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Clint Eastwood movies receive Blu-ray upgrades this week
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Clint Eastwood is a fish-out-of-water Arizona sheriff searching for an escaped criminal in Manhattan in "Coogan's Bluff," now available in a Blu-ray upgrade as part of "Clint Eastwood: The Universal 7-Movie Collection." - photo by Chris Hicks
Four Clint Eastwood movies are on Blu-ray for the first time as part of a new seven-film box set released this week.

Clint Eastwood: The Universal Pictures 7-Movie Collection (Universal/Blu-ray, 1968-75, seven discs, seven movies, featurettes, trailers). Eastwood got his start as a bit player in several films at Universal Pictures during 1955 and 1956. Over the next couple of years, he bounced around at other studios before co-starring in the TV series Rawhide, during which time he finally hit it big with the Dollar trilogy that kicked off the spaghetti Western craze of the 60s and 70s.

Eastwood is most closely associated with Warner Bros., where he has made a remarkable 36 films over 36 years. But he often returned to his old stomping grounds, and these seven movies from Universal, four of them upgraded to Blu-ray for the first time, make for an interesting and eclectic collection.

Arguably, the best is Play Misty for Me (1971), which anticipates Fatal Attraction and marks Eastwoods directing debut. But the fish-out-of-water police procedural Coogans Bluff (1968), the off-center Civil War melodrama The Beguiled (1971) and the spy thriller The Eiger Sanction (1975), all making their Blu-ray debuts, are also entertaining works. The three Westerns included here Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), Joe Kidd (1972) and High Plains Drifter (1973) were previously released on Blu-ray.

Viva Villa! (Warner Archive/DVD, 1934, b/w, trailer). Wallace Beery gives one of his best performances in this rich, rowdy, funny and action-filled south-of-the-border Western, which was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture and for Ben Hechts script.

With bluster and bravado, Beery embodies Pancho Villa, the ruthless Mexican bandit who became a benefactor for the peasantry and a political icon whose goal was to give Mexico back to its people. Co-stars include Fay Wray, Leo Carrillo, Donald Cook and Stuart Erwin. As history, its specious, but the film remains entertaining. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)

Jamaica Inn (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 1939, b/w, audio commentary, featurette, trailers; eight-page booklet). This thriller was Alfred Hitchcocks last film in England before he moved to the United States. Charles Laughton stars and produced, and his hammy but often witty performance, as a country squire (a clergyman in the book) who is actually the head of a band of pirates, is the films centerpiece.

Teenage Maureen OHara is introduced, though this is not actually her first picture, and she delivers a mature performance. Robert Newton, who would gain worldwide fame as a pirate himself in 1950s Disney film of Treasure Island, is also good.

Long available on lousy public domain DVDs, this film has never looked so good as in this gorgeous restoration. An unjustly maligned effort, its no masterpiece but its also not the disaster indicated by so many, including Hitch himself and Daphne du Maurier, who wrote the novel. (Hitchcock went on to do two more of her books to better effect: the Oscar-winning Rebecca and The Birds.)

Sol Madrid (Warner Archive/DVD, 1968, trailer). David McCallum, currently a regular on the top-rated TV series NCIS, was riding high in 1968 after finding success on TVs The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So he made a bid for movie stardom with this well-plotted action thriller about good guys and bad guys pursuing an accountant (Pat Hingle) who's made off with $500,000 in mob money. McCallum is the title character, an Interpol agent that wants Hingle to testify against his bosses. Co-stars include Stella Stevens, Telly Savalas, Rip Torn and Paul Lukas. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)

John J. Malone Mystery Double Feature: Having a Wonderful Crime/Mrs. OMalley and Mr. Malone (Warner Archive/DVD, 1945/1950, b/w, one trailer). Novels by Craig Rice about crusading lawyer John J. Malone provide the basis for these comedy-mysteries. Having a Wonderful Crime has Michael J. Malone (Pat OBrien) trying to locate a magician who's disappeared, with help/hindrance from a pair of newlyweds (George Murphy and, in a scene-stealing role, wise-cracking Carole Landis). Mrs. OMalley and Mr. Malone is a bit less successful, relying on its sturdy stars, Marjorie Main and James Whitmore. Shes a radio contest winner who helps/hinders John J. Malones pursuit of an embezzler onboard a train. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)

Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces (Warner/DVD, 1935-61, 18 cartoons). Kill the wabbit! If you know that lyric, sung by Elmer Fudd in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Whats Opera, Doc? (1957), then you know what to expect with this disc 18 theatrical cartoons that are musical in nature. The spoofery begins with Corny Concerto (1943), a riff on Fantasia with Bugs and Porky Pig, and continues through 17 more, including the aforementioned classic riff on Wagner. (All of these cartoons were previously released in Looney Tunes Golden Collections.)