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How radically different cinema history, and our collective
consciousness, would have been if Frank Sinatra hadn't injured his hand
before shooting started on "Dirty Harry". Sinatra was due to play Harry,
but had to withdraw, clearing the way for Clint. Given Sinatra's unique
brand of self-loathing, Harry would have been an uglier personality than
Clint made him. As it is, Lieutenant Callaghan is an ornery anti-liberal
cuss of a guy, but he is straight and likeable. Arguably, it was this
characterisation which made Eastwood a megastar.
San Francisco in 1971 was ready for stardom itself. The West Coast love-in scene and the gay 'boom', together with McQueen's "Bullitt", raised awareness of San Francisco as an exciting liberal city with a photogenic skyline. The film's funky score by Lalo Schifrin is perfectly-judged, and spawned numerous imitators.
The central narrative concerns a lone nut who is trying to hold the city to ransom. He starts by murdering citizens to extort money from the mayor, then progresses to kidnapping children. This plays cleverly on the inchoate anxieties of Middle America, where law-abiding people were puzzled and alarmed at the 'crime wave' and the threat it posed to them and their families. Crime in the decades before the Kennedy assassination had been compartmentalised by Hollywood. Gangsters were bad, but they killed other gangsters. Now the danger was unpredictable, irrational - and solitary. The lone madman was as likely to strike against me or you as against an institution. Only a single-minded strong man, operating on the fringes of the rules, could combat this new terror.
Harry is a paradox. In one sense, he is an 'outlaw'. He has little respect for formal authority (in the opening minutes, we see him being rude to the mayor) and he carries a strictly non-regulation monster of a gun. Harry is openly racist and mutinous. And yet he is also deeply moral. He conforms to an unarticulated ethical code that is anglosaxon American. He protects the weak and confronts the wrongdoers, no matter how the odds are stacked against him. Indeed, the cowardly bureaucrats who will never reward him or promote him are able to exploit his profound decency. They send him on all the difficult, dirty jobs because they know that his sense of right and wrong won't allow him to walk away.
Early in the film, the famous bank robbery scene occurs. This has become so familiar that it hardly needs elaborating here, but to summarise, Harry foils an armed robbery using icy courage and grim humour - and his magnum handgun. The special brand of Eastwood humour recurs throughout the story (eg, the suicide jumper and the gay called 'Alice'). White anglosaxon America is encouraged to laugh at the undergroups which supposedly threaten it.
When the bad guy 'Scorpio' is cornered, he immediately starts bleating about his civil rights. This is meant to arouse our fury, because we have seen him callously destroying the lives of others, and here he is exploiting the protection of the state. To make matters worse, the state agrees with him. We see the DA and a judge explaining to Harry why the cogent evidence against Scorpio is inadmissible. Just exactly why the DA would call a meeting with a lowly policeman in order to explain department policy is far from clear, but the scene is thematically necessary. Scorpio is using the System against the decent, godfearing people who own it. The liberal apparatus is skewed if it lets a killer walk away scot-free.
There are some illogicalities about the plot. Such an important event as the cash drop is left to two cops working alone, when in reality there would be a massive covert operation. When Scorpio beats the rap, there is no public outcry or media storm, and he is allowed to get on with his anonymous existence virtually untroubled.
However, this hardly matters since the main thrust of the story is the coming showdown between Harry and the bad guy. As the climax approaches, Harry drops out of the police operation. Scorpio is at his manic worst on the hi-jacked school bus, alienating us nicely and suppressing any liberal twitches we may still be feeling. Then we see Harry, standing as upright and sturdy as the Statue Of Liberty ....
Released on Christmas Day 1971, "Dirty Harry" transformed Clint Eastwood from cult figure to superstar. Another maverick cop thriller, "The French Connection," was released a few months earlier, and it may have won the Oscars and garnered the critical acclaim, but "Dirty Harry" is the true classic of the two, and the most influential. Great action magnificently directed by Don Siegel, the master of the genre, great dialogue, and relentless tension make this the ultimate detective thriller and one of the defining films of the 1970s.
