Friday, September 20, 2013
(December 1973, U.S.)
Is it me or is there something just a little sick and perverted about a violent Dirty Harry film opening on Christmas Day?? I don't know. Maybe it's just me.
You have to figure that after the huge success of the original DIRTY HARRY two years prior, a franchise was only inevitable. I suppose any film franchise is only as worthy and as viable for as much as you're willing to accept of it. That in mind, MAGNUM FORCE, in my opinion, is not only a worthy (there's that word again!) successor to the first film, but is also far superior. It's not only my favorite Dirty Harry film, but also the last one in my heart and my film collection. The three that followed, THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988) simply didn't maintain worthy (again!) story lines. And since story is my main focus here, MAGNUM FORCE actually maintains a more intriguing twist in the plotline than most other hard-ass cop and crime thrillers. In this film, the cream of the cop of San Francisco's criminals, including mob enforcers, pornographers (be sure to keep an eye out for a young, uncredited and topless Suzanne Somers during the pool massacre scene), and pimps, are being sadistically gunned down in cold blood by traffic cops. We know this immediately as the audience watching the action on screen. The mystery here is watching the police force lead by maverick cop Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood again) try to figure things out along the way and inevitably conclude who the bad guys are. But can we, as citizens of the world who despise crime, actually consider the justice of vigilante cops who go outside of the law to clean up the city as criminals themselves? Did we not root for Charles Bronson when he shot New York City muggers to death in DEATH WISH (1974)? Are any of you readers old enough to remember the initial public reaction of support for Bernhard Goetz when he shot four muggers on a New York City subway train in 1984? Harry, of course, is meant to be the hero of the film and by the time we reach its climax, he's fighting for his life against the underground "society" of traffic cops who are trying to kill him to protect their cause. We also learn, as a startling surprise twist, that the "organization" is secretly lead by none other than Homicide Lt. Neil Briggs himself (played by Hal Holbrook is one of the more impressive roles of his career along with "Deep Throat" in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN). In the end, of course, Harry wins the day, says a great closing line like, "A man's got to know his limitations", and proceeds to walk off into the sunset of San Francisco's less-than-attractive areas; much like he did in the first film after he killed the serial killer "Scorpio".
Let me talk for a moment about some of the cast the comprises the vigilante force of traffic cops. As I watch young men like David Soul, Robert Urich and Tim Matheson in these roles, I can't help but reflect on what would follow in their careers in the 1970's with TV shows like STARSKY & HUTCH and VEGA$ and the outrageous comedy ANIMAL HOUSE (1978). But perhaps more than considering the many tough cop films that a character like Dirty Harry helped to inspire throughout the decades to come, I find myself reflecting more on the "flavor" of the many cop dramas and thrillers that were on television in the 1970s. Were it not for the first two Dirty Harry films, would we not have enjoyed shows like the above mentioned STARSKY & HUTCH, CHARLIES'S ANGLES, S.W.A.T., THE ROOKIES, BARETTA and KOJAK? I'd like to think not.
And so, like I indicated before, MAGNUM FORCE ends the story of Dirty Harry for this viewer. Got a problem with that? Well...go ahead, and MAKE MY DAY!!
(oh man, did I actually just say that??)
Favorite line or dialogue:
Harry Callahan: "You heroes killed a dozen people this week. What are you going to do next week?"
Officer Davis: "Kill a dozen more."