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Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is a no-nonsense San Francisco cop they call Dirty Harry. When a rooftop sniper calling himself Scorpio (Andy Robinson) murders two people and threatens to strike again unless the city pays him $100,000, Callahan is assigned the case and a new partner (Rene Santoni) to help him work it. Harry vows to catch the killer using the full force of the law, and then some.

Review by Stuart Whitmore:
The 70s was a good time for hard boiled screen cops. And none came harder than Dirty Harry Callahan, the grouch with the granite face who was so tough he would rather remove his own bullet-ridden trousers than have a surgeon cut them off. "For $29.50, let it hurt," he gripes as he begins to unbutton. Eastwood’s character has been copied and parodied so often it’s refreshing to revisit Callahan’s screen debut. Dirty Harry the movie reeks of 70s cool, sound tracked by Lalo Schiffrin’s cocktail funk and marked by director Don Siegel’s extreme camera angles and penchant for softcore nudity. It’s also a damn fine action film, a tightly-edited 99 minute opus with nary a superfluous second. Every scene paints in some more detail of Eastwood’s character, not least the moment when he swaggers out of a burger joint, still chewing, to put an end to a bank robbery and utter the immortal line: "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

It’s a high-noon on the high street moment that tipped the wink to Eastwood’s own iconic status. There’s more than a touch of the men with no names and a fistful of dollars about Harry Callahan. The actor clearly wanted the same unfussy feel for Dirty Harry. On the documentary Dirty Harry: The Original, we’re told that Eastwood instructed the writers not to put so many words in his mouth. Clint’s reasoning was that he wasn’t great at talking, "but I stare real good." The documentary, which looks back at the five Dirty Harry movies, is accompanied by another from the time of the film’s 1971 release. They make for an odd couple. In the earlier film Callahan’s lineage is stressed repeatedly, the studio—perhaps expecting an outcry over this brutal modern hero—painting Eastwood as the direct descendant of tough guys like Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. By the later doco, Harry is "the original" and 80s action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger are wheeled out to confirm that he was the model for a generation of amoral, ultraviolent tough guys.

It is true that Dirty Harry was a new kind of hero, a cop who worked outside the bounds of the law to trap a criminal who knew how to play the system. Harry is interested in enforcing justice, not the law, and he of course is judge and jury. Eastwood denies that the filmmakers were consciously trying to make a political statement, but they unconsciously captured the zeitgeist nonetheless. After the chaotic swirl of the Vietnam War and the social revolution, Dirty Harry was an appealing hero, an individualistic vigilante making the streets safe for ordinary decent Americans. A questionable character trait perhaps, and in the sequels Callahan does become a reactionary self-parody, but the movie where it all started remains fresh and entertaining.

Published January 31, 2002

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia

(US) (1971)

CAST: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Rene Santoni, Andy Robinson, John Larch, John Vernon

DIRECTOR: Don Siegel

RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Widescreen; Making of documentary; Documentary "Dirty Harry: The Original"; Interview gallery; Cast and crew; Theatrical trailer. Languages: English 5.1; French, Italian. Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, English for the hearing impaired, Italian for the hearing impaired.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: November 20, 2001

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