|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 20 November 2001|
Clint Eastwood stars as "Dirty Harry" Callahan, a San Francisco police detective who earned his nickname either for his play-rough tactics (according to his superiors) or for the dirty jobs he gets (according to Harry himself). Harry winds up on the trail of a deranged serial killer (Andy Robinson), who knows how to manipulate the system something fierce.
It is a tribute to the presence of Eastwood, the sure-handed skill of director Don Siegel and the intelligence of the screenplay by Harry Julian Fink & R.M. Fink and Dean Riesner, from the Finks’ story, that "Dirty Harry" works brilliantly, even for viewers who balk at its politics. (The movie takes a dim view of niceties like civil rights – the possibility that a cop might beat up or shoot a total innocent doesn’t seem to exist here.) The pacing is crisp, getting down to business in the very first scene, and Harry’s cranky, no-frills "Oh, hell, what now?" attitude seems so perfect that it’s no wonder that a few million movie and TV cops following in his wake tried to imitate it (most of them with limited success). It also helps that Robinson makes his killer a genuinely scary, hateful psycho, the kind of villain who could trigger the latent vengeful impulses in E.T. Whatever is going on intellectually, we’re viscerally on Harry’s side.
Visually, the "Dirty Harry" DVD has been struck from a remarkably clean print, with no notable glitches anywhere. The tints occasionally reflect the film’s age, especially in skin tones, which tend to be reddish. The sound is overall good, though it has its demerits. At its best, the digital remix has admirable surround effects, like a helicopter churning through the rears in Chapter 7, some good directional bullet hits, footfalls and debris strikes in a Chapter 12 gunfight and a strong, dimensional explosion in Chapter 28. On the downside, dialogue levels are not always consistent, with especially detectable wobbling in Chapter 3.
The disc is loaded with special features, including the original 1971 making-of featurette (with its Sgt. Friday-esque voiceover narration), a new documentary hosted by Robert Urich and an interview gallery featuring brief chats with Eastwood, Robinson, Urich, actors Patty (Patricia Clarkson), Evan Kim and Hal Holbrook – all of whom appear in "Dirty Harry" sequels – sequel director Ted Post, Joel Cox, sequel scripter John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger, it turns out, doesn’t have a darned thing to do with the "Dirty Harry" phenomenon directly, but he enthusiastically discusses how he was inspired by Eastwood’s performance.
The review copy of the disc has one peculiarity – if left too long on the main menu, it automatically starts the film on its own, without authorization from the viewer. It’s a little startling, but come to think of it, if "Dirty Harry" the character were a DVD disc, it’s just the kind of thing he’d do.