Don Siegel's "Dirty Harry" was arguably the start of the serial
killer/cop genre inherent in so many mainstream American movies
released today. Setting the stage for countless rip-offs and sequels,
"Dirty Harry" was one of the true first of its kind--not only in
regards to its genre influence but also in terms of its content. (Full
frontal nudity, heavy vigilante-style violence and strong language.) It
is, in fact, one of the quintessential 1970s films--capturing the very
essence of the typical gritty '70s film style we're all familiar with.
If "Midnight Cowboy" began the trend, "Dirty Harry" extends it.
Clint Eastwood delivers one of his finest performances as the titular "Dirty" Harry Callahan. He's got just the right amount of cocky cynacism and inset sense of self-justice and importance to make the character realistic and likable, despite his flaws.
The plot almost seems routine now, but back in '71 it was controversial stuff: Harry is a tough cop trying to track down a mad serial killer in San Francisco, who is murdering victims in an effort to receive ransom money. When he kidnaps a young girl, Harry makes it his mission to disobey direct orders and take on the killer by himself.
It's easy to point at this now and say, "I've seen this already." In many cases film classics can only be graded well for nostalgic purposes, because their imitators have improved upon the original material.
Not here. The original really does still remain (one of) the best.
Siegel would later follow up "Dirty Harry" with another examination of criminals and cops, and would also team up again with Clint Eastwood. This is probably his best film, which is saying a lot. Its reputation precedes it, but in this case, the strength of the film itself really is deserving of its popularity. The final speech is awesome stuff.
This was the first of the always-entertaining "Dirty Harry" cop series
and it was a good one - maybe the best of the series.
One of Harry's famous lines was in this opener: "Do ya feel lucky, punk?" Speaking of punks, Andy Robinson, who played the villain, never got famous as Clint Eastwood ("Harry") certainly became but he was tremendous in this film. He didn't even have to utter a line: he just looked deranged! Great casting.
Looking back, the one thing I really appreciate about this film as opposed to the rest of them in this series was the absence of Harry's annoying superiors constantly on his case. He actually got support from his bosses in this movie.
The film as a big hit because people were already tired of all the liberal preaching of the 1960s in which we were supposed to feel sympathy for the criminal instead of the victim. This series was on the side of the cops, not the crooks, which is probably why the sick film critics never liked Dirty Harry.
This is one solid crime story with no boring spots and no sappy sub-plots with romances, either. And it's always nice to enjoy the interesting San Francisco skyline.
In quoting these famous lines: "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do!"
"Go ahead, make my day!". They meant something for Clint Eastwood, turning
from cowboy to hit man with a surge of raging anger and ambition. The
mountain terrains became an urban metropolis, thus putting the guy off the
saddle and into the bloody streets of San Francisco. Which makes DIRTY
an incredible classic not to be missed, as well as Eastwood's shift to the
action genre where society is run by evil. Its continuous impact of the
events take place with a tight grip and a smooth pace. This remains to be
one of the most entertaining experiences in classic movie history. All it
takes is a cop over the edge and "The Most Powerful Handgun In The
Violence was the key factor of DIRTY HARRY, and continues to be violent even today. We've never come to see staggering sights of brutalities before, but it was made possible to heighten the overall realism of a dark San Francisco infested with crime. Another was the quality of Clint Eastwood's character as "Harry Callahan", which was obviously a breakthrough for him at the time. He is best described as a smart-talking cop who hated criminals and broken the laws in serving time for the police. A very unique character he was, for going by his own personal business and taking the job "dirty". The best acheivement goes for the cinematography. It sure doesn't look pretty, but the effectiveness of the dark renders this haunting where no place is safe enough to run or hide. The real winner is Don Siegel, for presenting the perfect atmosphere to shoot a picture that already had a premise driven by fear and anxiety, anger and tension. He sure hasn't done anything like this before, and possibly no movie had since then. Otherwise, we would have still been seeing these one-dollar Western shows in the afternoon!
