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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Thriller > Spy > Espionage > Drama > Clint Eastwood: American Icon Collection (Coogan's Bluff/Beguiled/Play Misty For Me/Eiger Sanction/Universal DVD)

Clint Eastwood: American Icon Collection (Universal DVD)


Average Picture: C-

Average Sound: C-

Extras: C



Play Misty For Me (1971): B-

The Eiger Sanction (1975): C+

Coogan’s Bluff (1968): C+

The Beguiled (1971): B




The title of this collection, “American Icon,” could not be more apt.  American culture has developed its own mythology based on the values of independence and self-determination, which are inevitably tempered to support community and the status quo.  These values are inextricably entwined with the parallel mythology of masculinity, and there is no more pure expression of that masculinity than the star persona of Clint Eastwood.  Beginning with his western roles in the 1960s all the way to his current series of “angry old man” films, Eastwood has played over 60 roles, directed around 30 features, and instilled every single one of them with an undeniable American-ness.


This collection of four films made between 1968 and 1975, represents the period in Eastwood’s career when he was transitioning from actor to filmmaker and establishing his depth as an artist. The first film chronologically, made in 1968 (but listed third in the collection), is Coogan’s Bluff.  Directed by Don Siegel, this small-town-cop-comes-to-the-big-city action movie presages the transition Eastwood himself was about to experience, not just from actor to director, but also from old west cowboy to contemporary cop.  Beginning in John Ford’s legendary Monument Valley, the film takes Eastwood’s character to New York City where his straight-forward small-town values clash with the bureaucracy of modern law enforcement. This transition for Eastwood signals the coming of a future project with Don Siegel, Dirty Harry.


The last film in the collection, made in 1970, is yet another film directed by Don Siegel.  The Beguiled is arguably the best film in this collection, but undeniably the most dramatic, the most cinematic, and the most emotional.  Eastwood plays a wounded Union soldier during the Civil War who is taken in by a southern girl’s boarding school.  The psychosexual drama slowly swells to a climax as Eastwood’s character, at once victim and victimizer, navigates and manipulates the intrigue stirred by his arrival at the school.


Released in 1971, Play Misty for Me is the first in the collection and Eastwood’s first project as director, spurred on by Siegel’s encouragement (who also has a supporting role).  This film is the prototypical story of a violently obsessed lover, which would lead to a long line of similar films including Fatal Attraction.  The wronged woman in this case is played by Jessica Walter, who will go on much later to play Lucille Bluth in the cult show Arrested Development.  Play Misty for Me is a masterfully made and entertainingly disturbing first directorial effort by Eastwood.


Made last in 1975, and featured second in the collection is Eastwood’s starring and directorial vehicle, The Eiger Sanction.  An all-American spy film, this movie brings together the winning combination of assassination, mountain climbing, art appreciation, and albinos.  Riding on the heels of the Bond series, this movie falls short in a lot of ways, but somehow it all comes together into a purely entertaining experience.


Together these movies embody the American public’s collective consciousness in the era during which they were made, for better or for worse.  Each film contains at least one character, line, or situation that is bound to offend someone in a modern audience.  The Eiger Sanction has a black government agent named Jemima Brown and a tiny dog named Faggot.  In the production notes for The Beguiled, Don Siegel is quoted saying that the film is entirely about a woman’s capacity for treachery and deceit.  The list goes on.  But those were the opinions prevalent at the time.  It is important to consider these films as artifacts of a historical period and take each with a grain of salt.


The picture and sound quality on the discs is about even across the board.  The picture (all in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with the exception of The Eiger Sanction in 2.35:1) bears the unmistakable look of film that has been sitting on a shelf for close to 40 years.  While the collection is supposedly digitally remastered, all the films have a grainy look to them that varies from scene to scene.  The plus side is that the color on most of the films does look rather good.  The audio is fairly rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in all four films.


The extras for each film are wildly inconsistent.  The Eiger Sanction and The Beguiled only have production notes and Coogan’s Bluff has no extra features at all.  Meanwhile, Play Misty for Me has production notes, three photo montages, and three mini documentaries consisting of interviews cut together, one of which runs over 50 minutes long.


Each of these films is at the least entertaining, and at the best great art.  Either way, they are all worth seeing, and the collection as a whole is representative of a moment in American cinema and culture.  Clint Eastwood is truly an icon of American mythology, and while his films will not give you an accurate picture of the reality of American life, they will show you exactly how America sees itself.



-   Matthew Carrick


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