Dirty Harry (1971)

Dirty Harry (1971), produced and directed by Don Siegel.

I've always wanted to stand up in a movie audience and yell "Peter Finnegan!" See if anyone responds with "My, that's a big one", although I'd probably get "Hubba hubba hubba, pig bastard." (If the reference is obscure, see Dirty Harry, 52m10s).

In some ways it's a revision of Bullitt (1968): same studio, city and score composer, but deeper into the fantasy action universe.

Callahan's lonely trek across the city at night with a bag of money is fine movie making. He crosses the line under the lights at the stadium: until then Harry has been tough but within legal boundaries. He pulls the trigger when he doesn't have to; torturing the psycho for information quickly follows. We mind and we don't. It's brutal, but anything to shut up Scorpio's whiney crazy-talk. Andy Robinson is really good at it.

For me the story is complete at the bleak dawn scene when Ann Mary Deacon's body is recovered under the bridge, but it goes on for another packed 30 minutes: Harry's rage against the system, tailing Scorpio, the psycho's purchase of a vicious beating, liquor store robbery, schoolbus hijacking and final chase and shootout.

This has always been one of my desert island films, although with many viewings I've become aware of it's flaws. The dialogue is stiff and artificial, sometimes sounding like a boot banging around in a bucket. It's distasteful when you become aware of your blood-lust revenge buttons being pushed.

It was pretty well received at the time, although controversial for civil liberties abuses and police brutality. According to the wikipedia:


Feminists in particular were outraged by the film and at the Oscars for 1971 protested outside holding up banners which read messages such as "Dirty Harry is a Rotten Pig".

What the hell was that all about? Was catching rapists and murderers an offense against wymynkind? Harry's only extended contact with a woman is Chico's wife at the hospital and he is extraordinarily kind. Well, there is that Rear Window (1954) moment during the rooftop stakeout. And Hot Mary.

Gorgeous San Francisco panoramas, dynamite Lalo Schifrin soundtrack.

Available on Blu-ray.