Watch DIRTY HARRY today and you can see how the styles of moviemaking has evolved slow and easy, but it still packs a powerful bullet or two. If you've seen this six times or only five, you knew how lucky Clint Eastwood got the perfect part for being an all-new action star. This is the one, and original cop movie. And remember, this is "In Tribute To The Police Officers Of San Francisco Who Gave Their Lives In The Line Of Duty"!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film might easily have passed for a popular tale of cops and
robbers or, more particularly, cop and psychopath had it not been for
the ruthlessness of Harry's methods...
In this character, Eastwood is the archetypal cop of the 1970s... He is unsociable, insensitive, silent without apparent reason, incapable equally of thought or of any human feeling, solving all problems with a blast from a revolver so heavy that it takes two hands to aim it... In fact, the reason why Clint Eastwood behaves so ruthlessly in "Dirty Harry" is carefully plotted at one point in the film: his wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver escaping from the scene of a crime, so he hates all baddies
'Dirty Harry' supplanted suspense by action, tension by brutality, character by a bigger and better bullet...
Eastwood is a plain-clothes policeman who puts his faith in his Colt Magnum.44 and his ability to use it... He is ready to shoot down a criminal as arrest him... Eastwood brought the rude justice of the lawless West to the regular laws of the modern city... Perhaps his behavior would have been less controversial if he had merely been a renegade cop who broke the rules when roused by anger, but in the cool neon light of his superior's office, he is evidently unrepentant about his behavior...
Eastwood had played 'Dirty Harry' five times in the sequels 'Magnum Force', 'The Enforcer', 'Sudden Impact' and 'The Dead Pool.' Callahan is always in a situation where he has to be his own judge and jury... Harry always gets somebody who's very lethal... In the case of "Dirty Harry", it was a psychopathic killer... Callahan wants to get him off the streets so that nobody else becomes a victim... He is a man on the side of the public... He feels that the law is wrong and he should fight that or try to solve it... Harry is not a man who stands for violence... He is a man who can't understand society tolerating violence...
Eastwood is reassuringly indestructible and in real situations he adopts the fantasy mastery of a traditional Western loner... He may be beaten up, but never beaten by the criminals or by authority...
Don Siegel's highly polished .44 magnum-opus, with Clint Eastwood as
the daddy (or should that be mutha?) of all maverick cops. Given an
A-picture budget by Warners, Siegel delivered a tremendously taut
thriller, as provocatively amoral as anything he had done in his
20-year career of expert B-pics like The Killers.
Dirty Harry also gave Eastwood a definitive Hollywood identity after leaving spaghetti westerns behind. It may lack the humour of Siegel and Eastwood's first collaboration, Coogan's Bluff, but it packs a much more uneasy political punch.
Inspector Harry Callaghan is the taciturn, laconic spokesman of Nixon's Silent Majority, elevated to iconic status. His dialogue with criminals is delivered behind the barrel of a devastatingly phallic Magnum hand-gun. "Feel lucky, punk?" he taunts one wounded miscreant in a famous line he repeats at the end of the film.
There's just enough moral ambiguity about Harry in this film to escape it being an endorsement of vigilantism but if it poses resonating questions about how a liberal society can be held hostage by those outside the law, it also contrives a worryingly two-dimensional picture of psycho-killer Scorpio (Andy Robinson) - and of Harry, himself with which to frame those questions.
Made by the veteran director in the same year as Hollywood-new wave young gun William Friedkin shot The French Connection, it's just as coolly authoritative and exciting. Siegel uses Bruce Surtees' always serviceable photography of San Francisco locations with flair (years before, he had shot the low-budget but excellent The Line-Up there). The swooping helicopter shot out of the baseball stadium, as if to rush the audience away (either as witnesses or as voyeurs) as Eastwood presses his foot on Scorpio's wounded leg, shows Siegel's smooth mastery of the medium.
