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Eastwood collection a treat, but expensive

John DeFore

Has it really just been 35 years?

With his carved-in-stone features, omnisciently calm filmmaking style and unchanging place in the cinematic firmament, it feels like Clint Eastwood has been directing his own movies since the dawn of Siegel and Peckinpah at least. Maybe since D.W. Griffith.

But the actor, who started playing gunslingers in the late '50s, didn't get behind the camera until 1971. And he didn't hitch his wagon to Warner Bros., forming one of Hollywood's most productive partnerships, until 1975 — a date now celebrated with a Warner box set, "35 Films, 35 Years," that the studio is calling "the largest feature film box set ever released for a single artist."

"Largest" doesn't always mean most impressive, of course, and "35/35" isn't a major archival undertaking like "Ford at Fox." Instead, it's a straightforward collection of the studio's Eastwood holdings — squeezing 34 already-available movies onto 19 discs and pairing them with a 22-minute documentary and a 24-page teaser for Richard Schickel's forthcoming book "Clint: A Retrospective."

Schickel directed that short documentary, which might be why the feature-length doc "Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows" isn't included in this set: Dave Kehr wrote its screenplay, and there may not be room on "35/35" for two longtime film critics.

Bonus material aside, the $180 set would be a cost-effective way to acquire an instant Clint collection — albeit one that doesn't include his MGM-owned work with Sergio Leone or the films he directed before Warners. And I guess it isn't too hard to imagine the man's fan base might include some geezers who've never owned a DVD before and are just now deciding the format isn't a fad.

For more tech-forward fans, though, buying a little pallet of standard-def DVDs might be a bad investment, considering how much of his oeuvre is already out on Blu-ray.

Without hunting too hard for online bargains, you could assemble quite an Eastwood library for $180. As of this writing, I could grab Blu-rays of "Unforgiven," "Pale Rider" and everything from "Mystic River" through "Gran Torino" for a total of $108, add the just-released "Dirty Harry" collection for $56, and have just about enough left to get the standard-def versions of "A Perfect World" and "White Hunter, Black Heart."

That would leave some gaps, of course. For instance, I wasn't able to squeeze "Bird" into my shopping spree.

(Actually, I could — I'd happily swap a DVD of that one for a Blu-ray of the so-so recent film "Changeling.") But going this direction would give me the best-quality versions of the best work this gifted filmmaker has done.

If it meant I had to do without "Every Which Way But Loose" and "Pink Cadillac" ... well, I can live with that.