble With The Curve
The only reason 'Trouble With The Curve' is part of this collection is most likely due to the fact that it will be the final film Eastwood appears in as an actor (he's said as much, but one never knows). Clint didn't direct this film – in which he plays an aging baseball scout with failing vision – but agreed to be in it since it was the directorial debut of Robert Lorenz, a longtime assistant director on Eastwood's movies (dating back to 'The Bridges of Madison County'). This is by no means an awful film, but it is a very by-the-numbers and predictable affair, and a movie you wish Eastwood had not chosen to be his final one as an actor. (Read our complete review of Trouble With The Curve.)
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 'Clint Eastwood 20-Film Collection' comes in a nicely designed "book" format with each cardboard page housing a disc on the front and the back of the page (with the exception of the first and last page, which house only one). The movies are in order of their theatrical debut, with the two bonus discs coming last. Each page that houses the disc also shows the original theatrical poster for the movie, along with a couple of stills and (in very small print) the main credits (as seen on the theatrical poster).
The set also includes a small 52-page (the box cover mistakenly says 48-pages) hardback color book, which is made up of excerpts from the larger coffee table book 'Clint Eastwood: Master Filmmaker At Work.' Both the hardback book and the Blu-ray holder "book" slide into a larger plastic sleeve, which is the flimsiest part of this set. Overtop of the plastic sleeve, Warner Bros. has added one of those cardboard backings that list all the contents of this release (also note that the backside of it lists all the films, their ratings, and what disc they are located on).
Potential buyers may have already noted that Warner Bros. has also released a similar DVD set of Clint Eastwood movies, with the difference being that the DVD set comes with 40 films instead of the 20 we see here. The main reason for the differences is there are still a lot of Eastwood movies that have not yet made their way to Blu-ray. Just some of the notable Eastwood titles not present here because they have not yet been released on Blu-ray include 'Honkytonk Man,' 'Tightrope,' 'White Hunter Black Heart,' and 'The Bridges of Madison County.' Of course, there are other movies in that DVD set that could have been included here that are not (the DVD set, for example, contains all five 'Dirty Harry' films, while this set just contains the first two plus the popular fourth entry, 'Sudden Impact').
Please refer to HDD's original reviews (linked to in "The Movie Itself" section above) to find video ratings for those titles not listed below.
Magnum ForceWhile I was impressed with the transfer of 'Dirty Harry,' the sequel doesn't look quite as good on Blu-ray, although a lot of that has to do with the original cinematography, which has occasional shots that are blurry (and not necessarily intentionally so). So there's more of a soft look overall to the picture, although colors, like on the 'Dirty Harry' disc, are bright and slightly over-saturated. There's also the occasional bit of dirt and/or defects that pop up in the print. (Video Rating: 3/5)
By Blu-ray standards, Warner Bros. give us a rather average transfer of 'The Gauntlet.' Details are decent (although sometimes soft), colors are well-balanced, and there's visible grain (although pushed into the background). However, there's also occasional dirt on the print. Overall, the video quality of 'The Gauntlet' is just a notch below that of 'Magnum Force,' but compare favorably. The biggest difference between the two is that 'Magnum Force' has much more saturated colors, while 'The Gauntlet' has a more muted picture. (Video Rating: 2 ½/5)
From a video standpoint, 'Firefox' is really a tale of two movies. Much of the first half of 'Firefox' takes place in the darkness, with a lot of nighttime scenes in Vienna (doubling for Moscow). Then when the plane takes flight during the movie's climax, we get the whitest of whites, as it soars over the polar ice against a bright sky. Given those factors, the transfer here isn't that bad at all, and 'Firefox' is able to maintain a very film-like look throughout (with visible grain that doesn't seem to have been treated to an excessive DNR scrub). However, because some scenes are almost pitch black, distinguishing objects sometimes becomes an issue. This appears to have less to do with "crush" than it does that 'Firefox' was never that sharply shot to begin with (Director Eastwood seems to enjoy blurring his backgrounds on purpose in much of this movie). For the daylight flight scenes, the opposite is sometimes true…the high-definition transfer is a little too sharp, making the special effects (which honestly never looked impressive because of the issues with shooting over a white/bright background) look even cheesier than they did in previous home video releases. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Clint Eastwood seems to have a habit of enjoying filming dimly lit scenes (see our video review of 'Firefox' above), and on top of that tending to enjoy soft focus of his lens. We get a lot of that again here, although thanks to being a newer movie, 'Sudden Impact' is the best looking/most consistent 'Dirty Harry' film in this set. Viewers will immediately note the over-saturation of the picture, which matches the saturation seen in the original 'Dirty Harry' ('Magnum Force' has its colors a little more muted). Film grain is visible, but never intrusive, and the scenes that Eastwood has shot with in-focus backgrounds (usually the daylight scenes) show a sharp level of detail throughout. (Video Rating: 3 ½/5)
Please refer to HDD's original reviews (linked to in "The Movie Itself" section above) to find audio ratings for those titles not listed below.
