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As you may have read in one of my earlier reviews, I'm not an entirely avid fan of Clint Eastwood.  Maybe this is because I only ever see him with a permanent frown that hardly ever turns upside down, but I still admire his work ... it's just usually from afar that I do.  Anyway, I'm sure that I'll begin to appreciate him even more now that I have received five newly remastered DVDs of his to review, so thank you very much to Warner Brothers Home Video for helping me change my mind about him :-).

I have virtually no previous knowledge regarding the series of Dirty Harry movies, so I've had to do a bit of research on them (and forgive me for any wrong assumptions that I've had to make hereon).  The five discs in my possession are actually the first 4 of the 5 Dirty Harry movies produced and the fifth disc is a separate documentary about Clint Eastwood himself.  So I suspect that all these DVDs are set for a future box-set collection which is how I will treat them until I am told differently.  Unfortunately I have not been issued with the 5th movie The Dead Pool, so unfortunately I will not be able to give an appraisal of it along with the other 4.

I suppose that since I was born in the era when Eastwood's earlier contemporary movies were being made, I just never understood the appeal of the fashions, the sideburns and jive-talk that associated itself with the 70s so much.  Nonetheless, I have had the pleasure of checking out the first disc I grabbed out of the collection (so they won't be in any chronological order) which is Magnum Force, the second installment of the ever popular Dirty Harry series of movies.

Magnum Force
I was entertained very much by this movie mainly because it didn't try hard to appear groovy just for the sake of grooviness, so I was able to enjoy the characters and the situations they were in.  It also has a nice balance of not taking itself too seriously whilst not trying to go over the top with the events being played out (well, most of the time).  The violence is only as gruesome as it needs to be to keep the story flowing, so it's really everyday stuff for us nowadays.

Movie
After being relegated to stakeout duty as a result of his actions in the first film, "Dirty" Harry Callahan is on the trail (in an unofficial capacity of course) for three people dressed as rogue motorcycle cops who are killing off people who have had their major criminal charges dropped in court on various technicalities.

Along the way, Callahan finds himself in set-piece situations that sometimes have little to do with the main story itself, but this helps to branch out his character further and provides some good entertainment along the way.  This movie is deemed in some circles to be less stylish than in his previous (and first) outing.

(Trivia:- The Italian releases of all the Dirty Harry movies renamed Harry's surname to "Callaghan" because the distributor thought that it sounded better - useless or what ?!?)

Video
The movie starts out with a replaced 90s Warner Brothers logo and continues thereon with the original film.  The opening credits roll with a handgun (a .44 Magnum of course) against a red background and I was clearly impressed with the virtual lack of any film specks/dust on the print and a very clear image to boot.  So this was a kind of litmus test for me to see how well they restored the print (and yes, the image wavered quite a bit so it was definately not just still shots).  The image of the entire film is remarkably clean for a movie this gone in years (1973 to be exact) with nary a nick or scratch to disturb viewing proceedings.

The presentation is very clear and detailed with only a few on-set focussing problems to marr what is otherwise a brilliant transfer.  The blacks are deep and solid even in the darkest sequences where any attempt to boost the image brightness has not occurred, and still these scenes provide enough image detail to make out what is going on in the shadows.  The colour scheme is muted somewhat which is understandably a condition of the film-stock that was used, and fleshtones take on a slight plastic or mannequin look about them (it's the only way to describe it).  Overall, a very impressive picture.

Magnum Force
Audio
The audio has a very neat English 5.1 remix, and generally this is a pleasurable aural experience that still exhibits the obviously dated feel to it.  Everything from split-surround and sub-woofer usage is used to a good degree, it does not draw obvious attention to itself and is not overpowering.  It's sometimes a very loud soundtrack when the action kicks in but it also provides some nice ambience in the quieter scenes.

The split-surrounds are cleverly utilised with cars and bullets going past you in all the right directions.  Also, the opening scenes outside the courtroom offer a great example of this remix where the angry shouting crowd is all around you, but it doesn't really envelop you in the way that it probably should.  The sub-woofer is given a sparse but healthy workout usually with gunshots and the occasional explosion ... even the least obvious sound effects get a good dose of bass work that helps to enhance the experience even further.  And strangely enough, you can actually hear the differences in the guns being fired!  Callahan's .44 Magnum actually gets the most boom from all the weapons on display, too.  Very nice indeed.

The dialogue is surprisingly clear and easy to understand without any distortion or obvious boosting, although it still exhibits that typical canned quality.  The musical soundtrack was composed by Lalo Schifrin (of Enter The Dragon fame) and is your typical 70s rock-orchestra suite of music that proved so popular back then (eugh!) ... it has enough body in it to groove down to as well.

(The French 1.0 and Italian 1.0 mixes are equally dated sounding and clear throughout).

Extras
Very sparse but still welcome.

There is a sub-8 minute promo featurette called The Hero Cop: Yesterday and Today which is actually very good considering the running time.  Produced in the same year as the movie, it starts off with an overview of what police and crime has transformed into during the 70s, then shows how Hollywood has moved with the times to portray this development of crime and crime-fighting.  There is also some interesting behind-the-scenes footage that you don't get to see much of these days, and the clever editing of a stunt sequence that shows off the usage of camera crews to obtain the necessary shots, just as though you were watching it as part of the movie itself.

Also contained is the theatrical trailer in a clear enough 1.85:1 presentation, scene-selections, and a near-pointless one-page summary of cast and crew.  The menus are static with background music playing in the main menu screen only.

Magnum Force
Summary
I can only go by my impressions from watching this movie for the very first time.  The presentation of both the video and audio is a real pleasure, and the movie itself is probably a great way to introduce yourself to the character of Dirty Harry.

This might not be the most favoured installment with the true fans of this series, but if you don't mind a non-taxing night of old-time entertainment (and an ending that will make you think), you can't go wrong here.


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