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Blu-ray Review Clint Eastwood: The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Todd Erwin, Jun 10, 2015.

  1. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    XenForo Template Clint Eastwood: The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection Blu-ray Review

    There is no denying that Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood icon. Universal has packaged seven of the actor’s films made at the studio between 1968 and 1975, an important period in his career that marked his transition from Western star to actor/director.


    Cover Art


    Studio: Universal

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/VC-1

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 2.35:1

    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other

    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

    Rating: PG, R

    Run Time: 10 Hr. 34 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    3-disc and 4-disc Blu-ray Keepcases housed in outer sleeve

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: A

    Release Date: 05/05/2015

    MSRP: $84.98




    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    Clint Eastwood began his acting career in the mid 1950s as a contract player at Universal, with uncredited roles in Revenge of the Creature and other B-movies made at the studio. It was his transition to television on Rawhide that would elevate his career, but it was the title role in Sergio Leone’s The Man With No Name spaghetti western trilogy that would make him a star.

     

    In 1968, Eastwood founded his production company, Malpaso, and after making Hang ‘Em High at United Artists, began a partnership with Universal Pictures. The first film was Coogan’s Bluff, with Eastwood playing the title role, an Arizona sheriff’s deputy assigned to travel to New York to extradite bail jumper and psychopath James Ringerman (Don Stroud). He is met with bureaucratic red tape from Lt. McElroy (Lee J. Cobb) and the NYPD, who have imprisoned Ringerman at Bellevue after an overdose on LSD. Coogan bluffs his way into Bellevue, and while boarding a plane at the airport, Ringerman’s girlfriend Linny (Tisha Sterling) and friend Pushie (David Doyle) break him out of custody, landing Coogan in jail and hot water with McElroy. But Coogan tracks Linny to a dance club, who leads him to Pushie, and eventually leads him to Ringerman. The film marked the first collaboration with director Don Siegel, who became a mentor to Eastwood. Coogan’s Bluff plays like a standard early 1970s TV crime drama with fish out of water tendencies, but with an R-rated edge.

     

    Eastwood would return to Universal two years and two pictures later, starring opposite Shirley MacLaine, in Two Mules for Sister Sara, directed by Don Siegel. Eastwood plays Hogan, a mercenary cowboy travelling through Mexico, who saves Sara (MacLaine), a prostitute masquerading as a nun, from being raped by a gang of Mexican banditos. Sara knows the layout of the French garrison, as it is located adjacent to the whorehouse she works at. Hogan and Sara infiltrate the garrison and help the Mexican rebels defeat the French. Two Mules for Sister Sara is a fun, often comical western, and Eastwood and MacLaine make a good buddy team.

     

    1971 would be a big year for Eastwood. He would reteam with Siegel on The Beguiled, a civil war thriller with Eastwood playing a wounded Yankee soldier who is found in the woods by a young girl, who takes him back to her all-girl school, led by Martha (Geraldine Page). The girls and young women at the school are not used to having a man around, and instead of turning him over to the Confederates, they nurse him back to health as sexual tensions among the females arise and dark secrets begin to surface. The Beguiled is a strange film, often difficult to watch, partially because Eastwood’s character is unlikeable, but mostly due to the subject matter (an older man preying on young girls). The film was neither a critical or commercial success for the studio.

     

    That same year, Eastwood would make his directorial debut with Play Misty For Me, a thriller that would predate Fatal Attraction by sixteen years. Eastwood stars as jazz disc jockey Dave Garver, who begins to get nightly requests called in by Evelyn (Jessica Walter) to play Misty by Erroll Garner. The two eventually meet at a bar and strike up a relationship. But there’s something not quite right with Evelyn, and becomes much more obvious when Dave breaks off their relationship and resumes one with a former flame, Tobie (Donna Mills). Evelyn begins stalking Dave, jeopardizing his work and those around him. Play Misty For Me was something of a departure for Eastwood, playing more of an everyman who gets in over his head. The film was an impressive directing debut, and was a financial and critical success. Eastwood and Siegel would end 1971 on a high note with the release of Dirty Harry over at Warner Bros.

     

    Joe Kidd, from 1972, was a bit of a misfire. Eastwood was returning to the western genre with a screenplay by Elmore Leonard (3:10 to Yuma) under the direction of John Sturges (The Great Escape), and joined by a talented cast led by Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, and Dick Van Patten. Eastwood plays the title character, a former bounty hunter turned bad boy who is always waking up in the town’s prison cell after a hard night of drinking. When a group of Mexicans led by Luis Chama (John Saxon) storm into the courthouse demanding justice for their denied land claims, Chama burns the records and takes off for the hills. A bounty is placed on Chama, and land barron Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) and his posse arrive in town, paying Joe Kidd’s fine and hiring him to help them track Chama, fearing that his claims will be wiped out if Chama succeeds with his plan to terrorize the town and burn more land deeds. When Kidd discovers that Harlan plans to capture and kill Chama at all costs, Kidd tries to intervene, wanting to bring in Chama alive to stand trial. Where Joe Kidd fails is in its execution of its storyline, which comes off as flat and uninteresting. And it doesn’t help that Joe Kidd switches sides like a ping pong match.

