Release year: 1971
Director: Don Siegel
Writers: Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, Dean Riesner
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santino, Andrew Robinson, John Vernon, John Larch
Moviegeek Sunday Classic#52, week 23 2015
Tough and unorthodox cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) goes up against deadly sniper Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) who is killing random people on the streets of San Francisco.
The iconic line of its title character (‘You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ”Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?’) has almost overshadowed the film itself which is a shame, for it is a terrific crime thriller with a great lead character that started the whole loose canon-thing we have later seen in movies like Lethal Weapon (1987) and Beverly Hills Cop (1984). Dirty Harry is a character that have become synonymous with Eastwood (Gran Torino, 2008), thereby further establishing his stature as an icon of macho movie stars started in western such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Eastwood played the cynical cop as tougher than tough, complete with steel eyes, a frown, and deadpan delivery of lines soaked in sarcasm, and created a character so iconic that he has been used as inspiration for tough cops ever sense. Now, I may use the word icon/iconic a lot but with good reason. For Dirty Harry has proven very inspirational and was in fact selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012 on the grounds of it being ‘culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant’. The killer was loosely based on the real-life Zodiac killer, an uidentified serial killer who roamed the San Francisco area in the decade before the movie (David Fincher directed a more accurately story of the killer with Zodiac in 2007). An chillingly intense performance by Robinson (Cobra, 1986) was so convincing that the actor recieved several death threats after the movies release and contributes to the nail biting action of the film. The killer is clearly psycothic and his behaviour is extreme making it a part that could easily have gone over the line into silly, but in the hands of Robinson he is scary as hell and a worthy match for Eastwood’s brutal and unpredictable cop. The movie is shot nearly as dark as it is in tone with a lot of the footage shot at night, suitably adding to the grittyness of the film. The movie is renowned for it’s aerial shots and uses surprising camera angles that raises this tense cop film to a higher level of quality than usually seen in the genre. Considering the wardrobe and the red-orange blood typically for the 70’s there is no hiding the fact that this is not a new film but that doesn’t, by any means, mean that it in any way feels dated. In fact it is a solid, stylish and tense crime thriller that will keep you captivated throughout.
Clint Eastwood directed the scene with the suicide jumper due to the difficulty of fitting people on the small ledge.
After the movie was released there was an increase in sales of .44 Magnum. Whenever he fired a gun in the movie it was however a Smith & Wesson model 25 in .45 Long Colt as in 1971 .44 caliber blanks didn’t exist. As the two models are both built on the Smith & Wesson N frame they are visually similiar.
Clint Eastwood did all his own stunts.
Picture copyright: Sandrew Metronome