Magnum Force 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. Though the picture held up pretty well given its age, it seemed less consistent than I’d like.
Sharpness was an occasional concern. Much of the film showed good delineation, but sporadic exceptions occurred. Our first glimpse of Hal Holbrook suffered from an odd gauziness, and other shots came across as a bit ill-defined. Most of the flick looked fine, though, so don’t expect a great deal of softness.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, but I noticed light edge enhancement and some source flaws. At times, I witnessed examples of specks, marks, thin vertical lines and streaks. These stayed acceptably infrequent, though.
Colors were decent. As was the case for Harry, Force went with a natural palette, but the sequel’s tones lacked the same vivacity. They looked acceptable but they failed to deliver much vivacity. Blacks were more consistent, at least, as they showed nice depth, and shadows provided good clarity. All of this was enough for a “B-“.
I really liked the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dirty Harry, and the audio for Magnum Force seemed nearly as good. My only criticism connected to dialogue. Speech tended to sound a bit dull and/or metallic throughout the film. While the lines remained intelligible, they never appeared natural.
The other audio elements proved more satisfying. Music was dynamic and vivid, and effects showed solid reproduction. They were consistently accurate and full, and low-end response seemed deep.
Just like with Harry, Force boasted a lively soundfield. Music again demonstrated fine stereo imaging, and effects added a lot of pizzazz to the proceedings. The effects moved around the room in a convincing manner; vehicles like cars, bikes and planes managed to use the speakers well. A fair amount of localized material cropped up in the surrounds, and the whole package combined to create a fine soundscape. The lackluster speech distracted me enough to knock down my grade to a “B”, but I still thought the effort was quite good for its age.
In terms of extras, we open with an audio commentary from screenwriter John Milius. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion that looks at challenges related to sequels, story and script, and some reflections on the era’s political climate.
Milius is an outspoken guy, but he’s a dull audio commentary participant. During too much of the track, he simply offers pithy remarks about the film. He also focuses on his fascination with guns and spouts some of his political thoughts such as when he opines that we need “white collar death squads”. (Milius is a Stone Age conservative.)
Actual insights remain few and far between. He almost tells of an alternate story concept but cuts himself off for no apparent reason. He does go into some problems with the flick and lets us know that the Drano scene was meant to be heard, not seen, though he doesn’t tell us why the director opted to show it instead. The handful of interesting comments can’t outweigh all the dull elements, unfortunately, and this ends up as a pretty poor discussion.
Two featurettes follow. A Moral Right: The Politics of Dirty Harry fills 24 minutes, 11 seconds as it mixes movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from Milius, Clint Eastwood, critic Richard Schickel, authors William Beard and Neal King, filmmakers Shane Black, Jay Cocks, Peter Hyams, David Ayer, Michael Butler, George Gallo, Joe Carnahan, Allen and Albert Hughes, John Lee Hancock and Steven E. de Souza, and actors Tyne Daly, Andy Robinson, Reni Santoni, Hal Holbrook, and Michael Madsen. “Right” looks at reactions to Dirty Harry and related controversies, themes, and how Harry fits his era.
“Right” may appear on the Force DVD, but it concerns itself mostly with Dirty Harry. Since the Harry Callahan character doesn’t change a ton over the five movies, I guess this piece’s placement here is fine, but I can’t say I take much from it. Harry isn’t a particularly deep personality, so the show struggles to fill its running time with worthwhile notes. The concept of Callagan’s politics and social impact can be stimulating, but this program just lacks much to make it interesting.
The Hero Cop: Yesterday and Today lasts eight minutes and provides a vintage featurette. It looks at some prior examples of law enforcement issues and also takes us to the Force set. Other than a smattering of decent shots from the production, it’s a pretty dull piece.
The set finishes with a Trailer Gallery. It includes ads for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.
The “Dirty Harry” franchise takes a steep decline with the limp, ineffective Magnum Force. Among other problems, the film tames its lead character and suffers from a dull story. As for the DVD, it offers decent picture, pretty good audio and generally bland supplements. This is my pick for the worst “Dirty Harry” movie.
A purse-strings note: you can buy Magnum Force on its own or as part of a seven-DVD “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” boxed set. That package includes Force along with Dirty Harry, 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.