Dirty Harry: Two-Disc Special Edition
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Shane Roberts and Noor Razzak (18th November 2008).
The Film

San Francisco is being held to ransom by the Scorpio killer (Andrew Robinson), a psychopathic sniper who has been shooting innocent people at random from rooftops and has threatened to keep killing one a day until he gets $100,000 from the mayor (John Vernon). Detective ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan (Clint Eastwood), a tough uncompromising cop who earned his nickname because of his reputation for getting results any way necessary and being given all the worst homicides, is assigned the case.

This storyline of the cynical, wise-cracking but violent lone hero had been done before but this was the first in a modern setting. Outside of westerns (especially the spaghetti ones) where the sheriffs/heroes could get away with some pretty ruthless behaviour because they existed in the untamed wild west, no lawman in a Hollywood film had ever acted in such a callous way… until Clint drew his 44” magnum (“the world’s most powerful handgun in the world”) and asked a punk if he felt lucky. Hundreds of action movies, from "Lethal Weapon" (1987) and the "Die Hard" series (1988-2007) through to just about everything Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal have ever done, have used variations on the formula or just copied it outright but the fact that its become so clichéd proves just how influential this 70’s classic has been. As with most things, the original remains one of the best.

After its release on Christmas Day 1971 "Dirty Harry" was immediately controversial. With its obvious similarities to the real life Zodiac killer who had been terrorizing San Francisco at the time but had never been identified or caught, the film was seen as wish fulfillment for the public. The critics and especially the media were divided, with some of its detractors (most famously 'New Yorker' Magazine’s Pauline Kael) going so far as labeling it fascist because of Harry going beyond the letter of the law to get results and his total lack of respect for a justice system which he thinks protects the criminals’ rights more than the victims. The public obviously sided with Harry because it was incredibly popular and as well as leading to four sequels of its own also helped to start the vigilante justice genre that included "Straw Dogs" (1971), "Death Wish" (1974) and "Mad Max" (1979).

It also made a star out of Clint. Up until then he’d had more of a cult following thanks to Sergio Leone’s "Dollar" trilogy (1964-1966) of spaghetti westerns which had been huge but hadn’t given him mainstream success. Most actors aren’t lucky enough to play one truly iconic character however following up 'The Man With No Name' with Dirty Harry gave Clint two and lead him to being the biggest star of the 70's and the Hollywood legend he is now. It’s impossible now to imagine anyone else playing Harry because Clint’s style fit him perfectly but Frank Sinatra had been cast until he dropped out, and then John Wayne and Paul Newman (who suggested Clint) were both offered the role before Clint got lucky.

Films like this always work far better when they have a villain who matches the hero (what would "Die Hard" (1988) be without Alan Rickman opposite Bruce Willis). Here we have Andrew Robinson who is excellent as the creepy and completely irredeemable Scorpio who’s only interested in causing chaos and pain.

Director Don Siegel ("Invasion of the Bodysnatchers" (1956)) was a close friend and mentor to Clint on his directorial career ("Unforgiven" (1992) was dedicated to Don and Sergio). "Dirty Harry" was their fourth collaboration after "Coogan’s Bluff" (1968), "Two Mules for Sister Sara" (1970), and "The Beguiled" (1971) and followed by "Escape from Alcatraz" (1979) but this is his best film. With stylish cinematography from Bruce Surtees, a funky 70's score by Lalo Schifrin and great pacing, it’s easy to see the influence it had on Clint’s own style.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film has been restored and remastered for this new edition from the original elements, and for a film of its age it looks real good. Although there are the notable flaws in prints of this age, some shots appear a bit soft, grain is heavy at times but inherent in the stocks used in those days and adds texture to the films. Overall the restoration job does the film well, the print is much cleaner than previous releases, colors hold up well and black levels are bold but there is some noise amid them. There are no edge-enhancement or problematic compression related issues. Overall it's a decent image and this film probably hasn't looked this good since it was originally screened theatrically.

Audio

There's only a single audio track in English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround which is an up-mixed track created from the film's original mono soundtrack which sadly is not included on this disc so purists will be slightly disappointed. Although this track presents the dialogue exceptionally well and the film's music adds to the immersive nature, the depth is rather limited despite the track being as aggressive as it can be over the course of the film. it's a good track but it's not mind blowing.
Optional subtitles are included in English only.

