The Elmore Leonard Western returns in a new Blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber Studio Classics
These days Joe Kidd, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, isn’t as well remembered as many of Clint Eastwood’s better known westerns, but it’s well deserving of a place in that canon.
Eastwood brought on the legendary John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) to direct, signaling a bit of a change-up from the stylish spaghetti and revisionist westerns which were en vogue at the time, and for which Eastwood in particular was known.
While Eastwood and Sturges frequently quarreled on the set (as Don Stroud discusses in his on-disc interview), the result is a terrific western with both modern sensibilities (sympathy for dissidents) and a classical western feel.
When we meet Joe, he’s unimpressive — in jail serving a sentence for a minor infraction — but his reputation as a skilled pathfinder and marksman still precede him, though those days are behind him.
Kidd is solicited and hired by wealthy landowner Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) to hunt down Luis Chama John Saxon), a Mexican dissident who has been making trouble over a land grievance — land which it’s clearly implied that Harlan stole.
Kidd grudgingly agrees to help as a guide, but is soon disgusted by the brutality of Harlan and his thugs, who murder indiscriminately in their quest, and turns against them.
Early on, Joe Kidd tackles the familiar and uncomfortable feeling of being a conscientious objector in a group setting, stuck in the situation and resolved to make the best of it somehow.
The film moves into a different and more adventurous tone when Kidd makes good his escape from the gang and starts to work against them, offing some of his foes in unique and frankly humorous ways, ultimately culminating in a wild train stunt that still feels ludicrously entertaining and over the top in the best way.
Duvall, hot off his role in The Godfather, is suitably despicable as the ruthless Harlan. John Saxon does an incredible job with his role as the Mexican rebel leader Chama, though by modern standards his casting feels dated. Still, for a guy whose last name roughly translates to “white dude”, he does a tremendous job with the Spanish-speaking role and his presence brings noticeable energy to the film’s action-packed third act.
Joe Kidd comes to Blu-ray as as part of Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ wave of Clint Eastwood re-releases. Like the other films in this project, the Blu-ray comes with new bonus features and a handsome slipcover, plus reversible case art. (Though unlike many of those other releases, this one has made no mention of a new scan or restoration).
Special Features and Extras
- NEW Audio Commentary by Filmmaker Alex Cox — Cox, known for his expertise on the Western genre, peppers in input on the film and its making. This is not a wall-to-wall commentary, but a more relaxed experience of watching the film with him and hearing his thoughts.
- NEW Interview with Actor Don Stroud (9:06) — A lively and good-humored interview with Stroud, who plays one of the film’s main heavies. Don is very animated as he discusses his experiences and friendships with the other cast members, constant tensions between Sturges and Eastwood (whom Stroud maintains should’ve directed himself), and Clint’s novel method of defusing tension on the set.
- Poster and Image Gallery (3:14)
- HD Theatrical Trailer (2:22)
- TV Spot (0:29)
- Radio Spot (0:58)
- Cline Eastwood Trailer Reel:
– A Fistful of Dollars (2:26)
– For a Few Dollars More (3:50)
– The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (3:22)
– Coogan’s Bluff (2:11)
– Two Mules for Sister Sara (2:35)
– The Beguiled (2:42)
– Play Misty for Me (1:52)
– High Plains Drifter (2:30)
– Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (2:09)
– The Eiger Sanction (2:49)
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.