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Dirty Harry - Review

Dirty Harry

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Dirty Harry 2 Disc Special Edition; Magnum Force Deluxe Edition; The Enforcer Deluxe Edition (exclusive to the box set); Sudden Impact Deluxe Edition (exclusive to the box set); The Dead Pool Deluxe Edition (exclusive to the box set); Clint Eastwood: Out Of The Shadows – Feature length documentary DVD narrated by Morgan Freeman; 40 page hardcover book containing rare behind the scenes photos; Replica Harry Callahan wallet with Inspector’s badge and ID Card; Scorpio: Portrait Of A Killer 19” x 27” Poster: San Francisco Street Map detailing Harry’s hunt for the killer; Lobby art cards; Never-before-seen production notes and internal studio correspondence.

Synopsis: Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is a tough San Francisco cop who bends the rules to get results. When a mystery sniper known as the Scorpio Killer (Andy Robinson) begins targeting random members of the community, Callahan is unleashed.

Our verdict Hard to believe but Don Siegel’s original Dirty Harry was a controversial release for the way in which it depicted police brutality and questioned the rights of criminals. Its release came at a time when the American public had begun to tire of the rise in violent urban crime and it struck a chord with them for the way in which its protagonist dealt with society’s criminals in such unapologetic fashion.

The killer himself was also inspired by the real-life Zodiac killer terrorising San Francisco and the Bay area during that time (as depicted in David Fincher’s excellent Zodiac), and remains one of the most chilling screen psychopaths ever committed to celluloid.

Dirty Harry therefore marked a watershed in the police thriller for so many reasons. The unorthodox cop would become a mainstay of the genre, while the unfussy approach to violence also paved the way for directors like Sam Peckinpah – and later Eastwood himself – to shine. It also sparked a genuinely thought-provoking debate about the nature of the law and the rights of both victims and criminals.

Eastwood’s reputation as an icon was also cemented. Having already created one last figure in the form of The Man With No Name (in the Spaghetti westerns), he had now repeated the trick in a different genre. The image of Inspector Callahan standing over a suspect with a Magnum .44 handgun trained upon them (“the most powerful hangun in the world”) is one of cinema’s most enduring (and exciting).

Incredibly, Eastwood was not first choice for the role. Frank Sinatra was – but withdrew reportedly because the Magnum handgun was too heavy for his wrist (which had been broken in an accident). John Wayne was even considered. Eastwood, though, took the role and made it his own and it’s now difficult to imagine another actor playing him.

The way the actor uttered lines like “do you feel lucky, punk” ensured that Dirty Harry’s place in movie folklore was forever secured. What’s more, it paved the way for four sequels, even though none were able to reach the high standards set by the original.

Read our review of Magnum Force