DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Don Siegel
Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, Andrew Robinson, John Larch, John Mitchum
Writing Credits:
Harry Julian Fink (and story), Rita M. Fink (and story), Dean Riesner

You don't assign him to murder cases, you just turn him loose.

Set in San Francisco in 1971, Dirty Harry is the gritty and suspenseful film that follows the story of Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), who earns the moniker 'Dirty Harry' for his reputation of handling the dirtiest homicidal cases. The City by the Bay faces the terror of a serial killer known as Scorpio (Andrew Robinson), who viciously snipes at innocent victims and demands ransom through notes left at the scene of the crime. Callahan is assigned to the case along with his newest partner, Inspector Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni) to track down Scorpio and stop him. Using humiliation along with cat and mouse type games against Callahan, Scorpio is put to the test by the cop with the very dirty attitude.

Box Office:
$4 million.
Domestic Gross
$28.153 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Japanese Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $20.98
Release Date: 6/3/08

DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Richard Schickel
• “Dirty Harry: The Original” Documentary
• “Interview Gallery”
• “Dirty Harry’s Way” Vintage Featurette
• Trailer Gallery
DVD Two:
• “The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry” Documentary
• “Clint Eastwood: The Man From Malpaso” Documentary


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Dirty Harry: Special Edition (1971)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 1, 2008)

While his “Man With No Name” created an indelible impression on moviegoers, Clint Eastwood’s most famous film character remains renegade cop “Dirty” Harry Callahan. We get our first glimpse of the iconic role in 1971’s Dirty Harry.

Set in San Francisco, a mysterious assailant (Andy Robinson) shoots and kills a young woman as she swims in a rooftop pool. The authorities receive a letter signed “Scorpio” in which the murderer states he’ll slay a person a day unless he gets $100,000 ransom. The Mayor (John Vernon) decides to play along on the surface while the police try to find Scorpio.

Who gets the assignment? Renegade Inspector Harry Callahan, of course, and he brings his no-nonsense, “shoot first and ask questions later” approach to the crime. To Harry’s chagrin, however, he also gets a new partner: Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni). We follow the pair as they stalk Scorpio.

Harry has reached the status of “classic” without being a particularly great film. My synopsis makes the story sound more linear and concise than it is, especially in its first half. To set up Harry’s character, the flick goes off onto a mix of tangents that don’t deal much with the Scorpio plot. That side of things becomes more dominant as the tale progresses, but I still don’t see this as an especially tight piece.

Despite the lack of scintillating storytelling, Harry works due to the power of its lead character. Callahan must be one of the most polarizing heroes in movie history. I’m sure many a tree has died in the discussion of Harry and its fascistic overtones, so I won’t spend a lot of time there.

However, I will say it’s fairly amazing that a film like this got made in 1971, given the generally liberal nature of society at the time. Was this a reaction of Nixon’s alleged “Silent Majority” to what they perceived as the excessive looseness of the era? Perhaps, but it still startles to see something that glorifies such a heavy-handed, oppressive personality as Harry; he seems more like a construct of the Reagan era.

The Callahan character works because he’s not just a simple-minded fascist, I suppose. He’s an unfeeling black and white law and order sort, but he does work for justice, so that gives him a layer of credibility. Some will admire Harry for his refusal to let what he perceives as idiotic laws stand in his ways, while others will vilify him for him refusal to respect civil rights. He’s a challenging hero, but he remains a hero in any case.

The iconic nature of Callahan is what makes Harry - and the entire franchise – enduring, I suspect. As I alluded earlier, there’s not a whole lot about Harry itself to make it especially memorable. The story just provides a loose rip-off the real-life Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco back in the day, but it doesn’t make Scorpio anything more than a cartoon loon. He seems neither bright nor intriguing; he acts to motivate the plot but he can’t bring more to the table than that.

Don Siegel’s “meat and potatoes” direction also fails to add a lot to the piece. I don’t intend that as a criticism of Siegel’s work, for he knows enough to deliver the basics and get out of Eastwood’s way. Clint stands as easily the best thing about Harry, so any fancy storytelling gimmicks would distract from that focus.

Eastwood was already something of an icon when Harry hit in 1971; since I was only four at the time, I can’t interpret how famous he was pre-Harry, but he certainly wasn’t a nobody. Clint’s flinty performance suits Callahan so well it seems almost stunning to find out he wasn’t the first choice for the role. Hindsight’s 20-20, but it’s become absolutely impossible to envision anyone else as Harry. Eastwood is tough as nails but brings enough subtle humor to the part to ensure Harry isn’t just a sadistic fantasy.

And that’s more than enough to make Dirty Harry an entertaining affair. I dislike its political agenda but can distance myself from that enough to enjoy it as a vigilante fable.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Dirty Harry appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With only a few moderate problems, this became a satisfying transfer.

Very few issues affected sharpness. At times wide shots looked a little iffy, especially around the edges in some interiors, and a bit of light edge enhancement created small distractions. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick seemed accurate and well-defined. No issues with shimmering or jaggies materialized, and source flaws remained minor. I saw a handful of specks but that was it.

Colors looked natural. The movie lacked stylized hues, as it went with a realistic palette that seemed full and rich. Blacks were generally good, though they could be slightly inky at times, and shadows were pretty positive. A few shots seemed a little dense, but most of the film showed good definition in low-light elements. While I didn’t think the transfer was quite strong enough for a “B+”, it still proved more than satisfactory.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dirty Harry, it provided a pleasant surprise. The soundfield was quite engaging throughout the film, as environment added a nice sense of place at all times. Some louder scenes allowed matters to become even more dynamic, and movement was consistently good. For instance, we got impressive motion in terms of helicopters, as they would zip around the spectrum. Music showed nice stereo definition, and the surrounds presented a solid layer of reinforcement. They didn’t include a ton of unique information, but they brought out much more than expected.

