James Clay//Film Critic
Boutique blu ray and indie film distributor Kino Lorber recently released a hefty crop of films from Clint Eastwood that range from low-key westerns to early directional efforts. And one movie I haven’t heard of (THE EIGER SANCTION) until this release was announced. Part of the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line, these films from the early to mid-1970s chronicle his rise to Hollywood icon status after starring in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns dissecting his relationship with masculinity.
All six movies are worth owning for the sake of collecting with retro artwork, slipcovers, and a heaping helping of special features, including interviews, video essays, and historical documentaries. This week we’ll cover revisionist Western HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, the romantic adventure TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, and the bonkers 1975 film THE EIGER SANCTION. They are a must-own for film fanatics; all are worth owning, so the Rent or Buy portion will be omitted this week.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA
In 1970 Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel found themselves collaborating again after COOGAN’S BLUFF’s success just two years prior. With TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, they flexed their empathetic muscles while staying within the rigid guy template the duo became known for decades later. Filled with adventure, danger, and beautiful scenery, TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA toes the line between being a popcorn pleaser general audiences can enjoy and a Western meat and potatoes men will crave. While Siegel is firmly in control of the film, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful as Shirley MacLaine’s dynamic screen presence.
Eastwood once again plays an aimless drifter who’s only interest is whiskey, cigars, and money, but this time he’s got a name and a soft spot for a cheeky nun who’s smarter than she seems. Hogan (Eastwood) is riding through a town in Mexico when he single-handedly saves an ailing nun named Sister Sara (MacLaine) from being sexually assaulted by a group of bandits. The two unlikely companions team up to become freedom fighters from the bandits occupying a Mexican garrison. Still, under the surface, things aren’t what they seem, and a romance starts to blossom.
Siegel gave Eastwood a wonderful character to play with that’s interested in himself first and foremost, but there’s room for the shadowy cowboy to play a kind-hearted love interest. It’s all about picking the moments for him to be certifiable badass and when to play the crooner. What TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA does best is blending the two while keeping the sense of adventure fun and foreboding. While the two men are best known for subverting the tropes of action pictures, they accomplished something a bit more enticing by casting a wide net and integrating a top tier actor like Shirley MacLaine into their hyper-masculine world.
Blu-ray Extras Include:
Brand New 4K Restorations – 113:32 International Cut / 104:40 Domestic Cut
NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox
At Home with Clint: Vintage Candid Interview with Clint Eastwood
Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
Poster and Image Gallery
2 TV Spots
4 Radio Spots
THE EIGER SANCTION
THE EIGER SANCTION is Eastwood’s version of a straight-up action movie with his signature machismo blended with a little culture and a little dose of half baked espionage. No matter how unimportant and perhaps nonsensical the plotting may be, this film is never dull, objectively offensive, but there are a few sturdy set pieces that hold up quite well. Lost and seemingly forgotten, Eastwood’s version of 007 is slightly lost yet indulges in simple pleasures that only “tough guys” will enjoy. A terrible title doesn’t always equal a bad movie.
Jonathan Hemlock (Eastwood) is a retired assassin who now has opted to slow things down by becoming a professor who collects rare paintings. Hemlock is harassed by Dragon (Thayer David) —- an old foe and albino Nazi who can’t go into the light without succumbing to intense pain— to complete one last “sanction.
The consequence is Dragon plans to report Hemlock’s coveted art collection to the IRS, which is the wrong move if you’ve ever seen a movie starring Clint Eastwood. The “sanction,” aka killing somebody, takes Hemlock to the Swiss Alps to find his mark and finally be free. Along the way, he meets up with an old buddy named Ben (an always welcome George Kennedy) who gets Hemlock in climbing shape before heading to Eiger to scale a mountain.
This movie is incredibly crazy and has loads of wildly offensive comments by today’s standards and are too risqué to mention here, but let’s just say it’s homophobic and misogynistic. Somehow through all of that bold craziness in its supposed humor, THE EIGER SANCTION makes for a solid movie that has several memorable supporting roles from Kennedy, David, and most notably Jack Cassidy as a flamboyant criminal. It’s a wild ride, and for all the flack Eastwood gets for being a bland filmmaker these days, he sure had no problems taking risks earlier in his directing career.
-Brand New 2K Master
-NEW Audio Commentary by Film Critic Nick Pinkerton
-NEW Interview with Actor Reiner Schöne
-Archival Interview with Actress Heidi Brühl
-Vintage 8-Minute Promotional Reel in HD
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is perhaps Eastwood’s most mean-spirited film that deals with supernatural elements and quite literally burning down every cliche, the Western cliche that had predated “The Man With No Name.” This searing thriller also is a cautionary tale about the dangers of absolute power; if both sides are evil, which one do you choose? HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER was his first Western to direct and only the second film he directed. Eastwood was coming out of the gates strong as a filmmaker making populist films with an artist’s edge.
Eastwood is once again playing a stranger who emerges from the hot western prairie’s depths with zero allegiance to anything except himself. Once the smoldering drifter arrives in Lago’s desert town, he commits three murders (which he claims is self-defense) and r*pes a woman within the film’s first twenty minutes. The disturbing images keep on coming as the film develops. Eastwood is giving the audience what they want. He knows this is over the top and problematic but is hellbent on pushing the limits of what an audience is willing to withstand from a so-called protagonist. He photographs the violence with such a visceral edge you’d have to wonder what Sam Peckinpah thought about this effort. HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is a disturbing film from start to finish and one that’s impossible to forget.
-NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox
-NEW Interview with Actress Marianna Hill
-NEW Interview with Actor Mitchell Ryan
-NEW Interview with Actor William O’Connell
-A Man Named Eastwood: Vintage HPD Promo
-TRAILERS FROM HELL with Josh Olson
-TRAILERS FROM HELL with Edgar Wright
-Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
-Poster and Image Gallery
All of the films discussed here are available now via Kino Lorber and major online retailers.