December 20th, 2013: Dirty Harry (1971)

Dirty Harry

Cast and Crew: Don Siegel (Director), Lalo Schifrin (Score); Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, John Vernon.

What It’s About: Not that his titular character requires any introduction, but Clint Eastwood, (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Trouble with the Curve) plays Harry Callahan, a San Francisco police detective of the old mold who has little use for anything besides his instincts and his .44 magnum, and certainly not precinct bureaucracy, the courts, or public opinion. Harry may have met his match when he attempts to stop “Scorpio”, an ingenious homicidal maniac who seems to understand how to play the system much better than his politically incorrect adversary.

Why Watch it Today: Only one reason needed. It’ll make your day. Need another excuse? The San Francisco “Zodiac Killer” claimed his first victim on this day in 1968, just a few years before Dirty Harry hit the box office in 1971. While the real Zodiac Killer was never caught, Clint Eastwood has the opportunity to create a different outcome in this iconic film which submerges viewers in the deep-end of crime hysteria and moral disintegration. Director Don Siegel oversees psychedelic 70s cinematography and a disturbing score by Lalo Schifrin (Bullitt) to complete a veering, unpredictable storyline. Who’s going to have better luck in modern society? The violent antisocial murderer or the violent antisocial cop who wants to stop him? Whether you’re feeling lucky or not, treat yourself to a night in with Dirty Harry.

6 comments on “December 20th, 2013: Dirty Harry (1971)

  1. geelw says:

    I recall seeing this so many times as a kid all cut up on TV that when I finally saw it uncut on a VHS tape as a teen, I was shocked, *shocked!* that it was SO much more violent and had that naked dead gal in there as a big, mean surprise. I knew she didn’t make it from my older viewings, but, eep. I thing it’s still the only one of the entire series that’s any and all good from beginning to end (the law of diminishing returns hit Harry HARD as the years went on), but that’s another fight for another day.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      I had the same reaction the first time I caught it on cable. I actually enjoyed Magnum Force when I last saw it. I haven’t seen The Enforcer or The Dead Pool since I was a kid, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Sudden Impact from start to finish, so it’s hard for me to judge but I don’t recall any of them being a particularly worthy follow up to this film.

  2. theelderj says:

    Yeah, I grew up with this one too. The added dimension is that both of my parents loved the character. (I say the “character” because I am pretty sure they didn’t care about the plot).

    But I did grow up thinking that Clint Eastwood was the coolest because of this role.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      At my house the big argument was always between my dad and brother: John Wayne vs. Clint Eastwood. Thankfully, even Pops Mortis conceded that Wayne’s attempts to match Clint in the “Modern Cop Shoot-Em-Up” sub-genre weren’t up to snuff, so Dirty Harry movies were often watched when they were on TV. I think the plot on this one is actually pretty good, even if I don’t love how right-wing it is now (I think the liberal film reviewers of the time called it “Fascist”), or how the genre it spawned’s cartoonish mores seem to be taken as literal truths in popular American political philosophy!

      • geelw says:

        I can still recall being in a diner many years back and overhearing a heated debate between two guys over Dirty Harry versus McQ (!) and which was the better film. Yep, it was a father and son one-two punching each others opinion in the throat over burgers and beer.

        The thing about Dirty Harry was Clint was just too good as he played out the fantasy some thought of as the “ideal” in dealing with the assorted troubles of the time. I think it was Pauline Kael who threw down the “Fascist” gauntlet first, but yeah, I’d heard that as well when I was a kid and had to look it up. That actually led to me eventually seeing Seven Beauties, but that’s another story for another time…

        And yes indeed, the political pow-pow stuff in the aftermath over decades is amazing to the point where obviously fictional characters have been mentioned as easy solutions to assorted world problems (I still get a cringe and chuckle when I recall “if Jack Bauer were here, he’d take care of this…” being used multiple times on a certain “news” channel not too far back this century)

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