Audio quality rarely showed its age. Speech was natural and concise, and edginess was minor at worst. Music sounded lively and full, and effects presented good reproduction as well. Those elements suffered from only modest distortion and featured solid bass response. I felt very pleased with this fine age-defying soundtrack.

For this two-disc “Special Edition” of Dirty Harry, we get extras across both of its platters. On DVD One, we start with an audio commentary from film critic Richard Schickel. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that looks at shot composition and visual storytelling, reactions to the film and related controversies, cast and crew notes, music, and some film interpretation.

When I see Schickel listed as a commentator, I always get a little shudder. The critic occasionally offers some good discussions of various films, but he provides a lot of dull ones as well. You never know what you’ll get, so I go into his commentaries with a minor sense of dread.

That’s probably an over-reaction; Schickel’s commentaries usually aren’t great, but they’re not painful. That MO holds up for Dirty Harry. Schickel offers a moderate number of insights and interesting notes, but the track doesn’t provide consistent pleasures. He goes silent too often and also occasionally tends to simply narrate the movie. This becomes a rather mediocre commentary.

Next comes a documentary called Dirty Harry: The Original. In this 29-minute and 41-second piece, we find movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. Hosted by Robert Urich, we hear from Clint Eastwood, Magnum Force writer John Milius, Force director Ted Post, and actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andy Robinson, Hal Holbrook, Patricia Clarkson, and Evan Kim. “Original” looks at the use of San Francisco in the series, aspects of the main character and how he connected to his era, the film’s violence, cast and performances, developments in subsequent “Harry” movies, and the series’ impact on other movies.

“Original” takes a general approach to its subject, and it doesn’t work especially well. Oh, it’s a reasonably enjoyable piece, but it stays too superficial much of the time and it doesn’t deliver many genuinely interesting nuggets. Expect a mediocre overview.

More comments appear in the Interview Gallery. It presents remarks from Eastwood, Clarkson, Holbrook, Kim, Milius, Post, Robinson, Urich, Schwarzenegger, and editor Joel Cox. Taken together, these fill a total of 27 minutes, 12 seconds, and they offer outtakes from the sessions used in “Original”. They provide some general thoughts about aspects of the series and their participation in the films. The first few interviews aren’t very interesting, but once we get to Milius – the sixth of the 10 – matters improve. Nothing stellar appears here, but at least a few decent comments emerge.

A vintage featurette entitled Dirty Harry’s Way runs seven minutes, three seconds. Visit this one for some decent footage from the set. Nothing else about it fares particularly well, as it exists to promote the movie. Still, the archival footage adds some value.

DVD One finishes with a Trailer Gallery. It includes ads for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.

Over on DVD Two, two components appear. The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry lasts 25 minutes, 28 seconds as it presents notes from Eastwood, Milius, Holbrook, Robinson, Cox, Schickel, former WB executive John Calley, film critic Emanuel Levy, authors Douglas Thompson and Neal King, filmmakers Joe Carnahan, David Ayer, Shane Black, Tom Fontana, Peter Hyams, George Gallo, John Badham, Steven E. de Souza, Jay Cocks, Allen and Albery Hughes, Michael Butler, Jack N. Green, and James Fargo, and actors Michael Madsen and Tyne Daly. “Shadow” acts as an appreciation for Dirty Harry. It looks at the film’s era and how the flick fit that period, the main character’s appeal and portrayal, themes, a few filmmaking notes, and thoughts about the flick’s impact.

As an appreciation, “Shadow” tends toward general comments. We don’t learn a lot about the creation of the flick, and even when the show veers in that direction, it tends to repeat nuggets heard elsewhere. This is a reasonably enjoyable piece but not an especially valuable one.

Finally, Clint Eastwood: The Man From Malpaso fills 58 minutes, four seconds with info from Eastwood, Post, Cox, composer Lennie Niehaus, agent Leonard Hirshan, stunt coordinator Wayne Van Horn, art director Henry Bumstead, director Michael Cimino, producer David Valdes, and actors Jessica Walter, Gene Hackman, Marsha Mason, Forest Whitaker, Frances Fisher, and Genevieve Bujold. “Malpaso” looks at Eastwood’s movie career and its development over the years. A 1993 production, it starts with 1966’s A Fistful of Dollars and progresses through 1992’s Unforgiven. It also tells us a little about Eastwood’s family and other aspects of his life.

Of all the DVD’s extras, “Malpaso” proves the most satisfying. It offers a fine career overview and gives us a good idea about what makes Eastwood tick. Of course, general praise becomes inevitable, but happy talk doesn’t overwhelm the show. Instead, it provides us with a concise and consistently involving look at Eastwood’s life and work.

With 1971’s Dirty Harry, one of the screen’s most iconic characters made his debut. I can’t say he did so in grand fashion, as Harry doesn’t provide stellar filmmaking but it does act as a reasonably compelling action drama. The DVD provides generally strong picture along with surprisingly good audio and erratic but often useful supplements. Both DVD and movie prove satisfying.

A purse-strings note: you can buy Dirty Harry on its own or as part of a seven-DVD “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” boxed set. That package includes Harry along with Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool, and the documentary Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows. In addition, the set gives fans a small book and some other non-disc-based materials that I’ll cover in the review of the package as a whole.

Purchased separately, the five movies would cost $80.90 MSRP, while the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” goes for $74.98. If you want all the films, it’s obviously the way to go.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5312 Stars Number of Votes: 32
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main