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Dirty Harry Collection(1971-1988)
See individual titles for their synopses. Clint Eastwood plays the intrepid San Francisco Police Department Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. Box set contains all five movies in the series: Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983 - directed by Eastwood himself) and The Dead Pool (1988).
For more about Dirty Harry Collection and the Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray release, see the Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray Review
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, Tyne Daly, Patricia Clarkson, Hal Holbrook
Directors: Buddy Van Horn, Ted Post, Clint Eastwood, James Fargo, Don Siegel
This Blu-ray release includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray Review
The classic '70s and '80s series earns another respectable Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 16, 2010
I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question. "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?
Coupled with the steely, Wild Bill ferocity in Clint Eastwood's eyes and the utter conviction in his gravelly voice, these few words tell us everything we need to know about "Dirty" Harry Callahan. More than an enduring cinematic icon, more than a weather-worn hero that launched a dozen genres, Callahan is a man lost in time; a displaced Dodge City gunslinger struggling to dispense Old West justice in a 20th century city policed by timid politicians, divided by public opinion, and ruled by deviants and drug dealers. He would rather pull the trigger of his beloved .44 Magnum than brandish a pair of handcuffs, subverting the corrupt system to which he's bound, but his devotion to law and order stays his hand. He would rather act as judge, jury, and executioner than risk a criminal's acquittal, but he draws a rigid line he refuses to cross. He would rather fight fire with fire than trust the policies of weak-willed lawmakers, but he's a man who knows his limitations. Even some forty years after director Don Siegel's Dirty Harry first stormed theaters, Callahan has yet to become a relic. Yes, the series' sequels haven't aged as gracefully as their namesake, and yes, lesser entries succumb to poorly conceived self-parody, but Eastwood and his fellow filmmakers have nevertheless created a legend.
In his 1971 debut, Dirty Harry, Inspector Harry Callahan is tasked with stopping a vicious serial sniper (dubbed the Scorpio Killer) threatening to kill again if the city of San Francisco refuses to pay him a hefty ransom. Enraged by the the police force's persistence, the Scorpio Killer lashes out and adds kidnapping, rape, and extortion to his repertoire. The ensuing 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. The film's 1973 followup, the aptly titled Magnum Force, thrusts Callahan into an even more dangerous case involving a rash of mysterious murders committed by a rogue police officer. Reprimanded after the events of Dirty Harry, Callahan's involvement is tenuous at best, but he soon proves he's more than capable of handling San Francisco's deadly vigilantes. The Enforcer, released in 1976, tosses more weapons and baddies into the mix, pitting Harry against a disgruntled group of Vietnam veterans calling themselves the People's Revolutionary Strike Force. When domestic terrorism erupts, San Francisco's angriest inspector answers the call to arms. 1983's Sudden Impact returns to Dirty Harry form as Callahan investigates a homicide that traces back to a rape victim; a woman determined to take justice into her own hands. Bleak, unflinching, and particularly violent, the fourth film also finds Eastwood in the director's chair. Alas, Callahan's final case, The Dead Pool, puts an awkward, late-80s stamp on the series. Working a case involving a dead rock star (Jim Carrey), a hot-tempered film director (Liam Neeson), and a contrived game of celebrity death match, Harry has to stop a killer and save a reporter (Patricia Clarkson) who's getting too close to the subject of her story.
Dirty Harry's filmmakers have concocted an impressive array of intense confrontations between their resolute anti-hero and vindictive killer; memorable encounters Siegel stages with confidence and commanding swagger. That being said, Dirty Harry is, and always will be, Clint Eastwood's film. The once-and-future Oscar-winner submits to the solitude, frustration, and bottled rage 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 seem grounded in reality. Callahan isn't an invincible action hero, he's an unstoppable force of nature; a relentless agent of justice whose inner strength and single-mindedness allow him to persevere. By the time he and the Scorpio Killer come face to face, Eastwood and Callahan have become one, forever ensuring their standing amongst Hollywood's greatest performances and characters. Moreover, Dirty Harry delivers a fascinating commentary on justice and bureaucratic ineptitude, all while providing a thought provoking analysis of the 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. In that regard, Dirty Harry is a true Hollywood hallmark; a classic that won't soon fade from our collective cinematic conscience.
