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Mike Barnard

Published June 10th, 2004 | by Mike Barnard

Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector’s Edition Review

Classification: 18 Director: Various Rating: 4/5

One of the most famous living screen icons, Clint Eastwood’s chiselled deadpan cop Inspector Harry Callahan paved the way for a new style of police film. Cynical, unorthodox and in constant trouble with his superiors, ‘Dirty Harry’ doesn’t care about the bureaucracy of law, just enforcing it with whatever force he felt necessary – usually using his trademark magnum gun. This box set brings the five films featuring the Dirty Harry together and, while only the first three still hold their own, they all pack a punch.

The original Dirty Harry made in 1971 is still the best, from the impressively expansive opening sequence as the titular character inspects a murder scene from place of death up to the sniper’s vantage point and first utters the words “Do you feel lucky, punk” shortly afterwards, Eastwood is in his element. On the hunt for serial killer known Scorpio (Andrew Robinson), who snipes at innocent victims and demands ransom through notes left at the scene of the crime, he disobeys direct orders and puts a bullet in the man’s leg with no evidence against him. Flouting his position in the name of justice is the way Callahan rolls and those that don’t like it get the cold shoulder until they are forced to eat their words when he catches Scorpio following an engaging cat and mouse pursuit.

Following the focus on the lone murderer, follow up Magnum Force sees Callahan face crooked cops as well as suffering re-assignment from homicide to stakeout duty after his handling of the Scorpio case. The sequel features a lot more of the character’s straight-faced wisecracks as he gets roughed up and the final twist marks the start of an impressive action climax.

The Enforcer provides Callahan with female partner Kate Moore (Tyne Daly) and a showdown on Alcatraz Island against a group of self-proclaimed revolutionaries to spice up the Dirty Harry formula. Its solid and grim, but also showing signs of age. Fourth entry in the series Sudden Impact sees Callahan sent for some rest and relaxation in Sao Paulo where trouble follows. More than 10 years on from the original, this is possibly the most violent of the lot featuring killer Jennifer Spencer (Sondra Locke) who shoots her victims in the genitals. Locke doesn’t make for an interesting villain, but at least Eastwood is on form.

By the time The Dead Pool arrived in 1988, the Dirty Harry character had lost a lot of his impact and is the weakest of the entries despite an intriguing plot involving a contest to murder local celebrities – including Harry himself. It’s a little laboured, but does pack in a good car chase. Out of the five, it is Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool which show their age the most despite being the most recent, however the 1970s entries are more than worth the price of the box set alone.

EXTRAS
Plentiful. Dirty Harry comes with special features spread over two discs including a commentary, features and 1993 TV special. The other four in the series have commentaries and additional features, while the set also comes with a 44-page hardback book, Harry Callahan’s police badge and ID, map of the Bay area detailing crime scenes, original theatrical art cards and internal studio correspondence.


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