I know what you're thinking.
"Did he fire six shots or only five?"
Despite everything else he has done in his career as either an actor or director, it is his 1971 film DIRTY HARRY and its title character that will remain the one thing that Clint Eastwood is most readily identified. The character has become a cinema icon for his tough and steely demeanor. In DIRTY HARRY, Clint Eastwood stars as Harry Callahan, a dedicated San Francisco police detective who threw away the rulebook a very long time ago. Harry is assigned to a case involving a sniper calling himself Scorpio who is holding the city hostage. Scorpio is demanding cash or he will continue picking off random targets of San Francisco citizenry. Harry is able to lock onto the identity of Scorpio and capture him, but a legal technicality sets the sniper free. This situation doesn’t sit well with Harry. Scorpio isn’t happy either, since he feels that Harry and the city have cheated him out of his money. This leads to one final hostage situation, which brings Harry and Scorpio to an inevitable showdown. Director Don Siegel makes excellent use of actual San Francisco locations, turning DIRTY HARRY into one of the grittiest, realistic and violent police dramas to be produced up until that time. The excellent cast of DIRTY HARRY features Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Larch, Josef Sommer, John Vernon and Andrew Robinson in a knockout performance as the crazed sniper Scorpio.
1973’s MAGNUM FORCE brings back Inspector Harry Callahan for a second cinematic go round bringing law and order to a crime-ridden San Francisco. Sure, Dirty Harry has the reputation for bending and outright breaking the rules in order to take out criminals; however, with MAGNUM FORCE Harry comes to the conclusion "Man's got to know his limitations" and a series of high profile vigilante killings push the police detective to his limits. Although not initially involved the homicide investigation, Harry suspicions lead him to believe that a motorcycle cop may be the unknown vigilante. While Harry butts head with his superior, Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook), over the investigation, the vigilante takes notice of Detective Callahan, and tries to put an end to his suspicions in a none too subtle fashion. The cast of MAGNUM FORCE also features Mitch Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven, Robert Urich and Felton Perry.
As much as I like Clint Eastwood and Dirty Harry movies, I do have to admit that 1976’s THE ENFORCER is a somewhat weaker entry in the series. Fortunately, the requisite action is there and Eastwood’s always makes the character and his screen time fun to watch. THE ENFORCER finds San Francisco under siege yet again. This time the threat comes from heavily armed revolutionaries. As always, there is only one many who can save the city- and his name is Dirty Harry. Of course, this time out, things get a little personal for everyone’s favorite .44 Magnum toting police inspector, when Harry’s long time partner becomes collateral damage to the reign of heavily armed revolutionaries on the streets of San Francisco. However, with enough firepower to back them up their demands, our so-called revolutionaries then make the requisite extortion attempt… right on cue. Sure, Dirty Harry’s one the case to bring down the revolutionaries, but in a plot twist that only a screenwriter could devise, the remainder of THE ENFORCER finds Harry partnered with Inspector Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), an inexperienced female detective, whom may have only been promoted to her position to fill a quota. The cast of THE ENFORCER also includes Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Mitchum, DeVeren Bookwalter and John Crawford.
I know 1983’s SUDDEN IMPACT has its detractors, but how can you not enjoy a revenge fantasy movie where Dirty Harry got to utter those memorable words… "Go ahead, make my day." With SUDDEN IMPACT, seven years have passed since the last Dirty Harry sequel and fortunately Detective Callahan hasn’t mellowed one iota. Harry’s methods continue to infuriate his superiors, members of the community, as well as the criminal element. When one of Harry’s latest escapades against a prominent mobster results in dead hitmen piling up at the morgue, Detective Callahan is sent out of town to investigate a serial killer who is shooting the victims in the family jewels. Sure, SUDDEN IMPACT sometimes plays like a subtle version of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but I think the whole point of the movie is present the main character with a fractured mirror image of himself, with an equally fractured sense of justice. SUDDEN IMPACT also stars Eastwood’s then girlfriend Sondra Locke as Jennifer Spencer, the gang rape victim out for revenge. Also lending support are Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Paul Drake, Audrie J. Neenan, Jack Thibeau, Michael Currie and Albert Popwell.
