Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Dirty Harry" (1971)

"Dirty Harry" (1971)
Starring Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson and Reni Santoni
Written by Harry and Rita Fink
Directed by Don Siegel

"I know what you're thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I sort of lost track myself.  But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?'  Well, do ya, punk?"

A classic, iconic line delivered by an iconic character played by one of the greatest screen legends of all time.  Clint Eastwood plays Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan, a cop who has a tendency to disregard the rules in the pursuit of justice.  Callahan is on the trail of Scorpio, a serial killer who is demanding money to stop his random killing spree.  As the politicians and the higher-ups become frustrated with the police force's inability to crack the identity and pattern of Scorpio, Callahan is frustrated with the rules and regulations that keep him from simply taking out the crazed killer.

As the back and forth chase between the two escalates, the stakes get higher and higher both for Scorpio and for Callahan.  The setup is simple, but the twists and turns for the characters and the story are great fun to watch unfold.  The dialogue is crackling, and Harry is an engrossing presence.  When it comes down to their thrilling final confrontation, a confrontation between not chaos and order, but evil and justice, you realize you've just watched a great cop film. 

"Dirty Harry" is a signpost on the road of cinematic history, the one that would lead directly or indirectly to later greats like "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard."  Callahan is a man with a fierce sense of justice, but not one of following the letter of the law.  To him, what's right trumps the law.  This frustrates him in his quest to bring down Scorpio as the district attorney tells him all his evidence is inadmissible.  "Dirty Harry" becomes, really, a battle of wills between two incredible foes.

Andrew Robinson is one of my favorite actors from the cast of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."  His chilling, crazy turn here as Scorpio was his first film role, and even then he shows a great talent.  He's a creepy, sick character "with the face of a choir boy."  His character evolution from merely sick to outright crazed and insane is great. 

"Dirty Harry" is a tense, entertaining cop thriller that spawned not only a franchise, but also a legacy.  The movie left its impact on action films and cop characters for decades to come.  Harry Callahan is a classic character, and here he's given a story and a villain worthy of that description.  

The presentation on the blu-ray disc is pretty solid.  It's a film from 1971, so lets face facts - it's not going to look like a modern film, no matter what kind of restoration it gets.  There's a good amount of grain on the picture, but this only helps it with the "gritty" and dark subject matter on display.  Still, detail is pretty remarkable, and there's no doubt that this disc outshines its DVD counterpart in every way.  Where the disc really shines is in the boldness of its colors.  This movie probably hasn't ever looked this good.