I got a look at both Joe Kidd and The War Wagon in the past few days. Both are easily recommended. Both films are above average westerns that unfortunately have gotten short shrift on video these past couple of decades.
Joe Kidd is among the best films of Eastwood's western filmography thanks in large part to an unusually good script for the genre from Elmore Leonard and director John Sturges in top form. One notable benefit of this new transfer is the signature lighting of DP Bruce Surtees appears to be restored to some semblance of what was seen in theaters back in the summer of '72. Surtees came by his moniker "The Prince of Darkness" honestly and the dynamic range of Blu-ray reproduces his low key lighting with aplomb (did I just say "aplomb"). There is a hint of over enhancement in a few shots, but not so much as to be distracting in a motion image. Image sharpness varies from shot to shot, as one might expect from a scope film element of this era, but at its best is beautifully detailed. Color joins black level as the best of this transfer. Reds are deep and pure and detail within the most saturated colors is excellent.
Forgetting all the technical jargon, this disc passed my personal best test for image quality. When I put the disc on late last night, long past my bedtime, I was so struck by the look of one of my favorite western films, a look I have never seen before, that I was loathe to turn if off. I can guarantee one thing. My theater will be dark and the popcorn will be hot this evening.
Comments on The War Wagon are similar, though the look of the film is rather different. Colors don't have quite the "pop" of the Joe Kidd transfer, but certainly have a more solid, "refreshed" look from previous video versions. One thing that immediately stuck out was the clarity of the audio in evidence during the great Ed Ames' rendition of the title song. Ames had a terrific voice and an extra bump in volume during the title sequence is a real treat with this disc.
Speaking as a fan of both these films, these discs are now prized additions to my collection.