THE DEAD POOL
1988’s THE DEAD POOL marked the fifth and final time that Eastwood strapped on Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum, and the film proves itself to be an entertaining conclusion to the series. Now while the character of Dirty Harry would appear to be the same on paper, on the big screen, the deepening lines in Eastwood’s face makes him comes across a little bit more like a trigger-happy, cantankerous old codger, than the trigger-happy lawman, rebelling against a broken legal system, that audiences first met and loved. That said; one has to remember that nearly two decades separate DIRTY HARRY and THE DEAD POOL, so this film’s biggest failing may be that it was made five year later than it should have. The premise of THE DEAD POOL concerns a macabre game, which lists the names of celebrity, and the player must guess will be the next to die. The first unlucky celebrity from the list is rock star Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey). As you might have guessed, Detective Callahan is assigned the investigation, which attracts media attention, with the side effect of Dirty Harry’s rising celebrity earning his name a place on the potentially lethal list. In addition to being notable as the final Dirty Harry movie, THE DEAD POOL also features a very cool car chase sequence involving a radio-controlled car rigged with plastic explosives. The cast of THE DEAD POOL also features Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim and David Hunt.
Warner Home Video has made all five movies that comprise the DIRTY HARRY: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION ($75) available on DVD in their proper aspect ratios and have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. DIRTY HARRY, MAGNUM FORCE, THE ENFORCER and SUDDEN IMPACT are framed at 2.35:1, while THE DEAD POOL is framed at 1.85:1. Although not wholly perfect, the DVDs compare very well to their hi-def Blu-ray counterparts and look exceedingly good for seventies and eighties productions. Like the Blu-ray versions, image quality varies film to film, with the picture generally getting stronger as the movies get newer. At the standard definition level, image sharpness and detail rate as very good in all five outings. Each of the movies offers nicely saturated colors, although there are some fluctuations. Flesh tones are fairly natural across the board. Black are generally solid in all of the films and the whites are stable. Contrast is fairly smooth for each film. The film elements are usually very clean, but minor blemishes remain. Film grain is noticeable and varies by the age of the film and lighting conditions, but is never bothersome. Digital compression artifacts are fairly well contained.
All of the films contained in the DIRTY HARRY: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION come with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks. For their various ages, all of the files are nicely upgraded to 5.1, but none of these soundtracks will be confused with something freshly out of the multiplex. As expected, age is the limiting factor, so the sound quality gets progressively better as the films get newer. Channel separations are not pushed to ridiculous levels; sound effects are deployed to the outlying channels only when the onscreen action warrants. Fidelity is just fine, although these tracks do sound thinner than new movies. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand. French, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese language tracks are also encoded onto the discs. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that are included with each film. DIRTY HARRY features a running Audio Commentary with Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel, plus the following Featurettes: Dirty Harry: The Original, Dirty Harry’s Way and The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry, as well as an Interview Gallery, the 1993 TV Special Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso and a Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery. MAGNUM FORCE features a running Audio Commentary with writer John Milius, plus the following Featurettes: A Moral Right: The Politics Of Dirty Harry and The Hero Cop: Yesterday And Today, as well as a Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery.
THE ENFORCER features a running Audio Commentary with director James Fargo, plus the following Featurettes: The Business End: Violence In Cinema and Harry Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special In Films, as well as a Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery. SUDDEN IMPACT features a running Audio Commentary with Richard Schickel, plus the following Featurette: The Evolution Of Clint Eastwood, as well as a Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery. THE DEAD POOL features a running Audio Commentary with producer David Valdes and Cinematographer Jack N. Green, plus the following Featurette: The Craft Of Dirty Harry, as well as a Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery.
Extra goodies inside the ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION box set include a seventh disc with the 2000 American Masters documentary Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows a 40+ page hardcover book, Wallet w/metal badge and removable laminated I.D. card, Five 5"x 7" Reproduction Lobby Poster Cards plus an exclusive UCE card, Scorpio Portrait of a Killer Poster-Sized (19" x 27") map of San Francisco detailing Harry’s hunt for the killer, Never-Before-Seen Production Correspondence, and finally, A Personal Message From Clint Eastwood.
I have always been a fan of the Dirty Harry. Warner has done their usual terrific job of upgrading these films for DVD. Recommended.
Note: in addition to the ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION, the films are available individually on DVD. The two disc special edition of DIRTY HARRY retails for $20.98, while the deluxe edition of remaining films retail for $14.98.
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