     

    One year later, Eastwood would direct his first western, High Plains Drifter, a foreshadow of what was to come with Pale Rider and Unforgiven. For a full review of this title, check out Kevin EKs writeup from November, 2013.

     

    1975 would mark the end of Eastwood’s relationship with Universal Pictures with The Eiger Sanction, an espionage thriller set in Switzerland. Eastwood plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, a retired assassin now working as a college art professor. When his mentor is killed and our germ warfare secrets stolen, Hemlock is called out of retirement to retrieve the missing files and avenge his friend’s death. The chase involves following the killers on a mountain climbing expedition to the top of Eiger, a 13,000 foot mountain peak in the Bernese Alps. This makes for some beautifully photographed scenery and exciting stunt work, just enough to make the viewer forget the many holes in the plot. And that is the movie’s main failure, as the plot is nonsensical and Helock’s boss must be completely clueless (without revealing a major spoiler).

     

    The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection is really two collections in one. Inside the outer cardboard sleeve are two blu-ray keepcases, one entitled Clint Eastwood: 3-Movie Western Collection and Clint Eastwood: 4-Movie Thriller Collection, each containing the following:

     

    Clint Eastwood: 3-Movie Western Collection:
    Two Mules for Sister Sara - 3.5 out of 5
    Joe Kidd - 3 out of 5
    High Plains Drifter - 3 out of 5

     

    Clint Eastwood: 4-Movie Thriller Collection:
    Coogan’s Bluff - 3 out of 5
    The Beguiled - 2.5 out of 5
    Play Misty For Me - 4 out of 5
    The Eiger Sanction - 3 out of 5



    Video Rating: 3.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    Universal has apparently recycled many of the transfers in this set, either from previously released Blu-ray discs or transfers originally prepared for HD-DVD prior to the format's demise (which would explain the use of the VC-1 codec on some of these discs), or both.

     

    Two Mules for Sister Sara and Joe Kidd are the same discs as the stand-alone Blu-ray releases from 2014, and feature decent 1080p transfers using the VC-1 codec, retaining the intended theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Colors are natural and consistent, but there is some evidence of digital manipulation such as edge enhancement and some minor scrubbing away of film grain, resulting in a more video than film-like presentation.

     

    High Plains Drifter is the same disc as found in the 2013 stand-alone release. As my colleague Kevin EK pointed out in his review, "High Plains Drifter is presented in a 2.35:1 1080p AVC encode that is truly a pleasure to watch. Beyond the shimmering heatwaves seen at the movie’s start and close, there are some startling bursts of color – particularly involving the locals literally painting the town red. The closing showdown, backlit by fire, still shows off plenty of detail where needed, and inky blacks where appropriate. There have been plenty of times where Universal has had issues with its high definition transfers in the past. I am pleased to say that this is not one of those times."

     

    Coogan's Bluff makes its Blu-ray debut in this set, and appears to be a new transfer using the AVC codec, retaining the film's intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Colors are natural and consistent, with no noticeable digital manipulation, resulting in a film-like presentation. The print, however, does suffer from some occasional minor scratches and white specks, but never to the point of distraction.

     

    The Beguiled also makes its Blu-ray debut here, but may be the biggest disappointment in the set, reminding many of the old Universal. The 1080p transfer uses the AVC codec and retains the film's intended theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Colors are muted, but that is most likely intentional. But digital manipulation is on overload, scrubbing away film grain and removing much of the fine detail (such as the fabric textures of the red blanket placed on Eastwood's character at the 11:39 mark). The print is also not in the best shape, with noticeable scratches and dirt popping up from time to time.

     

    Play Misty for Me is another debut, and fares slightly better than The Beguiled, with a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and retaining the film's intended 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Colors are strong, natural, and consistent. There is some evidence of edge enhancement and filtering, adding minor halos and an overall softness to the image. Although I have always remembered Play Misty for Me as having a soft image, the lack of noticeable film grain is a red flag.

     

    The Eiger Sanction is another somewhat disappointing Blu-ray debut, using the AVC codec and retaining the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Colors are natural and consistent, but once again, digital manipulation rears its ugly head with some minor edge enhancement resulting in haloing and filtering to the point of scrubbing away much of the film grain and sacrificing fine detail. Never quite the disaster as The Beguiled, though.

     

    Two Mules for Sister Sara - 3.5 out of 5
    Joe Kidd - 3.5 out of 5
    High Plains Drifter - 5 out of 5
    Coogan's Bluff - 4 out of 5
    The Beguiled - 2.5 out of 5
    Play Misty for Me - 3.5 out of 5
    The Eiger Sanction - 3 out of 5



    Audio Rating: 4/5

    With the exception of High Plains Drifter, all of the films in this set contain a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtrack, and sound just fine, perhaps better than they did during their original theatrical run. Dialogue is clear and consistent, never getting drowned out by music or sound effects. As my colleague Kevin EK pointed out in his 2013 review, "High Plains Drifter gets an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, which mostly lives in the front channels but uses the surrounds for some atmospheric effects and blasts of the score. The mix is a solid one, adding depth where it can, but not in an intrusive manner."