Magnum Force ups the ante in every conceivable way, even bounding down unexplored avenues of Callahan's character, but simply doesn't dole out its gut-punches as readily or effectively as Dirty Harry. Director Ted Post and screenwriter John Milius certainly prove their worth, dropping their newly inherited Inspector into the middle of a complex case, constructing a rather elaborate web of deceit for him to unravel, and releasing a steady stream of cannon fodder into the line of fire. They even find interesting ways to bend and twist Callahan's second outing rather than merely rehash everything that worked for Siegel the first time around. Unfortunately, its convoluted endgame, stretched revealations, and lazily defined conspiracies reek of the low-grade action and intrigue that would later dominate the genre in the '80s. It isn't a bad film, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it also fails to expound upon Harry's personal hell, create a formidable foe and, ultimately, best the original. Thankfully, Eastwood is better than ever; so much so that he single-handedly keeps Magnum Force afloat. With a refined sense of purpose, the veteran actor pours even more gruff, gunslinger charm into Callahan's every line and expression. Car chases are more convincing when he's behind the wheel, shootouts more meaningful when his life is in danger, justice more satisfying when it's exacted by his hand. It almost seems as if Eastwood isn't acting. Of course, quiet reflection and subtle exchanges suggest otherwise. Ever in control of his craft, Eastwood is as much a force to be reckoned with as Callahan.
Director James Fargo and screenwriters Stirling Silliphant and Dean Riesner's The Enforcer is the series' first middling entry. Once again, Eastwood demonstrates his knack for character-driven actioners and, once again, new elements are introduced that keep the formula fairly fresh (actress Tyne Daly's wide-eyed female inspector chief among them). If only Callahan's antagonists were as interesting. Gone is Andy Robinson's Scorpio Killer, a breath of vindictive air that lent Dirty Harry more power than it might have otherwise had. Gone is Hal Holbrook's shady career officer, a misguided egomaniac who, if nothing else, sunk his sharp teeth into Magnum Force's thick skin. In their place we're given a cartoonish pack of domestic terrorists; crazy-eyed hippy-vets who resort to stealing weapons, kidnapping the mayor, and spouting raspy political rhetoric. Hardly the kind of villains befitting a conflicted cop like Harry. The group's inane dialogue is among the series' worst, and the actors' performances are some of its most grating (second only to The Dead Pool's resident would-be rock-god, Johnny Squares). Worse, they disrupt the film's narrative flow. While scenes between Eastwood and Daly are rife with breezy chemistry and fluid conversations, the rest of the cast overacts and underachieves with abandon. The Enforcer is still an average actioner, and marks a decent midway point for Callahan's character, but it can't compete with Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, or the series' next entry, one that would come seven years later.
Sudden Impact is actually my second favorite film in the franchise. While it's received its share of critical drubbing over the years, and while I'll admit it has plenty of flaws (its poppy, synth-riddled score disappoints early and often), its director is none other than Clint Eastwood himself. Pulling back from the gun-toting shenanigans that dotted The Enforcer, Eastwood and screenwriter Joseph Stinson serve up a more thoughtful, weightier drama that focuses on its characters above all else. Don't worry, Callahan's .44 isn't strapped to his side the entire time -- a smartly penned coffee shop robbery and subsequent shootout stands among the series' finest scenes -- but Eastwood is more fascinated by his heroine's psyche and Harry's emotional turmoil than the violence that erupts from time to time. Film students will see brief glimpses of what would eventually become Unforgiven, A Perfect World, and Mystic River, and casual cinephiles will end find themselves dissecting the welcome shift in tone. More importantly, Eastwood takes the opportunity to complete the character arc he first began developing in 1971. While The Dead Pool would suggest otherwise, Sudden Impact strikes me as a far more fitting way to end the series, and its closing scene is a more meaningful place to leave Callahan standing.
And so we arrive at the series' most troublesome entry. The Dead Pool -- which, honestly, should have been titled The Dead Pool! and billed as a comedy -- is more National Lampoon than Don Siegel; more Saturday Night Live than Dirty Harry. Easily the worst of the series, director Buddy Van Horn's laugh-riot is home to some of the most wince-inducing, unintentionally hilarious sequences I've encountered in a respected franchise (short of Batman & Robin). Try to keep a straight face as Jim Carrey hams it up as a drug-addled rock star (cultivating the seeds of Fire Marshal Bill); as Liam Neeson rants, raves, and waves his arms as an embittered film director; as a high-speed chase ensues between Callahan and a remote controlled car (the pint-sized pursuer chases him); as a man threatens to set himself on fire for media attention, changes his mind, then accidentally sets himself on fire; as Clint Eastwood emerges from a pillar of steam holding an oversized speargun that would look ridiculous if it appeared in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants (much less a Dirty Harry film). Even the way in which Eastwood holds his gun is off. The Dead Pool amounts to the divorce proceedings between an actor and his character. Eastwood may have walked into the film with high hopes, but it's clear from his on-screen demeanor that he soon realized he was engaging in Callahan's final hurrah. Everything from the film's direction to its performances, from its cheesy action sequences to its paper-thin characters, from its gunplay to its mustache-twirling villains, is a mess. The only thing that makes it all worth watching is the early work of fledgling stars who would go on to do far greater things.
