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Now the moment you've all been waiting for - Dirty Harry the original!  Since I've viewed these movies out of their proper running order, it has given me a chance to rate each one on their own merits without its predecessors colouring it for me.  I’ve also come to understand that the "Dirty" Harry Callahan persona was born out of an obvious frustration in American society (which still exists today) where the rights of the accused seemed more important than justice for the victims of the crime itself.  As commented in the documentary included in this DVD: "Lawyers do not practice justice, they practice law.  Whereas Dirty Harry practices justice."

Dirty Harry was kind of a turning point for the contemporary action-flick just as Eastwood's earlier Wild West anti-hero movies were a breath of fresh air for the good old westerner.  No more were we stuck with the straight-edged, pure-of-heart, selfless saviours.  What we got was something that basically shocked the critics into either complete revulsion or a new realisation of the everyday man - or something in between that.

For Callahan, it didn't matter how good your intentions were when the odds simply overwhelmed you and if nobody else seems to care either way, so what else could you do?  It's a dilemma that has usually been presented in Hollywood by convincing us that good is good and anything bad is ugly - Clint Eastwood and Co. just decided that all three shouldn't be mutually exclusive.  There are many shades of grey to Dirty Harry than meets the eye ... and while you can never pick the wrong hue of black and white here, you will never pick a right one either as a result.

Dirty Harry
So this movie (and its sequels) can either be seen as ... a money-making exercise ... a story that strikes back against the seemingly uncaring attitude of law makers and breakers ... a vigilante of a cop who decides that "due process" is a waste of taxpayers' time and money ... a new breed of law enforcement that is needed when the old one is losing the war ... an answer to the corruption of the courts, the police and the politicians.  All of these attitudes (and more) are perfectly valid in their own separate way as well as when they are stirred together in a stewing pot.

To be honest, all of these Dirty Harry movies attempt to present the many complexities involved in preventing crime that it sort of works against its favour ...  such as the use of excessive force in catching criminals, helping to protect the public, and ensuring that all police are seen to be dispatching "justice" (aka "law and order") in a fair and orderly fashion.  As a result, the Dirty Harry movies struggle to present an effective view of these difficulties when (for entertainment purposes) we are constantly seeing everything through the eyes of just one man.

This also adds an unwanted ironic (and sometimes humorous) element to each of these stories ... where Harry Callahan is always reprimanded for his heavy-handed actions, yet is reinstated to active duty when a situation develops that no other policeperson can handle on their own - then all is forgiven (for a while).

Movie
After doing away with the scum of the town (and the much needed character introduction of Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan) the police have learnt of a disturbed psycho assassin roaming the streets killing off people at random.  A ransom note is delivered to the San Fransisco Police Dept. claiming that more innocent lives are at stake if they do not come up with $100,000 (initially).

Correspondence with this madman is to be made through the town's newspaper (of which the same method is being used between the assassin and another unknown accomplice assigning him the various tasks of murder).  "Dirty" Harry knows of an easy and quick method of eliminating the threat, however the stakes get much higher when suddenly kidnapping is involved ... this now requires that no harm must come to the instigators of these crimes otherwise the kidnapped person will surely die.  This is a new form of crime that the police force is virtually helpless to deal with.

If you haven't seen this movie before you may still be shocked by some of the violence portrayed on-screen, which tends to be more disturbing and unexpected than most of what we usually see in today's movies.  We can usually guess where the pain and agony is about to come from nowadays (and from whom) which is why Dirty Harry still has the power to surprise newcomers.  I guess that my views regarding the violence (or what I thought was the lack of it) in this franchise was all due to my "desensitivity" to the many action-flicks I have watched over the years.

I have to admit that Eastwood's Dirty Harry series and probably his earlier westerners (which I still haven't seen yet) exhibit an honest portrayal of brutality which still pushes buttons today.  This is simply because the violence inflicted on people is not so "sweetened" up as it is nowadays ... by that I mean there is a definite "rawness" in Dirty Harry that, in other movies since, has become more refined and perfected thereby ultimately losing that "personal touch" to it (excuse the pun).  And yes, the violence is necessary to tell the story.

Video
All the Dirty Harry DVDs have been treated with the utmost care to provide you with the best possible video presentation and this one is no exception.

This particular movie probably has the most night-time scenes of all the sequels that follow it and the restoration crew has done a remarkable job in making them viewable on the small-screen ... although some scenes are still hard to follow the action in.  These dark scenes do have a lot of colourful backlighting (sometimes in a predominantly red hue) that thankfully does not bloom or blur out against the darkness.  The colours are the most vibrant of this series by far.

