Wednesday, July 20, 2011


(December 1971, U.S.)

The original...the one and only...DIRTY HARRY; a product of the so-called "New Hollywood" of the 1970s, when previous films like BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) and THE WILD BUNCH (1969) paved the way for excessive, yet somehow acceptable violence on the screen. Believing the character was too "right-wing" for him, Paul Newman turned down the role and suggested that the film would be a good vehicle for Clint Eastwood. Thus, Detective Harry Callahan was born.

Some of you younger readers (younger than myself, I mean) may have first come across Harry Callahan back in 1983 when he uttered one of the most famous quotes in movie history, "Go ahead...make my day!" in SUDDEN IMPACT. That was a great line, but I thought the film sucked! DIRTY HARRY is set in San Francisco when the "peace and love" of the city was coming to an end and being substituted for the violent scum that Harry spends his career putting away or putting down. For this story, a serial killer who calls himself "Scorpio" (played by Andy Robinson) murders a young woman in a rooftop swimming pool, using a high-powered, silencer-equipped hunting rifle from the top of a building across the street. Even as the film begins with this shocking murder, the viewer can already feel a sense of being very unsafe from any potention lunatic with a gun and access to a building roof. The character of "Scorprio" by the way, was likely inspired by the real life "Zodiac Killer" who had operated in Northern California during the late '60s and early '70s. This is just the beginning of the killer's pattern that will include more murders and the kidnapping children even as Harry and the city's government scramble to pay off the high ransom he demands. At one point in the film, "Scorpio" will be caught by Harry, only to be released very quickly afterwards due to the technecalities of our flawed system of justice. But if you know Harry Callahan well enough, you know that just won't sit too well with him. Harry always gets (or kills) his man and usually pisses of his superiors in the process. It's important to also point out Robinson's performance as he gives the killer a particularly sick and frightening personality. This is NOT a man you'd want to meet in a dark corner or any other locale.

Though not my all-time favorite, DIRTY HARRY is one of the toughest, grittiest, most intense American police thrillers I've ever seen. When released, the film caused its share of controversy, sparking debate over issues ranging from police brutality to victims' rights to the nature of law enforcement. Feminists in particular were outraged by the film and at the 1971 Oscars protested outside holding up banners which read messages like "Dirty Harry is a Rotten Pig". Well, some people have just seriously got to lighten up! It's only a movie. Protests only boost box office performance. It's true.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Harry Callahan (last lines): "I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "did he fire six shots or only five?" Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk!?"

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