If you haven't picked up Warner Home Video's release of Clint Eastwood's 1992 Oscar-winner Unforgiven on Blu-ray, don't delay another day. The film made its debut in Blu-ray earlier this year to commemorate the movie's 20th anniversary. For those of us who were long-time champions of Eastwood's abilities as an actor and director, the accolades the movie received made us seem a bit self-satisfied. In the early 1980s I co-authored a book about Eastwood's films and was told by my editor that while his movies were enjoyable, I was guilty of mistaking him for a world-class talent. No one was saying such things after Unforgiven, a classic Western that ranks among the best of the genre. Originally shot under the title The William Munny Killings, the film is a dramatic look at both the best and worst elements of human nature. (The film's final title did seem rather uninspired at the time, given the fact that John Huston had made a high profile western titled The Unforgiven in 1960) No one is completely good or bad in this film, including the Sheriff Little Bill (an Oscar winning performance by Gene Hackman), who runs his small town with an iron fist. He considers himself to be a good man and he certainly is courageous and incorruptible. However, when he doles out mild punishment for a man who used a knife to commit an atrocity on a local prostitute, her fellow hookers pool their hard-earned savings and offer a bounty to the man or men who kill or bring to justice the culprit and his companions. Answering the call is William Munny, an aging widower with two small children who is desperate to renounce his past as a hard-bitten saddle bum with a penchant for spilling blood. The bounty money will afford him the chance to start a new life. He is aided by his old friend Ned (Morgan Freeman) and a green horn who goes by the name of the Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett, who should have gone on to stardom). The Kid claims to be a hardened killer but his older mentors realize immediately he is all bluster. This disparate trio begins to track down the man who abused the prostitute and end up on a hellish journey that has unforeseen, tragic consequences.
Eastwood, who kept the screenplay by David Webb Peoples on a shelf until the time was right to dust it off, provides assured, top-notch direction as well as giving one of the best performances of his career. (He also wrote the film's haunting theme song for good measure). The supporting performances are all outstanding with Richard Harris making an odd, but unforgettable mid-film appearance as an egotistical British gunslinger who gets his just desserts at the hands of Little Bill. Every nuance of the movie rings true right down to the final gun battle in saloon that is brilliantly directed by Eastwood.
The deluxe version of the Blu-ray release comes in the format of a small, hardback photo book with an introduction by Eastwood. The photo content is worth the price of the set alone, with script pages, rare pre-production ads and behind the scenes photos displayed. Best of all is the bonus content which has been available on the previous DVD release:
Commentary track by Eastwood and biographer Richard Schickel
All on Accounta Pullin' a Trigger, which features recent interviews with cast and crew about the making of the film
Eastwood... A Star, a retrospective look at the screen legend's career
Eastwood and Company: Making 'Unforgiven': Schickel's outstanding one hour documentary that originally aired on broadcast TV
Eastwood on Eastwood, in which the actor/director reflects on his long career
A vintage episode of Maverick in which Eastwood plays a hardcase cowboy who goes up against star James Garner
In summary, it would be unforgivable not to add this deluxe Blu-ray of Unforgiven to your library. (The film is available as a bare-bones Blu-ray, but spring for the deluxe edition.)
If the year 2012 was one of the most volatile in terms of American politics, some of that tension has seeped into the race for the Best Picture Oscar. The nominees have not been announced yet but front runners include Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, each of which is drenched in historical political overtones that critics and pundits say have relevance to contentious issues going on today. The New York Times analyzes how those political undercurrents may effect what films get nominated and which one may win. Click here to read