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Joe Kidd (Special Edition)
Directed by John Sturges from a script by Elmore Leonard, 1972's Joe Kidd takes place in the New Mexico of the old west. Here we meet a former professional bounty hunter named Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) who gets caught up in some problematic local issues when he agrees to help landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) and his armed posse hunt down Luis Chama (John Saxon), a Mexican revolutionary whom Harlan would like to see done away with.
There is, of course, Chama's side of the story to consider as well. He and his people lost the claims they made on some newly acquired American soil and, coincidently, all the paperwork that they had to back their claims up disappeared in a fire at the courthouse that took out the records. That said, Chama soon finds himself on Kidd's bad side after stealing his horses and getting more and more aggressive in his tactics.
Very nicely shot by Bruce Surtees and set to an excellent score by Lalo Schifrin, Joe Kidd isn't the best of Eastwood's westerns but it's an entertaining picture despite its flaws. Reportedly this was quite a troubled shoot as Sturges was drinking pretty heavily at the time and famously having trouble getting Eastwood, who had some changes made to the script to make his character more heroic, take direction from him. Most of the characters are one dimensional and underwritten, Kidd's background is never expanded on the way it should be, and the film winds up relying on western movie clichés more than it probably should have. It's also interesting to note that the story borrows a few elements from Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence, and while it never feels like a remake, per se, the influence would certainly seem to be there.
Regardless of those issues, which are admittedly hard to miss, Joe Kidd is still worthwhile viewing for fans of Westerns or Eastwood in particular. His performance is pretty solid, and while he's not stretching as an actor here and leaning in to the ‘strong, silent' stereotype that made him famous in the first place, he does what he does quite well, with plenty of visual emphasis given to his trademark steely-eyed squint and quick trigger finger. Supporting work from Robert Duvall and John Saxon is also memorable. While Saxon may not be the best casting choice to play a Mexican, he handles the material well enough and does a good job bringing a tricky character to live on the silver screen. Robert Duvall, likewise, is great here, throwing his weight around and stealing more than a few scenes from Eastwood himself.
The action set pieces are the best part of the movie, and on this level Joe Kidd is well done. The shoot-outs are intense and well-edited, building some nice tension and excitement as they play out. The pacing of the film overall is pretty decent, there are a few slower and talkier bits here and there but overall it moves nicely. It doesn't offer much in the way of depth or ever hit the heights of Eastwood's legitimate western classics like High Plains Drifter, Unforgiven or the Leone pictures, but it is a fine way to kill an hour and a half with some western movie thrills.
Joe Kidd arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 with the feature given 27.5GBS of space on the 50GB disc. Picture quality is very strong on this disc, there's a lot of appreciable detail noticeable throughout the movie and color reproduction looks excellent. We get nice, deep black levels while shadow detail is pretty nice in the film's darker scenes. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, and there are no problems with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction issues.
A 16-bit English language DTS-HD options is provided in 2.0 Mono format. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems with the audio here, it sounds clean and properly balanced. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion the score sounds quite strong and the sound effects are punchy when they should be while dialogue stays easily discernable from start to finish.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox that, in Cox's typically laid back manner, covers all the bases. There's lots of talk here about Eastwood's performance and where his career was at this point in his life, details on the different supporting plays that are used throughout the picture, Elmore Leonard's script, John Sturges' directing style, the score, some of the more memorable set pieces, the locations used for the shoot and plenty of other details about the origins of this picture.
Kino also provides a new interview with Actor Don Stroud that clocks in at just over nine-minutes in length. Here Stroud talks about his working relationship with Eastwood on this and a few other films, what it was like on set and more.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer, two TV spots, a radio spot, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Bonus trailers for A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Two Mules For Sister Sara and High Plains Drifter, all available from Kino, are also provided.
As to how the release is packaged, the first pressing comes with a limited edition slipcover that features the original poster art on the front, in addition to a reversible inner cover sleeve that has that same poster art on the front and an alternate poster image on the reverse.
Joe Kidd may not be concerned with depth or realism but it's a really entertaining action-heavy western with a strong performance from Eastwood in the lead. He might not be stretching as an actor here, but he plays the party very well. Kino's Blu-ray has some nice extra features on it and presents the picture itself in an excellent presentation. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.