Sunday, January 19, 2014

536. Dirty Harry (1971)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Don Siegel
Written By: Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, Dean Riesner
Main Cast: Clint Eastwood, Andy Robinson, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Larch
Click here to view the trailer


So this was initially meant to be a part of the big finale when I was wrapping up THE BOOK. However, since it was on a wait from Netflix and currently available OnDemand, I took the opportunity to mark it off my list.

Most of you are probably already aware of what "Dirty Harry" is about, but I'll play along and go over the synopsis just to be thorough. Plain and simple, it's a cop movie and maybe one of the greatest cop movies to ever come down the pike and certainly a precedent setter in the genre. The main character is "Dirty" Harry Callhan (Eastwood), a tough as nails cop who doesn't like playing by the rules (how come the best movie and TV cops are tough as nails with a penchant for rule breaking?). It may take an unruly detective like Dirty Harry to crack the case of the Scorpio killer (patterned after the real life Zodiac killer), a maniac who is targeting random victims and demanding ransom from the city of San Francisco (where the film is set). The psycho Scorpio is asking that the city pay him a ransom of $200,000 or else he'll continue his murderous spree. The film is divided up into various pieces, as the city first decides not to pay and then decides TO pay, with Harry acting as the "bag man". In what THE BOOK deems a tour de force sequence, Callahan is forced to run all over town, to different pay phones, so that Scorpio can make sure he's not being followed. It all boils down to one bad ass detective squaring off against one psychotic killer, in a plain & simple, yet intricately crafted cop flick.


You know what's odd about that scene where Scorpio makes Callahan run around to different pay phones, just to make sure he's not being followed? It's never mentioned that Scorpio's plan doesn't work, because in fact, Callahan's partner is tailing them the whole time. Or did I just totally miss something? Anyway, I guess you have to start with the acting, which is brilliant. Believe it or not Andy Robinson actually comes really close to upstaging Eastwood (in fact, he may upstage him, I just don't have the heart to say Eastwood was one upped by someone who I've never seen in anything else), as he totally owns every single scene he's in and portrays one of the sickest killers in the history of cinema, turning this from an action flick into a borderline thriller/horror movie. If I had to make a complaint about the acting, I'd go so far as to say Eastwood is almost too fake and too cliche. The "you have to ask yourself one question" scene has been played to death and when you watch it, it's not one of those classic scenes that makes you feel grateful that you've finally seen it, but rather it feels like something you've seen a thousand times, even if it's your first time ACTUALLY seeing it. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but it makes sense to me, so...there.

In a perfect world, not only would "Dirty Harry" have been included in THE BOOK, but "Escape from Alcatraz", another Eastwood/Siegel collaboration, should've been in there as well. If you haven't seen that one, please do yourself a favor and check it out. I really, really need to break down and check out the rest of the Dirty Harry flicks, as I loved this one so much, the others are bound to be at least good.

Anyway, this is a seriously good movie, not just a popular one. It's amazing that back in the 70s what was popular is what was also good. Nowadays the mainstream, popular stuff is usually the worst stuff and it's the independent flicks that end up wowing us. Damn, do I love the 70s! It seems like anytime I watch something from that decade, I love it. What a great year that must have been to be a film fan.

RATING: 8/10  I gotta' say, I feel lucky punks! Between this and "Drowning by Numbers" I've had a good few days.


January 19, 2014  5:57pm


  1. It's difficult to come up with something interesting / original to say anything about a film as well known as this.. It's either already been said.. or far to beep obvious that saying so sounds contrived.

    I mean, come on, .. I should hate this film.. it's nasty, violent.. the 'hero' is nasty, brutal, violent, racist, sexist, homophobic.. he's semi fascist. (see what i mean? .. That's all been said hundreds of times before and it just looks tired and lazy of me stating the beep obvious).
    And yet.. because (to use your words), it is so well crafted, the the bad guy (I guess I mean the other bad guy) is even more obnoxious and even more of a menace to deent people.. you cannot help but root for Callaghan and end up supporting him and (to some extent) his methods.
    So does this make this a worrying film.. that we are steered to supporting brutal out-of-control policing?
    ..Or - now here is a thought- is it a warning? Look how easily you, a decent person, got caught up in the blood lust whipped up by this film, the easy portrayals of bad guys as drooling psychos, and the authorities as vacillating whimps - that we do 'support' harry, and we are so glad that scorpio is off our streets, we accept the unacceptable?

    I'm reading far to much into a simple cop thriller film? Perhaps.

    So lets keep it simple. To my shame, i do rather enjoy this, and is one of those films that capture you when late night channel surfing and you end up watching far to much of it.

    The liberal in me is outraged in the above statement and wishes to disassociate from all opinions thus expressed.

    1. So it seems you consider this somewhat of a guilty pleasure then Ray? See, I don't. I was happy with the outcome and while I probably should've, I didn't look at Callhan in a negative light at all. Perhaps, as you mentioned, because the bad guy is so bad (or good, in this case).

  2. I thought this would be a cliched renegade cop flick that was really only in the Book because of its cultural impact, but was pleasantly surprised that there was some quality film making in here. Still not my cup of tea, but well done for what it is.

    1. Sorry this wasn't your cup of tea William. I personally loved it and hopefully I can find a nice spot for it on my TOP 20.

  3. I sort of feel William said pretty much the same as I did, only in a much more concise form!
    Always good to see you in here William.. I look forward to your contributions..

    1. Ray, you explained well why this film just doesn't work for me. I can't fully get behind an asshole cop who takes the law into his own hands, even though he is going after someone who is even worse.


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