     

    Two Mules for Sister Sara - 4 out of 5
    Joe Kidd - 4 out of 5
    High Plains Drifter - 5 out of 5
    Coogan's Bluff - 4 out of 5
    The Beguiled - 4 out of 5
    Play Misty for Me - 4 out of 5
    The Eiger Sanction - 4 out of 5



    Special Features Rating: 2.5/5

    In what appears to be a trend with Universal catalog releases, there is no top menu on the majority of the discs in this set, and the only way to access the special features (which are few and far between) is from the pop-up menu. The only exception is High Plains Drifter, which has the traditional Universal top menu.

     

    Two Mules for Sister Sara:
    Theatrical Trailer
    (480i; 2:24)

     

    Joe Kidd:
    Theatrical Trailer
    (480i; 2:10)

     

    High Plains Drifter:
    Theatrical Trailer
    (480i; 2:19)

     

    Coogan's Bluff:
    Sorry, not even a theatrical trailer is included on this disc.

     

    The Beguiled:
    Theatrical Trailer
    (480i; 2:30)

     

    Play Misty for Me:
    Play It Again: A Look Back at "Play Misty For Me" (480i; 49:22): Clint Eastwood, Donna Mills, Jessica Walter, and producer Robert Daly discuss the making of the film in this featurette ported over from the 20001 DVD release.

     

    "The Beguiled," "Misty," Don and Clint (480i; 6:13): A look back at the collaborations between Eastwood and director Don Siegel, as told through interviews with Eastwood and film critic Richard Schickel.

     

    Photograph Montage (480i; 3:54): Slide show of publicity stills.

     

    Clint Eastwood Directs and Acts (480i; 2:03): More publicity stills, focusing on Eastwood working behind the camera.

     

    The Evolution of a Poster (480i; 2:37): A montage of still photos used to create the many different posters and lobby cards for the film.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (480i; 1:42)

     

    The Eiger Sanction:
    Theatrical Trailer (480i; 2:41)



    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Fans of Clint Eastwood may be pleased with the four new to Blu-ray films included in this 7-disc set, but many of the transfers here are either recycled or disappointing. Special features are sparse, with the exception of Play Misty for Me, which ports over those from the 2001 DVD release. Casual fans may want to wait for the eventual stand alone releases from the 4-disc Thriller Collection.


    Reviewed By: Todd Erwin


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  2. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    So, I wonder if this set will be broken up eventually and sold as two different sets since it is already packaged that way. I already have the Westerns in this collection so I'm only interested in the thrillers.
     
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  3. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I was wondering the same thing. Since Universal sold the titles in the Spielberg set individually (and in well under a year), I imagine that they'll do the same with this one too.
     
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  4. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    Reggie, it's quite possible, since each set has a UPC label on it.
     
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  5. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member

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    I have the High Plains Drifter BD and would go for the rest of the package - or, ideally, any of those separately if they're ever released that way (I greatly prefer individual titles for how I organize things). But I'm royally bummed about the old transfers and the video grading.
     
  6. atfree

    atfree Producer

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    If you get the UK set, they are individual blu-rays within a "collectors" box so you could keep in your current organizational style). It is region-free and actually contains "Breezy" which the US set does not. And you can generally find it cheaper than the US set on Amazon UK or other sites (it's currently 24 GBP on Amazon UK which converts to about $37.17 USD plus $4 shipping to the US, compared to $58.50 for the US set at Amazon). Save about $20 and get an extra film plus individual blu-rays in cases.


    [​IMG]
     
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  7. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Thanks for that idea Alex! Given the older/lesser transfers, especially on my favorite film in the group, The Beguiled, I think this is the route I'll take.
     
  8. Hollywoodaholic

    Hollywoodaholic Edge of Glory?

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    I got the UK set, definitely the way to go. Big William Holden fan, so Breezy was very enjoyable (as well the free spirited and uninhibited Kay Lenz).
     
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  9. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Yes, I also got the UK set. Hard to beat $4.65 (and that includes shipping) per film plus you get the additional film Breezy (cool to watch a collaboration between Holden and Eastwood). I can't really see Breezy getting an individual release here in the US and it is sort of puzzling why they did not throw it in with this set...except perhaps it does not really fit with the way this set is broken up--Westerns & Thrillers--with Breezy being a straight ahead drama. I also like the idea that the UK set is packaged so each film gets it's own case and artwork. I will gift the extra three Westerns I have to my brother.
     
  10. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Just ordered the UK set: $37.30 delivered. No extras, unlike the US set, but for the difference in price, I can live with that just fine. Thanks guys!
     
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