Who can stand 32,580 seconds of Clint Eastwood?” asked Life magazine back in 1971, when the first Eastwood festivals started in the US.
Unlike with most Hollywood stars, who usually had to wait until they were six feet under before cinemas started running retrospectives, Eastwood’s films were always ripe for a re-watch.
Whole days, weekends and even weeks were dedicated to re-runs of his spaghetti westerns. Nobody cared about his supposedly inexpressive acting (“a graduate of the ‘Mount Rushmore Dramatic Academy’, snickered Life).
They just wanted to watch his movies again and again. The answer to the magazine’s question, it seemed, was “Just about everybody”.
Four decades later, DVD has made theatrical re-releases arguably redundant but Clint’s work endures. This boxset, the largest ever devoted to a single star, updates Life’s question to “Who can stand 261,000 seconds of Eastwood?” Funny thing is, the answer is pretty much the same.
Still, this isn’t the definitive picture of Eastwood’s career.
The first film is taut WW2 thriller Where Eagles Dare (1968), which means there’s no mention of his early days hanging out with Francis the Talking Mule in Francis In The Navy (a relief for him as well as us), flying a fighter jet in Tarantula, nor the seven years he spent on TV show Rawhide.
Missing too are the westerns where he made his name and his directorial debut Play Misty For Me.
Instead, this set concentrates on Clint’s long-running relationship with Warner Bros, once home to his favourite actor James Cagney.
Working with the studio and his production company Malpaso (named after a creek in the town of Carmel where he was once mayor), Eastwood has had a fruitful middle age, zig-zagging through hits like iconic cop flick Dirty Harry (included here with its four sequels), daring thrillers like Tightrope and throwaway nonsense with Clyde the orang-utan (Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can) or the invisible plane of Firefox.
He’s also pushed the envelope of his own talent behind the camera, fashioning not just classic westerns but also tackling unlikely, intense subjects like Charlie Parker, in biopic Bird, with a stolid seriousness.
Wandering the Warner backlot in the set’s only extra – a doc called The Eastwood Factor – Clint reminisces about these years. It’s not exhaustive, but it does give us an impression of a man consumed by his work.
“Who would you want to play you in the movie of your life?” asks a soundbite hound on the red carpet of Unforgiven’s La premiere. “He probably hasn’t been born yet,” growls Clint, “I’ve still got a few things to do…”
True, that. After the elegiac Unforgiven’s success, most might have been tempted to retire. Not Eastwood. He went on to make Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby (sadly missing here) and the solid diptych of Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. He’s got better as he’s accepted getting older.
Who wouldn’t swap the refusing-to-act-his-age silliness of Pink Cadillac, Space Cowboys or the woeful Blood Work for the unabashed, image-riffing cantankerousness of Gran Torino?
He may be 80 but he hasn’t stopped yet – fearless enough to ponder the next life in Hereafter later this year and prepping a biopic of J Edgar hoover for 2012.
Today he’s more likely to be compared to Mount Rushmore for very different reasons. He’s a monumental force in Hollywood: iconic, dependable and durable. Would you bet on him not making another Oscar winner before he turns 90? Do you feel lucky, punk?