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Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is a tough, streetwise San Francisco police detective well known for his vicious take-no-prisoners attitude toward criminals. With the city of San Francisco being terrorized by the psychotic killer known only as Scorpio (Andrew Robinson), Harry is assigned by the mayor (John Vernon) and Lt. Bressler (Harry Guardino) to try to stop him, pairing him with reluctantly accepted new partner Chico (Reni Santoni). Scorpio kidnaps a 14-year-old girl and buries her alive, demanding a $200,000 ransom for her return. Harry is to bring him the money—alone. What follows is one of the most exciting ransom deliveries in film history.
For more about Dirty Harry and the Dirty Harry Blu-ray release, see Dirty Harry Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 25, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, Andrew Robinson, John Larch
Director: Don Siegel
» See full cast & crew
Dirty Harry Blu-ray Review
A cinematic classic stands the test of time...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 25, 2009
Icon. If there's a more suitable word to describe Clint Eastwood's "Dirty" Harry Callahan, I've yet to come across it. Over the last four decades, the embittered San Francisco Police Department inspector has become an indelible symbol of blunt-force justice; an unwavering gunslinger bound by his own code of conduct; a fearsome, pistol-packing trinity composed of discerning judge, decisive jury, and grim-faced executioner. In the same vein, director Don Siegel's Dirty Harry is, for all intents and purposes, a legitimate classic. It not only birthed the modern crime drama as we know it, it single-handedly influenced -- either directly or indirectly -- nearly every action film and police procedural that's emerged since its 1971 theatrical debut. Even more remarkable is the fact that both the genre-defining film and its imposing Smith & Wesson warrior are as commanding and relevant today as they were thirty-eight years ago.
In his first silver-screen outing, the steely-eyed officer of the law is tasked with stopping a vicious serial sniper (dubbed the Scorpio Killer) who, after shooting a young woman, threatens to murder more innocent people if the city of San Francisco refuses to pay him a hefty ransom. With a new partner in tow -- a rookie named Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni) -- Callahan pursues the elusive killer, only to lose a fellow officer during a rooftop shootout. Enraged by Callahan's persistence, as well as the police force's penchant for predicting his movements, the Scorpio Killer lashes out, adding kidnapping, rape, and even greater extortion to his repertoire. Their intense game of cat and mouse eventually puts the tenacious inspector at odds with the city's snide bureaucrats, the public at large, and his own colleagues. With no other choice but to take the law into his own hands, Callahan becomes determined to introduce the Scorpio Killer to his unique brand of home-brewed justice.
Screenwriters Rita and Harry Julian Fink deliver a seemingly endless series of increasingly potent confrontations between their resolute anti-hero and their vindictive killer -- undeniably memorable scenes Siegel stages with confidence and stylized swagger -- but Dirty Harry is, and will always be, Clint Eastwood's film. More than an iconic performance, more than an enduring encapsulation of craft and screen presence, Eastwood transforms himself into Callahan. The once-and-future Oscar winner submits every fiber of his being to the solitude, frustration, and inevitable outrage of his character, leaving little distinction between Eastwood the Actor and Callahan the Man. He so commits himself to the role that even the most hyper-realistic sequences are grounded in the reality of Harry's tenacious will. Callahan isn't an invincible action hero, he's an unstoppable force of nature; a relentless agent of justice whose strength and single-mindedness won't allow him to fail or, for that matter, die. Eastwood believably descends into Callahan's own personal hell, his mouth clenched in anger and his eyes glowing with hatred. By the time his gun comes to bear on the Scorpio Killer, Eastwood and Callahan have become one, forever ensuring their standing amongst Hollywood's greatest performances and creations.
That being said, don't let the word "timeless" mislead you. While Dirty Harry holds up quite well, it may disappoint anyone expecting a modernized masterpiece. '70s classics will never boast the aesthetic polish of more recent period pieces, nor will they ever fool anyone into believing they weren't filmed some forty years ago. Even so, Dirty Harry still has a lot to say to modern filmfans about justice, morality, ethics, and bureaucratic ineptitude, all while providing a thought provoking commentary on our legal system, its effectiveness, and the inherent contradictions that plague its implementation. Siegel may not have been aiming for such lofty intellectual pursuits when Eastwood strode onto set, but the film and its actors manage to tackle all of these concepts and more, forcing viewers -- even those wrapped up in its gunplay and chase scenes -- to answer some tough questions about the ideals and realities of law and order. In that regard, Dirty Harry will continue to be a Hollywood hallmark; a classic in every sense of the word that won't soon fade from our collective cinematic conscience.
Dirty Harry Blu-ray, Video Quality
I have to admit I braced myself for the worst when I slid Dirty Harry into my Blu-ray player. But, to my relief, Warner's restoration and subsequent 1080p/VC-1 transfer exceeded my expectations. It has its share of problems, sure -- the studio's at-times dire dose of edge enhancement is a distraction, minor color bleeding and macroblocking haunt a shadowy club sequence, faint source noise occasionally interferes with the integrity of the image, and dust, grime, and scratches still pop up here and there -- but the good far outweighs the bad. Colors are bold and vibrant, contrast is warm and healthy, and black levels are fairly well-resolved (in all but a few rare instances). Detail is impressive as well, offering more refined textures and cleaner object definition than I thought I'd encounter. More importantly, the picture doesn't suffer from any significant artifacting, color banding, persistent crush, or pesky noise reduction. Grain-haters will shake their heads and scoff at its every filmic frame, but I found the overall presentation to be both attractive and proficient. Will the transfer make casual viewers swoon? Hardly. Videophiles cheer? Not quite. Even so, Dirty Harry fans will be pleased with Warner's efforts, and find their high definition dollar has been well spent.
Dirty Harry Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Remixing a dated audio source is always a tricky proposition -- particularly when the source in question is a worn and weathered thirty-seven-year old mono track -- but Warner has managed to breathe a decent breath of life into Dirty Harry's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is warm and centered (albeit quite pinched at times), and Eastwood's throaty growl sounds as menacing as it should. Effects don't fare nearly as well (gunshots are hollow, punches are too pulpy, and car crashes are decidedly rooted in the '70s), but considering the age of William Randall's sound design and the one-channel nature of the film's original presentation, it would be silly to expect much more. Likewise, while the rear speakers are used sparingly and LFE output is shrill and tame by today's standards, the track's ambient properties and overall dynamics are above average for a decades-old catalog title.
My apologies if it seems like I'm shrugging off every criticism with an apathetic aside, but a film like Dirty Harry will never offer the sonic prowess of a twenty-first century production. Even if the studio went back to the drawing board, scrapped the original sound design, and created an entirely new and more immersive soundscape, the resulting track would sound ridiculous once the actors' dialogue was reinserted into the mix. I'm afraid disgruntled newcomers will just have to learn to appreciate faithful efforts like this one and invest their ire elsewhere.
Dirty Harry Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Despite a lengthy collection of special features, Dirty Harry's supplemental package left me cold. A film critic commentary, several made-for-TV documentaries, and a few vintage bonuses can hardly take the place of a solid retrospective. As it stands, the only fresh piece on the disc is too short and flashy to do the film, or its star, much justice. I'll admit it's tough to complain about six hours of content, but a more updated overview could have accomplished just as much in half the time.
Dirty Harry Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dirty Harry's digibook release is a strong one. It offers an attractive, wholly competent presentation of Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood's classic film, a decent TrueHD lossless 5.1 remix, and a generous supplemental package. Callahan fans will be a bit more impressed with the disc than newcomers but, at such an affordable price, most everyone will feel that they've made a wise purchase.
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