Dirty Harry – Clint Eastwood week

Last year I reviewed 13 Clint Eastwood movies available on instant Netflix. Netflix has now released a bunch more. Dirty Harry is currently available on instant Netflix.

Dirty Harry

WATCH: Dirty Harry (1971) – Rated R

“When a madman dubbed the “Scorpio Killer” terrorizes San Francisco, hard-boiled cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) — famous for his take-no-prisoners approach to law enforcement — is tasked with hunting down the psychopath. Harry eventually collars Scorpio in the process of rescuing a kidnap victim, only to see him walk on technicalities. Now, the maverick detective is determined to nail the maniac himself.”

“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya Punk?”

I am of two completely disparate opinions on this film.

First this film is an absolute classic from a classic era of cop movies. Steve McQueen’s Bullitt was also filmed in San Francisco a few years prior to Dirty Harry and The French Connection came out the same year as Dirty Harry. These three films formed the basis for the modern police movie.

All the classic hallmarks are here. Dirty Harry is a cop who plays by his own rules – this was before, and also why, it became a cliche. There is wonderful use of San Francisco’s unique scenery (though nothing to equal Bullitt’s car chase). The villain is so despicable that one roots for his demise.

Don Siegel’s direction is quite assured. Everything moves at a brisk pace. The movie opens with a bang. The villain’s nom de guerre is ‘Scorpio’, an obvious reference to the then still fresh Zodiac killer. The end shot after the film’s climax is wonderful.

Clint Eastwood is a wonderful tough guy hero and does all of his own stunts here. Thankfully he can carry the movie all by himself as this is essentially a one-man show. The character of Dirty Harry is well-realized and spawned 4 sequels – two of which I’ll cover this week.

My second opinion is that this is an absolutely hysterical extreme right-wing fantasy. Dirty Harry has no problems shooting an unarmed man because it is expedient to do so and then physically torturing the suspect. It is mentioned that Harry hates pretty much every ethnic group and refers to one of his police peers as ‘fatso’ and another as a ‘spic’.

The killer is a sniveling weasel who knows his rights. He is a young man with long hair and wears a peace symbol belt buckle. Keep in mind that this was 1971 so he pretty much represents the left. All the officials who actually advocate following the law, procedure, or being reasonable are portrayed as gutless.

Unfortunately Netflix has chosen to convert a pan-and-scan (or Fool-screen) version of this iconic movie. In spite of the above-mentioned issues, I have no reservations about recommending this movie whole-heartedly. If you ever wanted to see the original Jack Bauer, watch this film.

By the way – it is a shame that they dropped the original title of the film. The title of the script was ‘Dead Right’.

People Watch: The ever-reliable John Vernon plays the mayor and director Don Siegel has a cameo as a pedestrian by Harry’s car.