Taken as a whole, the Dirty Harry films amount to an entertaining, albeit inconsistent series. Luckily, Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, and Sudden Impact are worth the price of admission, The Enforcer emerges as a maligned but passable addition, and The Dead Pool adds tremendous value... so long as you view it as a parody and ignore the fact that it's a legitimate entry. Far from perfect, the Dirty Harry Collection deserves some attention and should satisfy those familiar with the series' ups and downs.
Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray, Video Quality
Five films, five increasingly competent 1080p/VC-1 transfers. Rather than shove the Dirty Harry Collection out the door, Warner has granted each film in the series an extensive restoration and an impressive high definition encode.
Director Don Siegel's Dirty Harry, the oldest and wisest of the series, has rightfully received the most thorough restoration; a meticulous overhaul befitting a catalog title of its standing. Bruce Surtees' sun-stroked palette is as stark and vivid as he intended, skintones are warm and lifelike, contrast is strong and stable, and black levels are well-resolved in all but a handful of scenes. Detail is crisp and clean as well, offering more refined textures and sharper object definition than I thought I'd encounter. Moreover, the picture doesn't suffer from any significant artifacting, color banding, persistent crush, or pesky noise reduction. Granted, 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. There are problems, mind you -- edge enhancement rears its head, negligible color bleeding and macroblocking disrupt a dimly lit nightclub, source noise gets a bit unruly at times, and scratches and blemishes still appear from time to time -- but the good far outweighs the bad. For a film closing in on its fortieth birthday, that's saying a lot.
Magnum Force's transfer won't elicit as much praise, but only because Ted Post's sequel is a softer film. Yes, some shots are woefully out of focus (a conversation between a razor-sharp Callahan and his hazily defined lieutenant is as schizophrenic as they come), and yes, several sequences fail to pop as readily as I'm sure its filmmakers would have preferred, but Post's print is the clear culprit. Otherwise, Magnum Force holds up well. Detail is more revealing than its ever been and, soft interludes aside, texture clarity, edge definition, and the film's grainfield are quite satisfying. Delineation is notable as well, even if crush takes a small toll on the proceedings here and there. Best of all, Frank Stanley's summery hues and inky shadows have been nicely preserved, lush greenery and crimson-stained squibs make an impact, and saturation is striking. Issues? A few. Flickering and wavering are occasional distractions, fleeting artifacts dot the proceedings, ringing undermines a number of shots, and print damage, relatively minor as it may be, is a factor. Still, I doubt Magnum Force could look much better than it does here.
The Dirty Harry Collection hits its stride with The Enforcer and Sudden Impact thanks to a pair of memorable transfers; comparable presentations that benefit from healthier prints, less intrusive restorations, and waning expectations. Filmic softness still affects a handful of scenes in each film, but color and clarity are remarkable, shadow delineation is both revealing and convincing, black levels are deep and natural, and contrast is impeccable. More importantly, a procession of fine textures lend each film a fitting foundation -- stubble, wind-swept hair, the patterns on Callahan's suit coats, and the rust flecks on fleeing cars are stunning at times -- and grain remains intact and unobtrusive (not to mention more consistent than it is in Dirty Harry or Magnum Force). If anything, some slight wavering, flickering, and source nicks and specks prevent The Enforcer and Sudden Impact from climbing too high, and a dose of edge enhancement prevents the presentations from earning the commendations they might have otherwise won. Regardless, both transfers handily best their DVD counterparts and emerge as two of the collection's finest.
The Dead Pool caps off the Dirty Harry Collection in suitably cavalier style. First released in 1988, the film isn't forced to contend with the wear-n-tear of its predecessors, but also doesn't boast their wherewithal. Just be sure to level any criticism at Buddy Van Horn's vision and Jack Green's photography, not Warner's technical encode. The transfer is rather lovely in its own right, reveling in bold, rock-star reds and blues, rich blacks, and arresting contrast. While a bit of color bleeding seeps into a scene with Jim Carrey and Liam Neeson, Green's at-times gaudy palette has been faithfully preserved. Detail is dazzling as well, infusing the film with crisp lines, refined textures, and reliable definition. Intermittent softness is once again par for the catalog course, but each afflicted shot appears to be source-based. Nitpicks aside though, the fifth Dirty Harry outing features the cleanest transfer of the bunch. Artifacting, noise, crush, ringing, and other anomalies are either non-existent or kept to an absolute minimum, and banding, though apparent here and there, rarely spoils the schlocky '80s fun. And so it is: the final film may be one of the series' weakest, but its transfer is one of the strongest.
Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Each film in the Dirty Harry Collection -- Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool -- features a newly mixed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track. The resulting listening experiences, though quite front-heavy on the whole, are surprisingly faithful to their original mono and stereo incarnations, and should immerse fans in the films' original sound designs. That's not to say the tracks will live up to modern expectations. The rear speakers are tasked with cityscape sounds, crowd chatter, and enhanced interior acoustics, but rarely create enveloping soundfields or convincing environments. Purists will be pleased; those weened on '90s action films may be less than enthused. LFE output is reserved as well, only making superficial strides as the series barrels along and the condition of the original elements improve. Bass tones are punchy but inevitably thin, the music scores are healthy (albeit a tad tinny), and dynamics are decent (especially considering each film's age). Again though, I suspect most of these issues trace back to their sources, not Warner's technical execution. Pans are limited yet fairly smooth, directionality is commendable (even if the mixes aren't primed to turn heads), and each film sounds better than it has before.
Dialogue is a bit problematic throughout the entire series -- lines are sometimes washed away by pulsing nightclub beats and the scuffle of hurried foot chases, voices struggle to contend with the shallow roar of car engines, dated ADR practices prove to be slight distractions, the clarity of each actor's delivery hinges on their environment, and prioritization is questionable here and there (typically whenever Callahan draws his sidearm) -- but I doubt the studio could have done anything to fix such mishaps without resorting to equally damning manipulations of the original sound mixes. Still, it isn't a frequent issue, and mainly affects Dirty Harry and Magnum Force. Ultimately, the Dirty Harry Collection lossless tracks aren't going to blow anyone away, but they will appeal to anyone hoping to find five capable audio mixes that pay homage to the series and its hard-boiled '70s roots.
Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All five discs in The Dirty Harry Collection are housed within a single, surprisingly thin Blu-ray case that slides rather snuggly into a sturdy slipcover stamped with Callahan's most iconic pose. The set itself offers five hit-or-miss audio commentaries, a slew of Eastwood documentaries, and a few film-specific bonuses. Unfortunately, little attention is paid to the first film's sequels, and the whole of the collection comes up short. I'm sure the series' most devoted fans will be pleased, but I walked away a bit disappointed.
It may boast six hours of special features, but Dirty Harry's supplemental package just isn't as satisfying as it should be. Its film critic commentary, made-for-TV documentaries, and archive goodies are certainly appreciated, but they can hardly take the place of a newly recorded cast and crew commentary or an all-encompassing retrospective.
It seems the law of diminishing returns applies to supplemental packages as well. Magnum Force earns a decent set of special features, but its single commentary and documentary signals the beginning of a box set trend.
The Enforcer follows suit, arriving with little more than an audio commentary, a loosely related documentary, and a somewhat valuable archive EPK. Still, the fact that Callahan's outings continue to get progressively slimmer is a letdown.
The fourth Callahan case skirts by with a film critic commentary and yet another career-spanning documentary starring, you guessed it, Clint Eastwood. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Warner included all the Eastwood tell-alls they had in their pockets, but frankly each subsequent special grows more and more repetitive since they cover the same ground ad nauseum. Personally, I would have loved to plow through more film-specific features, regardless of how praised or panned Sudden Impact may have been.
The Dead Pool
The One with Jim Carrey and the Speargun closes out the Dirty Harry Collection with an admittedly passable one-two commentary-documentary punch that gives the series a semi-decent send off. Would I have liked to see more film-specific content? Sure. Does the relative lack of content sting as badly on The Dead Pool? Not at all.
Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Less ungainly than the Ultimate Collection uber-fans scooped up in 2008, the refreshingly compact Dirty Harry Collection offers the same impressive video transfers and Dolby TrueHD surround tracks, retains all of the previous release's supplemental content, and merely jettisons the set's pack-ins and oversized packaging. If you haven't introduced yourself to one of the most indelible action icons of the '70s and '80s, it's probably wise to start by renting Dirty Harry. However, if you're well acquainted with Harry Callahan and the most powerful handgun in the world, nabbing the Dirty Harry Collection -- even with The Dead Pool in tow -- is a no-brainer.
Dirty Harry Collection Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: Dirty Harry Collection (Expired) - September 4, 2011
Amazon's Blu-ray Deal of the Week has the Dirty Harry Collection discounted to $28.99 or 55% off its $64.98 SRP. The 5 film set contains Blu-rays of the Clint Eastwood classics Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.
• Dirty Harry Collection Announced for February - November 30, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the 'Dirty Harry Collection' to Blu-ray on February 16th. Originally only available as the 'Dirty Harry: The Ultimate Collector's Edition' box set, this five-disc set will feature all five Dirty Harry films in ...
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