In honor of Clint Eastwood’s 80th birthday this month, I’d like to take a look at some of his films which–at least upon first release–flied a bit under audiences’ radar. Full disclosure: This is actually an update on an earlier post I wrote which included other actors’ overlooked efforts as well. Nevertheless, here are five of Clint’s “lesser” works still well worth viewing:
The Beguiled (1971)
WHO (else): Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman
WHAT: A Southern girls’ school idyllic, if not anachronistic, existence is shattered by the arrival wounded Union soldier Eastwood, who’s been given refuge.
WHY: Released in the same year as Dirty Harry and Play Misty for Me, the film was perhaps destined to be overlooked. Even so, it confounded critics and moviegoers alike with many unpleasant scenes and its ending outraged even its own studio boss. Pay no attention. This slightly surreal gothic tale keeps viewers off balance, ever questioning the characters’ motives and intentions.
Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
WHO (else): Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod
WHAT: The mission isn’t a man; its 14,000 gold bars in a bank vault behind enemy lines during World War II. Private Kelly, along with his disillusioned, scruffy band of brothers, decides to pay a visit to make a withdrawal.
WHY: It’s not so much the plot as it is the cast who seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. This may have started out as a star vehicle for Eastwood, but it’s quickly evident that the rest of the ensemble gets away with a hilarious hijacking. The characters Oddball, Big Joe, Crapgame, Moriarty and General Colt constantly toss off one-liners and are a hoot to watch.
A Perfect World (1993)
WHO (else): Kevin Costner, Laura Dern
WHAT: This Eastwood-directed tale has escaped prisoner Costner kidnapping a young boy and then going on the lam, staying one step ahead of Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Dern.
WHY: Costner’s convict “ain’t a good man…ain’t the worst neither.” He’s been dealt a bad hand in life but doesn’t wallow in pity. Costner shares a kinship with his young new companion/victim, and tries to impart what he’s learned from his hard-bitten life upon the boy. Damaged relationships, conflicted feelings, misguided decisions, and unanswered questions are all part of this imperfect world.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)
WHO (else): Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy
WHAT: Years after pulling a heist where the money went missing, Eastwood and Kennedy are convinced by young turk Bridges that second time’s the charm. And it is…until a botched getaway leads to a downward spiral of tragedy.
WHY: Happy-go-lucky Bridges breathing life into the cautionary phrase “be careful what you wish for.”
WHO (else): Geneviève Bujold, Dan Hedaya, Alison Eastwood
WHAT: A serial killer is preying on prostitutes in New Orleans’ red light district. A divorced, loving father-of-two detective is assigned the case. But the cop also has an affinity for the seedier side of life—one that which eerily compares to the killer’s kinky tastes. Coincidence?
WHY: Eastwood takes a walk on the wild side. Unlike his macho self-assured characters (Man with No Name, Harry Callahan, Philo Beddoe, etc), in Tightrope Clint plays a flawed man put in the uncompromising position of investigating (and dealing with) his own unsavory proclivities.
Cast your vote in our Movie Poll: Who’s Your Favorite Clint Eastwood Cowboy?
Which Clint Eastwood character is more iconic, the Man with No Name or “Dirty” Harry Callahan? MovieFanFare looks at the case for each here.