Dirty Harry
There is slight grain present in the film as a whole but much of it is cleverly masked by the high encoding bitrate and is not too offensive.  However an unavoidable effect of any grain is slight MPEG artefacting which again isn't too obtrusive when viewing fast moving action for instance.  Film artefacts are too few to even bother counting and have been all but eliminated.  The detail is quite remarkable for what is this film's 30th anniversary and can sometimes be very sharp (and without any edge enhancement issues either).

Audio
You know, it's getting quite hard to come up with new ways of saying the same thing, so I'll just repeat what I've said in my previous reviews ...

Things fly by in all 5.1 directions - the creatively remixed split-surround channels and the sub-woofer get a good workout from Harry's .44 Magnum out of its holster (as well as the mayhem he manages to create with it).  Dialogue is easily understandable and the music is somewhat reminiscent of a James Bond movie with Roger Moore (well, that last part was new :-).

The mono soundtracks in French and Italian are perfectly adequate for what they are - mono.  Did I say they were mono?  Apparently there was a Limited Edition Collector's Set of this movie on R1 DVD (with lots of movie print memorablia) that contained full 5.1 remixes of Spanish and French, but alas we only get the 1.0 derivatives just like in all the other Dirty Harry DVDs available for R4.  Oh well, at least we can get an idea what TV was like before stereo!

Extras
Most of these extras cover all aspects of the Dirty Harry movies, so they could only have been included within this DVD of the first movie.  It's actually better that we get to watch an entertaining overview of the "Dirty" Harry Callahan legend, rather than trying to individualise each movie with its own 10 minute retrospective featurette for each of the sequels on DVD.

First we get the Original Documentary made in 1971 which brings about 70 years of San Fransisco history into about 1 minute of overview.  The remaining 5-6 minutes talks about Clint Eastwood's comparisons to stars of the past (with some well chosen film clips of said actors in various movies) as well as half behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the Dirty Harry film itself.

Next comes Dirty Harry: The Original, a highly energised 29 minute retrospective documentary produced in 2001.  This is hosted by Robert Urich (who was one of the motorcycle-cop helmet-wearing dudes in Magnum Force) and is driven along by a popular funky rock song from the 1970s (not sure of the name, though).  There's too much material to cover in this review but suffice to say that it's something I would watch more than a few times ... even if the content itself may seem like a light-hearted brush-over of information it does have a deeper level of insight to it.  (A big word of warning:-  if you haven't seen any of the Dirty Harry movies before, I'd suggest not watching this documentary as it does contain some major spoilers).

The Interview Gallery is a relatively good collection of memorable tidbits from various people voicing their inspirations and experiences of Clint Eastwood.  Some are repeated in the documentary itself, others are not, but all are given a new context here that the documentary itself doesn't provide.  A very welcome addition.

The Cast and Crew one-page sheet doesn't even rate a mention (whoops, too late) as you've already guessed and the Theatrical Trailer is included.

Dirty Harry
Summary
If you've ever needed an excuse to buy a DVD of a Dirty Harry movie before, now is the chance to tell your wife why ... the supplemental material.  All the other DVDs in this collection only have the quality of the movie itself to rely on as a selling point (hehe, you know which one I'm thinking of :-) ... so you'd have to be a pretty die-hard fan to start off with anything but this DVD for your collection.

Even though these types of movies may be accused of inciting other people to become trigger-happy yahoos (whether for the right or wrong reasons) it's usually because these people have interpreted the message in the way they've wanted to see it.  So when you finally come down to why "Dirty" Harry Callahan exists at all (and to paraphrase another line in the documentary):  "There's a side to all of us that hopes that if we ever got into trouble and our back is against the wall, thank god you have someone like Inspector Harry Callahan to answer the call."

I have given nearly every movie an "average" movie rating, mainly because I cannot give a clear mark as to whether one Dirty Harry movie is better than another.  I believe each movie contains a message that is as individual and relative to our society as the other.  Also, my overall rating is at a very high mark only to reflect which is probably the best value out of the entire Dirty Harry DVDs.  You gotta ask yourself one question ... Which one will I buy first?

Finally, it has come to my understanding that these Dirty Harry DVDs will most likely not be bundled together in a DVD box-set - so this DVD is easily the best value for its retrospective documentary and interview gallery.  


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