Clint Eastwood retrospective out on DVD
By Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Clint Eastwood has been a towering part of the American movie landscape for more than 50 years. We have watched him evolve from wide-eyed young cowboy Rowdy Yates on TV's "Rawhide" to one of Hollywood's most accomplished directors.
Among those watching Eastwood's rise has been Rich-ard Schickel, Time magazine movie critic since 1972 and a producer, director and writer of dozens of documentaries on film history.
"Those of us who knew him from those spaghetti westerns to where he is today," Schickel said during a recent phone interview, "that's one of the most interesting things about his career."
Not surprisingly, Schickel makes some contributions to "Clint Eastwood: 35 Films, 35 Years at Warner Brothers," a DVD set released Tuesday. It's the largest DVD collection ever devoted to one actor.
The films are housed in a thick 11 1/2-by8-inch book with photos and pictures of movie posters showcasing Eastwood's work. There are studio letters and a 24-page booklet lifted from Schickel's new book "Clint: A Retrospective," scheduled to be released later this month or in early March.
Eastwood has made films for other companies, but his long association with Warner Brothers began with his 1975 contract with the studio. The actor/director even moved his Malpaso Productions to the studio lot where the likes of Bogart and Cagney once roamed.
That doesn't surprise Schickel: "Clint has great grasp of movie history. I think there are some who underestimate him intellectually."
Eastwood takes Schickel on a tour of the lot in the collection's 35th film, "The Eastwood Factor," a 22-minute documentary that includes clips from his movies selected by Schickel. A feature-length version of the documentary is set for release this summer.
The collection covers a 40-year span of the star's career, from "Where Eagles Dare" (1968), which has Eastwood teaming up with Richard Burton to take on the Nazis, to "Grand Torino" (2008), starring Eastwood as a bigoted Korean War veteran whose Asian neighbors gradually bring about a change of heart in him.
During those four decades, Eastwood has won dozens of awards, including a pair of best director Oscars, for "Unforgiven" (1992) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2006). Both films won the best-picture Oscar and are in the collection.
Schickel met Eastwood 35 years ago at "a small party" in Los Angeles. "We just seem to hit it off right away," Schickel said. "Whenever he would come to New York, he'd call me and we'd go out to eat."
Schickel even made "a small contribution" to "Unforgiven." Eastwood told him that if it works "it's my idea. If it doesn't then it's your idea." So whose "idea" was it? "He left it in the picture," said Schickel, who declined to identify the scene.
Their relationship, however, convinced Schickel about 25 years ago that he shouldn't review any more Eastwood films. That doesn't mean he doesn't have insightful opinions about his pal's work.
It was "The Beguiled" (1971), directed by one of Eastwood's mentors, Don Siegel, that caused Schickel to really take notice of the actor, cast as a wounded Union officer taken in by the women at a Confederate girls' boarding school.
"I always thought he was pretty good," Schickel said, "but I was very impressed with 'The Beguiled.' It was an interesting concept. I started paying closer attention to him." Not long after that came "Dirty Harry," launching Eastwood into the superstar stratosphere. He portrayed a San Francisco cop who didn't play by the rules. ("Dirty Harry" and its four sequels all are in the collection.)
Those films sparked what Schickel calls the "phony Dirty Harry controversy." Some critics and organizations complained about the violence and the high body count. "I like the films," Schickel said. "I think Clint was reflecting the frustrations (over the justice system) that many Americans felt at the time."