Like 'Dirty Harry,' the audio here features both an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, and a standard English Dolby Surround 5.1 track. Also like 'Dirty Harry,' however, there's no mono track provided, even though 'Magnum Force' was released that way. Both English tracks are more than acceptable in quality, although there's not much going on in terms of directionality, and the rear speakers only kick in for things like explosions and gunshots, when applicable. There's also a 2.0 track in Spanish, as well as mono tracks in Spanish (Castilian), French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in all the languages I've already listed, plus Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. (Audio Rating: 3/5)
Like a number of other titles in this set, 'The Gauntlet' features both an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and a standard Dolby Surround 5.1 track. With as much action as there is in the movie, one would expect a more active track. However, with a few exceptions, sounds from the rear speakers are rarely heard and when they are, they're rather muted. Directionality is almost non-existent. That said, dialogue is almost always crisp and clear, with no noticeable defects in the soundtrack.
In addition to the two English tracks mentioned in the above paragraph, the Blu-ray also contains 1.0 Dolby mono tracks in French, Spanish, and German, as well as subtitles in English SDH, French, German, and Spanish. (Audio Rating: 2/5)
Firefox only gives viewers one audio option – a lossless English 5.1 DTS-HD track. The track is one of the highlights of this release, with plenty of directionality, lots of use of the rear speakers, and some real "oomph" when the Firefox plane takes to the air late in the movie. There are also no notable glitches (like popping or hissing) in the track. Dialogue is crisp and clear. In addition to the audio track, subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Once again, English listeners have the option between an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and a standard Dolby Surround 5.1 track. Although this is a newer film than either 'Dirty Harry' or 'Magnum Force,' I can't really say that the audio tracks are all that much different in terms of their quality. The mix here is properly balanced between dialogue and other sounds (including the soundtrack), and everything is relatively crisp and clear. The rear speakers might get a little more action than they did in the prior 'Dirty Harry' Blu-rays, but not significantly so.
In addition to the two English tracks, there's a 2.0 track in Spanish, as well as mono tracks in Spanish (Castilian), French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. Subtitles are available in all the languages that provide audio tracks, plus Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. (Audio Rating: 3/5)
Please refer to HDD's original reviews (linked to in "The Movie Itself" section above) to find extras ratings for those titles not listed below.
Note: The 'Dirty Harry' disc contains all the supplements we list in our in-house review plus 'Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows' (SD, 87 min.). This featurette was originally part of a bonus disc when Warner Bros. first released 'The Dirty Harry Collection' on Blu-ray. When it was reissued a few years later (including a stand-alone digibook of 'Dirty Harry'), the bonus disc was eliminated, but this featurette was moved over to the 'Dirty Harry' disc.
There are no special features on 'The Gauntlet.'
My first reaction to the 'Clint Eastwood 20-Film Collection' is that Warner Bros. needs to get on the ball about releasing some of Eastwood's catalog titles onto Blu-ray. Great movies like 'Bronco Billy,' 'Honkytonk Man,' and 'The Bridges of Madison County' are all absent here because they have yet to be released on home video in HD. Those considering a purchase may also want to keep in mind that Warner Bros. tends to release a new multi-Eastwood set every few years, and it's highly likely that they'll do so again once additional movies (or even updated releases of some of the titles in this set) make their way to Blu-ray. However, assuming you don't already own more than a few of the titles in this set, and assuming you don't mind the lack of exclusive bonus materials (as noted, the 'Eastwood Directs' DVD is the only new material in this set), this release is a nice compilation of Clint's Warner Bros. titles. Recommended.