Review by Michael Jacobson
Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Rene Santoni, Andy Robinson, John Larch,
John Vernon June 3, 2008
Director: Don Siegel
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
June 3, 2008
you been following that man?”
I’ve been following him on my own time. And
anybody can tell I didn’t do that to him!”
he looks too damn good!”
was a year of cultural and political turmoil in this country…the Vietnam war
effectively saw the flower power generation giving way to a more cynical and
angry attitude. Collectively, our
innocence had been coming to an end for some time with the assassinations of
John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and others. Watergate was about to change the face of American politics
forever. And a new feeling was
emerging…one of distrust of our basic institutions, particularly the justice
system, which was beginning to seem more and more like it was more concerned
with salvaging the rights of criminals than protecting the innocents from them.
was a year ripe for one of the most influential and politically incorrect films
ever to come out of Hollywood. Dirty
Harry created a new kind of cop for a new kind of America.
A cop who would only play by the rules until the rules stopped
working…then he would take matters into his own hands.
a dark, violent piece of filmmaking that packs all the intensity of a tightly
wound coil about to burst, or a keg of dynamite that sizzles and will explode at
any time. Other films in the last
thirty years have covered similar territory, and have certainly been more
bloody, but there’s something about the rawness of Dirty Harry that
makes its images much more disturbing and haunting.
Eastwood, who made a Western career out of playing antiheroes of few words,
brings a similar mentality to the role of San Francisco Police Inspector Harry
Callahan. The part suited him like
a glove…he played it with a genuine sense of world-weariness and quiet anger.
One can read in his eyes some of what he’s seen during his years on the
force…and now, he’s about to face his greatest challenge, with a pitiless
murderer on one side and an uncaring judicial system on the other.
is as cool a character as has ever graced the big screen.
I always love, for example, the first big shootout in the picture, which
Harry executes while still chewing his lunch.
It culminates in the first reading of the now-famous “Do I feel
lucky?” speech. It would be repeated at the end, with the audience hanging on
every word and anxiously awaiting the outcome.
a psychotic killer who calls himself Scorpio (Robinson) demands a $100,000
ransom from the city of San Francisco against the threat of a killing spree,
Callahan gets the call. But Scorpio
is as smart as he is crazy, and proves hard to catch. In one of the most memorable sequences, Harry plays bagman
for the police force, as Scorpio runs him all over town in order to shake
potential tails. He gets the best
of Harry for the time being, but before long, you know he’ll get the worst of
is one of my most hated movie villains. Andy
Robinson plays him with a soulless evil, and the film doesn’t gloss over or
recoil from what he does. The idea,
for example, of a little girl suffocating in a well is a powerful motivating
force for the story, and the image of it maintains a sense of underlying
suspense that helps score the action on the screen.
When Scorpio ends up on a school bus full of kids at the end, there is no
safe guarantee that the film won’t save the children just because most
movies would never go that far.
Scorpio is not Harry’s most powerful enemy here. When a desperate effort to save the girl in the well inspires
him to use unconventional methods, he learns the system will have to let him go
as a result. “That man had
rights!” the District Attorney barks. “Well,
I’m all broken up over that man’s rights!” Harry retorts. Soon, a known killer will once again be free to kill, and
there’s nothing that can be done about it legally.
But when Harry decides to buck the system and take matters into his own
hands, the film speeds towards an inevitable climax. For him, it’s no longer an issue of legality or
Constitutionality…it’s a matter of simple right and wrong.
were shocked by Dirty Harry…some prominent critics even hated it.
Others saw in Harry exactly what they were looking for, and the kind of
cop the cynical atmosphere of the time demanded.
One could argue that the movie has grown more and not less topical over
the years. Some people see the
system as protecting the criminals more than ever…it’s no wonder Harry’s
final act always draws applause.
I have always counted Dirty Harry amongst my favorite films.
It never grows old for me, with its pent-up sense of anger and
frustration, its terrific action sequences, its memorable villain and its study
of a cop on the edge. It also has
to be considered one of the most influential films Hollywood ever produced.
John McClane in Die Hard, Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon…are
these not Harry’s children?
Harry is the
original and still the best. Inspector
Callahan has been taking out criminals, protecting the public, and thrilling
movie audiences for almost forty years now…there’s no reason to think the next
forty will be any different.
BONUS TRIVIA: Scorpio was based on the actual San Francisco killer The Zodiac.
original DVD release of Dirty Harry was not exactly a benchmark moment
for Warner Bros., but for the new edition, they offer a newly
remastered transfer worthy of a film classic.
A quick side by side comparison shows that this new disc fixes all the
flaws I deemed noteworthy in the original release. Colors are much brighter, more vivid, more natural, and with
better containment. Dark scenes
with bright reds were once a serious image problem; not anymore.
Those darker scenes, which used to be horribly grainy, have been
considerably cleaned up, maintaining a generally good sense of sharpness without
the unnatural grainy look. The
print is cleaner, with only a few noticeable spots and specks here and there.
There are some night scenes that still look a little murky, and one or
two short clips that don’t appear to have been touched in the restoration
process for whatever reason, but these are few and fleeting.
Overall, this is definitely the best that Harry has ever looked, and fans
will be thrilled!
the pan and scan version of the film is gone, and good riddance…this is the
kind of impeccably framed film that is ruined with improper cropping.
5.1 soundtrack is a solid treat from beginning to end, with plenty of action
sequences that bring up the audio on both stages, with added punch from the
subwoofer. Scenes where the
helicopters are flying in surveillance show how smooth and lively the crossover
effects are, and Harry’s legendary Magnum gun sounds more ominous than ever.
Dynamic range is strong, and dialogue and music are always clear.
Warner has packaged this re-release double disc with a commentary from Richard Schickel, who also penned a bio on Eastwood. There is a featurette, “Dirty Harry: The Original”. It features interviews with stars Eastwood and Robinson, narration by Robert Urich, and even a guest spot or two from Dirty Harry fan Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was pleased to see how normal a guy Robinson actually is! In addition, there is an extensive interview gallery arranged by name, for even more information. There is also an original 1971 short piece “Dirty Harry’s Way”.
The second disc boasts two new documentaries: "The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry" examines the legacy of the film, while "The Man From Malposo" chronicles the career of Mr. Eastwood!
held up well over nearly forty years. This
new DVD offering from Warner is a definite keeper, even if you’ve
purchased the title before. The
terrific new transfer and juicy package of extras make this disc a treat…we
fans can definitely consider ourselves lucky this time around.