|Directed by:||Don Siegel|
|Written by:||Harry Julian Fink, Rita Fink, Dean Riesner|
|Cast:||Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, Andrew Robinson|
If you enjoy your “rogue cop” movies, if you’re a fan of police officers who don’t play by the rules but get the job done anyway, and if you enjoy your men in blue who are clearly “on the edge”…you’re gonna love a certain Harry Calahan aka Dirty Harry, a man who doesn’t take shit from anyone starting with the mayor to his chief to his partner on down. Watching this classic flick which started the DIRTY HARRY series off for Clint Eastwood (he went on to do four more installments starring the grimy copper), you really get a sense of something special happening. Eastwood himself could not be any more ideal for this role and basically steals every scene that he’s in with either his wry sense of humor, his pissed-at-the-world attitude or his cold, piercing stare. What makes him even more appealing is the fact that he’s good looking (the Hugh Jackman of his day), he’s a really good cop, he packs one of the biggest guns you’d ever want to meet (and yeah, he’s never happy to see ya!) and he somehow still manages to come across as sympathetic to the audience, despite apparently being a real a-hole to everyone else (a feat indeed). The film also offers a groovy 70s finger-snapping score, some wicked style by director Don Siegel and one of the most insane bad guys in movies.
How sick is this fuckin’ dude? Well, let’s put it this way…at one point in the movie, he actually pays a guy to beat him senseless, and later still, smacks a very young child on a school bus. The first few times that I’d watched this film, I always noted how I thought this madman was just a little too “one-dimensional” for my taste (he’s nuts…but we’re never really told what turned him into a nutjob), but having watched it again recently, I can say that it really didn’t bother me this time around, because I guess I’ve come to know that in life…well, some people are just fuckin’ nuts! The story is a pretty basic one but the trajectory of the narrative is actually a lot more interesting than I would have thought. It contains some light moments, some suspenseful scenes, but it also seems to end around the 1hour10 mark, when all appears to be wrapped up, nice and tidy. But surprise-surprise, the filmmakers pull a giant twist on our asses, and yes, the movie, along with its gratuitous T&A, does continue (thank you for that last part, by the way).
Some of the things that I didn’t like about the movie included a couple of sequences that went on for a little too long and many different scenes which just seemed “too dark” (especially during its mid-section). And I mean that I could barely make some of the stuff out on the screen. This may have been a film stock issue, but it still bothered me. Small complaints, of course. More stuff on the plus side include the numerous memorable scenes like the now infamous “You feel lucky, punk?” speech at the beginning of the film (and incidentally, if you pay really close attention during this initial shootout, you’ll notice that Calahan continues to chew on his hot dog from the previous scene) and one of the coolest suicide talk-downs that you’ll ever seen on the big screen (a scene which incidentally, showed up in a variant form in the Mel Gibson “rogue cop on the edge” movie, LETHAL WEAPON in 1987). It also featured a really great urban, gritty feel for the streets, some clever POV (point of view) camera work which gave you a better sense of being a part of it, and some highly stylized sequences, including the opening shot of Scorpio’s silencer dangling over the camera and one very cool shot in a football field, which starts off right next to Eastwood and the bad guy, pulls back and ultimately goes all the way out to the sky and over the entire football stadium. A very, very slick shot.
Overall, the movie basically set the tone for the rest of the series and certainly gave the rest of the film world a taste of what the ultimate “bad attitude” cop was to be fashioned on. Eastwood owned this role and he played it like he meant it! I also love this film’s tagline: “You don’t assign him to murder cases…you just turn him loose.” Yeah, beeyatch!
The coolest part about this movie is the scene near the end during which the bad guy has kidnapped a busload of school kids, and is driving them to the airport. As he commands the driver to veer off the highway, he notices an imposing silhouette standing over the overpass. As the camera zooms closer onto the figure, we note that it’s none other than Harry Calahan, Dirty Harry himself, sporting an ultra-slick brown suit (a three-piece, I might add), hair swaying in the wind and wearing the coolest set of sunglasses this side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The look on the bad guy’s face says it all, as Harry dives onto the bus and prepares to kick some psycho ass. That one shot of Harry hovering over the bus as it approaches is one of the coolest things about this movie. See it and believe. Harry rules.
Interesting tidbits about the film and its stars:
The next flicks in the DIRTY HARRY series were MAGNUM FORCE (1973), THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988). A neat inside-reference can be spotted during the infamous bank robbery scene near the beginning of the film. If you pay close attention to Harry as he steps into the hot dog place, a movie marquee next to the restaurant clearly reads PLAY MISTY FOR ME, another Eastwood movie which opened in the same year as this one, starring and directed by the man himself. Harry’s partner in this film was played by actor Reni Santoni, whom die-hard SEINFELD enthusiasts will certainly know as the character of “Poppy”, the chef from the popular TV series. This film was originally intended for Frank Sinatra to star, but wasn’t to be, after he injured his hand in an accident. It was then offered to John Wayne and Paul Newman, before finally being accepted by Clint Eastwood.
NOTE: This review was originally published in my 2002 book entitled "JoBlo.com presents...The 50 Coolest Movies of All-Time". Please note that these reviews are dated, and the book actually features my own PERSONAL list of faves from 1970-2000 or so.