Harry Callahan does all the dirty work. He does the dirty work that the people in the force wouldn’t do were it not for him. In the first half of “Dirty Harry,” he has to cut his lunch short and walk across the street in the middle of gun fire to stop a bank robber. And the cavalry is taking a while to get there and help him. He stops his eating, and is forced to single handedly put an end to the heist, and he goes back and finishes his lunch. He does it because he has to, because without him it all goes to shit. That’s Dirty Harry, the man with the magnum who sparked quite a controversy upon his introduction with many assuming he was an ode to, and endorsement for vigilantism and right wingers.
I think the attempted under tones are interesting, but really I prefer to think of “Dirty” Harry Callahan as a plumber. He goes in, gets the job done, and gets no thank you’s for what he accomplishes. But he does it because he loves it, and even when he’s being an antiquated alpha male by referring to his new partner as a spick, he’s still a man you want to root for. Don Siegel’s action thriller hasn’t aged a single day since its release, and regardless of what stylish adventure we see in theaters these days, “Dirty Harry” is still a rough and tumble action movie about a loose cannon cop who walks around with a humongous hand gun putting an end to crooks and lousy thugs. And his assignment in the first of the series is taking down Scorpio, a limp but otherwise entertaining villain who picks off people on high buildings, and eventually nearly kills an entire school bus filled with children.
He’s of course played with giddy over the top madness by Andrew Robinson who ends as a perfect example of the kind of scum vigilante Harry has to face day in and day out, and why his loose cannon ways continue getting him into trouble. Clint Eastwood is on all axels here with a gritty and disgruntled underdog of an anti-hero who is part neo-noir detective, and partly a reflection of the angry 70’s individual who goes without a thank you but is forced to continue his work because he has to. Siegel’s action thriller is a masterpiece. A masterpiece, I say! As for the DVD, dear god, Dirty Harry fans will get their money’s worth. Aside from the incredible shattered glass plastic casing and boss picture of Harry there are the supplements of the same editions prior, and a few new ones. Let’s begin.
On disc 1 we have the pleasure of sitting through commentary by Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood’s biographer who addresses every inch of the movie with subtext, and explaining the better scenes of the movie. The commentary is interesting but Schickels presents a mixture of restlessness and hesitation, almost as if he’s struggling to think of something wonderful for us to hear, and can’t quite get that he’s a fan. So, talk like a fan. And let us hear a fan. It’s a great compliment to the movie, in spite of the reservations. There are great tidbits in the commentary once Schickle gets rolling, as he reveals who was up for Harry, including Charles Bronson, Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra and… Steve McQueen. My head just exploded at the wonderful possibilities.
Dirty Harry: The Original is a thirty minute ode to Harry Callahan and the entire series, and not an allusion that there’s a “Dirty Harry” remake. I hope not. It’s hosted by Robert Urich and features interviews with an odd series of notables like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the man himself, Eastwood. “He Vas Eatin a Hamburger! He Vas Eatin a Hamburger!” No, Arnold, he was eating a hot dog! Harry doesn’t eat hamburgers, you schmuck. Nevertheless, it’s a very good documentary short with some interesting interpretations of the character of Dirty Harry and why he’s so effective and continues to be effective.
There’s a twenty seven minute Interview Gallery with the likes of Patricia Clarkson who boasts about her experience with “The Dead Pool,” editor Joel Cox who recollects working with Eastwood on a few of the films in the series, Clint Eastwood on directing films, and his career, there’s the great Hal Holbrook discussing his joy in being in a movie that people would finally see for once. That’s understandable. There’s also Evan Kim, John Milius, and a host of others, respectively. There’s also “Dirty Harry’s Way” a seven minute promotional short for “Dirty Harry” as well as a gallery of trailers to “Dirty Harry.” Disc 2 brings us “The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry,” a twenty five minute examination of the “Dirty Harry” movies and the character himself. It’s a brand new supplement for this edition, and boy what a good time.
Along with great interviews with Eastwood and Milius, there are also incredible interviews with Shane Black, action buff Michael Madsen, and Joe Carnahan just to name a few. While it’s fun to watch a retrospective from the people behind the movie, it’s always a blast to see hear raves from fans, and this simply doesn’t skimp on the fandom. Last but not least, there’s the slightly deviating but interesting hour long documentary “Clint Eastwood the Man from Malpaso,” a look at Eastwood’s career, his directing, and his work in the action genre. It’s a nice tribute to the man, even if it has almost nothing to do with the content presented to the consumer. I’m very glad I held out on buying “Dirty Harry” for a few years, because as it stands, this is one of the best special editions I’ve seen in years with “Dirty Harry” looking better than ever. Hardcore buffs of the series will love the extras, while Don Siegel’s film still looks young and fresh. You have to love it, punk.