Siegel made the insouciant Charley Varrick with Walter Matthau next, after which his career went into slow decline.
This stylish 1970s critique of the U.S. justice system is well known as
a crime action drama, and is widely regarded as one of many
breakthrough films for Clint Eastwood. Eastwood plays the same sort of
character he typically plays - a likable tough guy with a powerful
sense of justice and ice for blood. This Eastwood, however, has lost
his wife to a drunk driver, some of his partners to murderous
criminals, and some aspect of his sanity to his job. He's an inspector
in the San Francisco police force's Homicide Division. The film is
highly regarded for Eastwood's charismatic performance, for the
boldness of the Dirty Harry character, and for the several
spaghetti-western quotes uttered by Eastwood.
I have a slightly different take on this film. Dirty Harry was released in the same year as The French Connection - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067116/combined - a film partly based on real life detectives catching the feeling of police dealing with the hard realities of the drug trade in the big apple of the early 1970s. Dirty Harry - as cool as Eastwood's character may be - is a one-dimensional creature compared with Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle. Something about Harry Callahan's political incorrectness resonates in a disturbing way with people who have only examined police work and the justice system through their televisions. The reality of this aspect of modern life is far less interesting, dramatic, and straightforward. And the critique of "American justice" is at least as powerfully made in the French Connection as it is here. Furthermore, The French Connection was an extremely innovative film, while Dirty Harry was a fairly typical stylized police-fantasy. The only explanations for the on-going popularity of this film, then, are Eastwood's charisma and the sheer entertainment value of this gutsy, gritty, hardcore crime drama.
Harry is on the trail of a serial killer played by the phenomenal character actor Andrew J. Robinson in his major film debut. Andy Robinson makes a great psycho, and, at times, appears so out-of-control (nicely contrasted with Eastwood's reptilian calm) that it is a wonder he didn't seriously injure himself during the shooting of the film. When Robinson abducts a young girl and buries her alive, extorting $200, 000 from the mayor's office, Harry uses some unconventional tactics to bring him to justice. This brings us slightly past the midpoint of the film, and just to the point where it accelerates into a first-rate action thriller.
While I think Dirty Harry is a very good film, and worth seeing at least a couple of times, I do not necessarily agree with the general opinion concerning the film. It is disappointing to me that this film did not make Andy Robinson the star that it helped to make Clint Eastwood into - especially since the range of characters and emotions these two men have shown themselves capable of is so disparate (in favor of Mr. Robinson). It is also surprising to me to see that the obvious connection (dare I say plagiarisn) between this film and the French Connection has been glossed over by film history so completely. In the same light, it bothers me that this film is rated so highly as compared with the French Connection. And finally, I am pleased that Dirty Harry is still a film that action fans enjoy, because unlike most of what the action genre produces today, this is a film with a message, and a subtle and hauntingly memorable intelligence.
DIRTY HARRY (1971) **** Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Andy Robinson, John Vernon. Eastwood made cinematic lore out of laconic San Francisco renegade cop Harry Callahan known more for his intolerence of the bureaucratic legal system and his firm belief in justice through violent means necessitated by righting wrongs. In the first of the series he's faced with a psycho serial killer named Scorpio (grinning looney toon Robinson) just begging to be noticed. Directed by Eastwood's long-time mentor Don Siegal the film acts as a parable of the system strangle-holding society and still remains an indictment of how bad things still are. Classic Clint.
This movie might appear simple, plain, predictable or even childish to some fan art movie fans, but for me it's a true force! What it may lack in plot, it gains in superb acting, directing, script ("The most powerful handgun in the world" line is just unforgettable, it's instant classic), and some decent social and philosophical ideas. It gives us a perspective on the way of maintaining order in the society which gradually decays at the astronomic speed. In 70s, it might have been an artistic impression, now it's close to reality. This is truly the best part ever played by Clint Eastwood, and agruably one of the best and most stylish action movies ever. I give it 9/10.
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