Dirty Harry – Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)
Dirty Harry (1971) B+/B-/A-
Magnum Force (1973) B/C+/B
The Enforcer (1976) B/C+/B
Sudden Impact (1983) B/B-/C
The Dead Pool (1988) B/B-/C-
the word franchise was bounced around as a way to cover for the bankruptcy of
doing sequels all the time, as if that were a good thing, sequels were made
with caution because ruining the reputation of the original was considered a
bad thing and bad business. Now,
repetition, more for worse than better, is too often the business. The audience also used to expect more and
sometimes, doing a sequel or series made sense.
Of course, long before there was TV of any kind, the studios made series
with a featured character, most often of which were Mystery/Detective
films. Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry
films revived that by accident and took the same course of many of those
with a really string film, find a way to do some follow-ups and either later in
the series, and/or in later years, lesser follow-ups are produced and sometimes
even do business. Originally intended as
a project for Frank Sinatra and even John Wayne, the first Dirty Harry (1971) originally had directors as savvy as Irvin
Kershner attached, but Eastwood got the lead and the late, great Don Siegel
took the helm resulting in a huge, controversial hit film.
by the then-unresolved Zodiac killings of the time, Lt. Dirty Harry Callahan is
called in when a young lady is shot to death while swimming in a penthouse
pool. A chilling note is attached with
threats of more killings, the major and Callahan’s boss meet and it is
established that there is not a consensus on how to deal with this new kind of
killer, everyone has the best of intents and Harry is one of the greatest loose
guns in cinema history. Especially
because of the type of killer Scorpio is, the line is challenged between Civil
Rights, standard police procedure and how to stop the killer.
the most imitated films ever made, the screenplay by Harry Julian Fink, R.M.
Fink and Dean Riesner (with uncredited additions by John Milius) was a
revelation in the middle of the counterculture period, Vietnam, the last Golden
Age of Hollywood and a great updating of the hardcore gumshoe detective. John Vernon was perfect as the mayor, Andrew
Robinson unforgettable as the killer and Eastwood began his long run as one of
the word’s top box office stars by finally conquering his own homeland box
office. The classic holds up very well,
has even appreciated in some respects and as was recently pointed out, was a
movie from a time when movies were still movies.
success comes criticism and many on the political Left (and far Left) accused
the film of being reactionary, even fascist, without addressing its content in
any way, shape or form. Part of this
stemmed from Milius’ contributions, so Eastwood brought him back with Michael
Cimino, who wrote and directed the underrated Eastwood hit Thunderbolt & Lightfoot the same year (and would go on to make
important films like The Deer Hunter,
Heaven’s Gate and Year Of The Dragon) to co-write Magnum Force (1973) in which Harry has
to deal with corruption within the police department. The Left Wing critics did not know what to
say to that, the film was a hit and satisfied the public’s desire to see the
the film can be uneven in parts and does not take advantage of being a
follow-up as much as I would have liked, I found a new appreciation here for it
thanks to the High Def playback and nuances I had not considered, not having
seen it in a long time. The underrated
director Ted Post came from TV and made Hang
‘Em High with Eastwood back in 1968, but also helmed the underrated Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970) and
does some solid work here. Hal Holbrook,
David Soul, Robert Urich, David Soul, Kip Niven, Margaret Avery and an
uncredited Suzanne Somers also star.
first two films were shot in 35mm anamorphic Panavision and produced in
three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor prints, presented here in 1080p 2.35 X 1
digital High Definition. The original
film looks really good for its age and is actually the best-looking transfer
here in color, depth, film-like appearance and despite some flaws, is very
clean for its age. Director of
Photography Bruce Surtees lensed this and his first three films (including
this, The Beguiled and Play Misty For Me) are his first works,
all great films. Director of Photography
Frank Stanley lensed Force and was the next talent to handle the camera with
Eastwood, also handling the same chores on Thunderbolt
& Lightfoot. It does not look as
good or colorful or consistent as the first film, but still has its moments.
friend and longtime assistant director James Fargo took on The Enforcer (1976) as his debut feature film and the result is the
biggest surprise in the series as a gang of Vietnam-vets-turned-terrorists
threaten the city of San Francisco while Harry is paired with a female officer
(Tyne Daly) in an odd couple arrangement neither of them like. However, the energy, pace, wit and action of
the screenplay by the great Stirling Silliphant and a returning Dean Riesner
(based on the Gail Morgan Hickman/S.W. Schurr story) is impressive and has also
influenced many a film, including the original Robocop in 1987, but it also
sports fine performances by the leads, Bradford Dillman, DeVeren Bookwalter,
the cast in general and yes, that is Rob Reiner in a chase scene.
