By Jen Chaney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 16, 2010; 12:00 AM
"Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years" ($179.98) is the sort of mammoth, gorgeously reverent box set that typically arrives during the holidays. Instead all 18 DVDs -- compiled in a thick, bound book with Eastwood's autograph scrawled across the front -- show up today, smack in the middle of Academy Awards season, when the Filmmaker Formerly Known as Dirty Harry usually bathes in Oscar praise.
Of course, that timing didn't synch up quite as well as Warner Bros., the studio behind this multi-disc tribute, may have hoped. Eastwood's most recent film, the South Africa spirit-lifter "Invictus," was overlooked this year in both the best picture and director categories, although it did earn nods for stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Still, that recognition may provide all the motivation some fans need to revisit the work of this iconic American actor and producer/director/composer, a man who, at the age of almost 80, remains one of Hollywood's most prolific talents.
As its title suggests, this collection pulls together nearly all of the movies Eastwood has made and/or starred in during his four-decade relationship with Warner Bros., giving us a long, good look at the many faces of Eastwood. We get Dirty Harry Clint (all five of the Smith & Wesson-wielding cop dramas are included here), Western Clint ("The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Unforgiven"), War Movie Clint ("Kelly's Heroes," "Letters From Iwo Jima"), Grumpy Old Man Clint ("Million Dollar Baby," "Gran Torino") and even, um, Orangutan-Friendly Clint ("Every Which Way But Loose," "Any Which Way You Can"). As a definitive career retrospective, a few gaps remain. The set omits the three Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns that kick-started Eastwood's film career, his directorial debut ("Play Misty for Me") and "In the Line of Fire," one of his biggest box office successes, because none of them were distributed by Warner Bros.
Still, for lifelong students of the Hollywood veteran's work -- the ones who feel compelled to own every single project he's undertaken, right down to the Bernadette Peters action caper "Pink Cadillac" -- "35 Films 35 Years" is a relatively affordable way to beef up the Eastwood section of one's DVD library. The cost works out to about $10 per disc, less if you buy the release at one of the discounted prices offered by many major retailers. That's a decent bargain for those who care solely about being able to watch these films again and again.
However, for those who already own many of these films, or are in search of fresh, top-quality extras, this collection falls short. Nearly all of these movies are reissues or stripped-down versions of previously released discs, allowing Warner Bros. to pack a pair of movies onto mostly double-sided DVDs. Consequently, older films come with primitive-looking menus, often scant extras and, in cases like 1977's "The Gauntlet," picture quality that leans toward the grainy. Even films that already have been issued with special features, like "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby," appear here with nothing more than the motion pictures themselves.
The one new extra in this mix is "The Eastwood Factor," a 22-minute excerpt from an upcoming documentary by film critic and longtime Eastwood friend Richard Schickel that follows Eastwood around the Warner Bros. lot as he looks at costumes from his old films, fingers the keys on a piano in the recording studio that bears his name and reminisces about his partnership with the studio. It's an adequate featurette, but one that reveals nothing insightful or eye-opening about our subject.
From a collection that comes in such pretty packaging and honors such a venerable contributor to American cinema history, I expected a little more.