Extras

Warner Brothers has packed this 2-disc 'Special Edition' with a quality set of new extras that includes an audio commentary, three featurettes, a documentary and a series of interviews and theatrical trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

First up is an informative feature-length audio commentary by film critic and author Richard Schickel. Schickel has an incredible knowledge of this film and of its star Eastwood as he has written books on the actor/filmmaker. He delves into the background of the film and its influences, interestingly enough he takes us through the process of getting the script picked-up making the rounds of the studios and getting rejected or passed along until Eastwood came across it, he also talks of the collaboration between Eastwood and director Don Siegel and the relationship that spanned 5 films including this first in the series of "Dirty Harry" films. He comments on the actors that are featured in the film many of which have worked with Eastwood on other projects. He comments on the film's structure and takes us through various scenes in which many are based on real serial killers of the era. He delves further into the character motivations and background of the film's main character and on what makes him so iconic and memorable. The track plays out like a biography on the film and the people involved and is incredibly detailed although there are a few silent gaps. It's worth listening to and can be considered the stand-out extra.

Next up is "Dirty Harry: The Original" featurette that runs for 29 minutes 41 seconds, and is a retrospective look back at the films in the iconic series. Focusing on the character and the impact he's had on movie audiences, the location that provided the backdrop for the film and on the investigation in which he's involved in in the film. The feature includes interviews cast members Eastwood and Andrew Robinson as they remember the production of the film and shooting in San Fransisco among other things that include story elements, themes, influences, violence and tapping into the people's fear of serial killers. The clip also interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Milius as they talk about the impact of the first film. The clip also takes a look at the sequels which features interviews with director Ted Post, Hal Holbrook, Patricia Clakson and Evan C. Kim.

An interview gallery is next and features 10 interviews with various participants. These feel like interview outtakes of material not used in any of the featurettes, they can be viewed individually or with a 'Play All' option and they include:

- Patricia Clakson, which runs for 2 minutes 2 seconds and comments on working with Eastwood and the popularity of the series.
- Joel Cox, which runs for 3 minutes 32 seconds, the editor comments on the beginning of the series and the early days of working with Eastwood, the appeal of the character, on working on the "Harry" films and what Eastwood brought to the character and the evolution of the police officer in films.
- Clint Eastwood, which runs for 5 minutes 36 seconds, the actor comments on directing, on the possibility of another "Dirty Harry" movie and on being truthful in your portrayals of characters.
- Hal Holbrook, which runs for 42 seconds, the actor comments on being in a big movie that people would see.
- Evan C. Kim, which runs for 2 minutes 7 seconds, comments on the martial arts that he did for the role and on being Harry's partner.
- John Milius, which runs for 3 minutes 43 seconds, the writer comments on the iconic weapon; the .44 magnum as he shows one of the original guns from the movie, on making script changes, on the type of person Eastwood is and on developing the character.
- Ted Post, which runs for 1 minute 38 seconds, the director of the sequel comments on the hero role and on shot selection.
- Andrew Robinson, which runs for 2 minutes 2 seconds, the actor comments on shooting the scene in the football field and doing a front flip when he gets shot and he also comments on the free license he had on the character.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, which runs for 3 minutes 2 seconds, the actor talks about the film being an inspiration and setting the standard for an action hero.
- Robert Urich, which runs for 2 minutes 39 seconds, the late actor comments on auditioning for the part and meeting Clint and on how the character of Harry influenced him.

"Dirty Harry's Way" is another featurette that runs for 7 minutes 3 seconds. This is a vintage clip, it's a fairly standard EPK clip that sells the film's plot and location as we get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film as we are introduced to the actors and director as they film some scenes. The clip features a rather grating voice over narrator.

DISC TWO:

"The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry" is a featurette that runs for 25 minutes 28 seconds, is
another retrospective, this time slightly updated with all new interviews with both those involved in the films and those that were influenced by the films as the newest crop of directors/actors/producers comment on the impact the films had on them, the iconic nature of the character and the overall appeal of the series, the suspense, the entertaining nature of the films and basically how they reflected the world at that time as well as the collaboration between Eastwood and director Siegel among other things including a look at the classic quotes. Fantastic.

"Clint Eastwood: The Man From Malpaso" is a documentary that runs for 58 minutes 4 seconds and is a TV special that was produced back in 1993, and basically is a studio fluff piece about the life and career of Eastwood, notably Warner Brother's most important asset as the studio and Eastwood shared a long relationship. There's nothing all that interesting here, as it's a fairly straight forward biographical piece.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A Audio: B Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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