Last Minute Video Considerations: Clint Eastwood and Frank Sinatra
MGM Home Video has offered up thirteen different star-centered CD packs, all conveniently priced at $24.95 but savvy shoppers can find them for as little as $14.95. Each box set features four films from the studio’s vast library and neatly packages them together.
What you pay for in convenience, though, you lose in the rich DVD experience that many aficionados want from their home video. The films come with commentary and maybe the trailer but little else. So, if your recipient is a major fan of the films and/or stars, be warned.
Having said that, two that were sent for review, are pretty nice. The Clint Eastwood Star Collection offers up A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and Hang ‘Em High. That’s 721 minutes of Clint in his spaghetti western days and the birth of a film icon. Oddly, A Fistful of Dollars and Hang ‘Em High come with widescreen versions on one-side and fullscreen on the other while the remaining duo are in standard widescreen,
Consider 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, which effectively launched the careers of Eastwood, director Sergio Leone, and composer Ennio Morricone. This also was the first in the Man with No Name trilogy, a legendary everyman figure who has endured way beyond the films and even stars in his own comic book. The film was also a turning point in how westerns were made, beginning a new chapter for the then-tired genre.
While effectively a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, this film set up the standards of good versus evil as viewed through the prism of 1960s filmmaking, which had fewer restrictions than in previous decades and allowed the bad to be truly wicked and violent. There’s little doubt Eastwood’s silent, squinting figure inspired many a film knockoff and even contributed to the character of Jonah Hex (start making your comparisons when the Hex film opens next June). He had come a long way from Rawhide’s Rowdy Yates.
Four films in five years established Eastwood as a major actor and kept the genre vital, while inspiring a new generation of filmmakers to try new approaches to older material. You can certainly see it in the works of Coppola and even Lucas.
An odder assortment is the Frank Sinatra Star Collection which offers us Guys And Dolls, A Hole in the Head, Manchurian Candidate, and Sergeant’s 3 which are in no way thematically linked, just using Old Blue Eyes as the common denominator. All four films come only in widescreen and again with minimal extras.
I will admit to a fondness for Guys And Dolls and think the movie, flaws and all, is a delight to watch. Marlon Brando isn’t much of a singer but makes for a fine guy and the movie does give us Stubby Kaye’s rousing “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”.
During the 1950s, Sinatra was stretching his acting chops and his best work, Maggio in From Here to Eternity, is missing from this box set. Instead, we get the long-forgotten A Hole in the Head that asks us to accept Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson as brothers.
Based on the 1957 play of the same name, it does posit the notion of an Amusement Park in Florida with the wonderful Keenan Wynn as the Disney stand-in. The film, directed by Frank Capra, is amusing and has a nice cast, including a pre-Addams Carolyn Jones. It also gives us the Sinatra standard “High Hopes”.
By 1962 Sinatra was firmly gripped in the Rat Pack lifestyle and made numerous films with his buddies as embodied in Ocean’s 11. With Dean Martin and Peter Lawford, Sinatra also made the forgettable Sergeant’s 3, a lame remake of Gunga Din. The movie languished forgotten until it finally emerged on DVD just last year and is now slipped into this set.
Far more engaging is the same year’s Manchurian Candidate. The gripping drama is far superior to the recent remake and is a terrific Cold War tale with a strong cast including Angela Lansbury. For a time controversial, it is now one of the strongest Sinatra dramatic performances and a movie that holds up well despite the years and changing global politics.
Other sets of note to ComicMix fans include Gary Cooper, Jody Foster, Nicolas Cage, Robert Downey, Jr., and Sean Connery.