Review: Dirty Harry (1971)

Dirty Harry (1971)

Directed by: Don Siegel | 99 minutes | action, drama, thriller, crime | Actors: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, Andrew Robinson, John Larch, John Mitchum, Mae Mercer, Lyn Edgington, Ruth Kobart, Woodrow Parfrey, Josef Sommer, William Paterson, James Nolan, Maurice Argent

Clint Eastwood had his definitive breakthrough in the late 1960s as the Man With No Name in Sergio Leone’s dollar trilogy (“A Fistful of Dollars”, “For A Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly”) when he died in 1971. Dirty Harry’, a hard police film in which Eastwood plays the melancholy, stubborn police inspector Harry Callahan with visible pleasure. ‘Dirty Harry’ has a simple plot; a sniper terrorizes the city from the rooftops of San Francisco, demanding $100,000 from authorities or risking more casualties. Today you can hardly buy a decent car for $100,000, but in 1971 it was a lot of money. Clint Eastwood is Inspector Harry Callahan, nicknamed Dirty Harry, who must find the killer.

‘Dirty Harry’ is an excellent film, mainly due to the performance of Clint Eastwood. He perfectly portrays the ruthless, tough, stubborn inspector. Callahan is an old school cop; with sideburns, sunglasses, chewing gum and looking down on everyone and everything, including his superiors. When at one point the Chief Inspector tells him that he has done a good job, he says that he is “deeply moved”, the cynicism really drips from it. He got his nickname because he hates everything and everyone, he is not necessarily a racist, Harry just hates everything and everyone and he attacks the scum with his Magnum. 44, some sort of hand cannon, and a large knife. Stubborn as he is, he approaches things in his own way, not shunning violence at all. Any sense of empathy is strange to him, for example if he has to talk down a suicide bomber standing on a high building he only tells this jumper what a great mess it will make if he explodes on the asphalt, that’s Harry ten feet out; stubborn, tough, but of course the best in his field. The whole movie radiates a kind of political incorrectness that you hardly see these days and when it does it’s mostly unbelievable,

‘Dirty Harry’ is not, the 70s were a different era, the time of flower power was over and America had a different, chilly climate. This film not only gives a good picture of the time, but at the same time is an indictment of the American legal system. Director Don Siegel has given the film the right cachet and a good tension build-up, he films in a fairly minimalistic way and it is clear to see that Eastwood has gained a lot of inspiration while working with Siegel, the films that Eastwood has directed also radiate that realistic and minimal from. Special mention goes to Andrew Robinson who plays the Scorpio killer, this was his debut role and he is a convincing psychopath, who is so exaggerated and hysterical at times, which is a nice contrast to Dirty Harry’s icy composure.

‘Dirty Harry’ is also known for a quote from Callahan, when after a firefight he holds a ruffian at gunpoint with a weapon within reach and says: “Ah, Ah, I know what you’re thinking, did huh fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself, but being this is a 44. Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you gotta ask yourself one question; Do I feel lucky? Well, are you punk?” This lyric uses Harry twice in the film and of course there is no one other than Clint Eastwood who can pronounce this lyric at his coolest and was such a success and quoted by everyone and everywhere that during the opening credits of the Dirty Harry 2, ‘Magnum Force’ this text could be heard. Eastwood’s performance and the hard, raw action make ‘Dirty Harry’ an excellent police thriller that is now quite rightly regarded as a classic.

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