Harry’s luck began to run out with Sudden
Impact in 1983 and not because Eastwood directed, but because the story of
a rape victim (Sandra Locke) out for revenge never adds up and seems more
trivial than ever has not dated well.
The breakup of the star/director and his leading lady makes it odder,
but this film lacks the depth, action, energy and pace of its predecessors and
though a hit in the reactionary 1980s, many felt the gun (and its lighting)
stole many of the scenes. Even worse is
Buddy Van Horn, Eastwood’s stunt director turned film director, helming The Dead Pool in 1988. Harry is on a list of those marked for death
by another psychopath and has to stop him before it is too late.
It was a
disappointment critically and commercially, as Van Horn was killing Eastwood’s
career much the way Hal Needham (another stunt expert turned director) did for
Eastwood pier Burt Reynolds. The film
was so comic and problematic that I dubbed it “Clean Harry”. Rumors of a
sixth film have been squashed by Eastwood and rightly so. The series ran out of steam after 1976, after
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image in both cases here had less complex
color prints, but still look good, if a little softer than expected. Charles W. Short lensed The Enforcer to great effect and delivered many memorable scenes,
while Surtees was back for Impact,
at least trying to give the film a different look, even if it did not always
work. Dead Pool was in a VHS-safe 1.85 X 1 frame here in soft 1080p high
Def and is from an old Warner Communications print, though not the nightmare
the HD-DVD and Blu-ray is for Harry imitator Lethal Weapon 1. Jack N.
Green, now Eastwood’s cinematographer all this time later, shot this, but it is
only intermittently interesting like the silly film itself. Not his best work.
films are here at their best in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes, with music by Lalo
Schifrin in all cases except The
Enforcer, but the late, great Jerry Fielding. All the films are originally monophonic
except the last, as Dead Pool
arrived in Dolby System Stereo A-type analog audio. Some more work could be done all around,
though the original film had been around for a while in a stereo remix from
years ago by the Chace Labs. Dialogue
and sound effects show there age, but this is better than flat out mono, but
still, I have my misgivings throughout all five of the new mixes.
films have new special features and trailers for all five films. The original films has a new feature length
audio commentary by filmmaker/Eastwood associate/biographer Richard Schickel, new
Long Shadow of Dirty Harry
featurette, Dirty Harry: The Original
featurette, vintage Dirty Harry's Way promo short, interview gallery, with
Patricia Clarkson, Joel Cox, Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Evan Kim, John
Milius, Ted Post, Andy Robinson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Urich and
1993 Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso
Magnum Force offers a new feature length audio
commentary by screenwriter John Milius, new featurette A Moral Right: The Politics of Dirty Harry and featurette The Hero Cop: Yesterday and Today. The
Enforcer offers a new feature length audio commentary by The Enforcer’s
director James Fargo, new featurettes The
Business End: Violence in Cinema and Harry
Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special in Films. Sudden
Impact has new feature length audio commentary by filmmaker and Eastwood
associate/biographer Richard Schickel and new featurette The Evolution of Clint Eastwood.
The Dead Pool rounds things
out with a new feature length audio commentary by Producer David Valdes &
cinematographer Green and a new Featurette The
Craft of Dirty Harry.
This box adds a 40+ page hardcover book, a person note from Eastwood on the
series, wallet with metal badge and removable ID card, five 5" x 7"
lobby poster reproduction cards and an exclusive Ultimate Collector's Edition
card, Scorpio: Portrait of a Killer
19" x 27" map of San Francisco detailing Harry's hunt for the killer
in the first film and never-before-seen production correspondence.
feature-length documentary Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows
was also to be included here in a bonus disc, but that may only be for the DVD
version, which we did not receive.
However, this is a good set worth getting of the first three films and
is sure to be popular.
- Nicholas Sheffo